For those new to the world of online poker sites, we know that getting started can often be the hardest part. It may even feel intimidating. But in reality, these online poker rooms make it very easy and even convenient to get started playing at their poker sites with very few steps involved.
So that you don’t feel abandoned and confused we have created our US beginners guide, poker online in 2021 has never been so easy!
When you have decided upon one of the best, top-rated real money online poker sites, the first step is to download their software. You do have options, like playing instantly using your internet browser or even downloading one of their mobile poker apps onto your smartphone/mobile device. However, we always recommend starting by downloading and using the easy-to-use software.
Your next step is to create an account and make your first deposit. These steps are made even easier if you have downloaded the software as there are pop-up tips to guide you through both of these processes. You should then be ready to start playing real cash games at one of the best online poker sites. Keep reading below and you will learn the details for each step, plus some basic information for playing the different types of games (real cash vs tournaments vs sit n go's) and a basic guide to Texas Hold’em.
Downloading the software should be almost an automatic process. There will be a button or link somewhere on the online poker site that says “Download the Software”, or something to that effect. Click on that button, link, or other tool.
Your download should begin automatically. Of course, there is always the chance that something doesn't work exactly as it is intended. Technology is nothing if not a bit unpredictable. If you see any pop-up that instructs you to click to continue or maybe to begin the download, go ahead and do it.
From here, your software should install itself on your computer. It should also be noted that the software will work whether you have a PC or a Mac, but this is can vary so you may want to read the terms and conditions of the poker site before downloading. If everything has gone according to plan, there will now be an icon of your chosen poker site on your computer.
Hopefully you will have gained some tips from our guide, online poker sites do often have dedicated staff ready to help solve any issues you may have with software downloads.
The next step in getting started will involve actually creating and opening an account. There are three distinct parts to this. First, you will need to register. This is normally handled by providing some very basic information: name, email address, etc. to your chosen online poker room. They will then send an email with a confirmation link. Click the link inside the email and your registration is confirmed. Some poker sites have been known to give out a small no deposit bonus for completing this step.
Although you are now registered at your chosen top online poker site, you have not yet opened an account. To do so, you will need to give more information about yourself, like an address and perhaps a telephone number. Once this information is finished, you will be instructed to make your online deposit, which will complete your account. Choose your payment option and amount and go for it, thinking carefully of the bonus offer as you consider how much to deposit.
As there is a wide variety of online poker sites out there, account creation can be slightly different on each one. Don’t worry if it is not exactly the same as in this guide, the best poker sites may differ slightly but they all follow the same blueprint.
You have probably been playing real money cash games for a long time. Most of us are introduced to this type of poker around the kitchen table when we were just kids. Of course, back then it was likely just a cent ante game, although the ideas and principles are much the same. Real cash games are always played on a single table, even at online poker sites.
Of course, while playing at top online poker rooms in real cash games, you basically exchange your cash for chips and then play with those chips. There are no additional restrictions for buying in again or adding more chips to stack, unless you run completely out of real money. Cash game players may also start and stop their play at any time and the blinds or antes will remain the same throughout the entire course of play. In many cases, the poker sites will impose a certain minimum amount and you need to buy in for at least this amount of real money. When dealing with no limit games, you might have a maximum buy-in to protect the other players. The buy-in is usually somewhere between the equivalent of 20 to 100 big blinds or antes.
Online poker rooms will usually have real cash games that can suit all different budget levels. These will be grouped into micro, low, medium and high stakes, although the actual dividing lines between the groupings may be somewhat blurry and can differ depending on the game. You can read our more in depth online poker guide below.
There are also a number of differences when playing tournaments at online poker sites in 2021. For starters, these events are usually held and played on many different tables. Players will generally all buy-in for the same amount of chips. From here, everyone plays until there is only one winner who holds literally all of the chips.
When playing in tournaments, the blinds will increase according to a set formula (i.e. either by the clock, every 30 minutes or so, or when a certain percentage of players have been eliminated). If and when a player loses all of their chips in a tournament in online poker room, you are eliminated. However, there are some tournament formats that may allow for a rebuy—note that you will likely have to come up with the entry fee in real cash once again, and may also be given less chips as a bit of a handicap (since you are already technically eliminated).
One thing to note is the importance of the escalation of blinds or antes. In most real money game situations, you would simply sit and play a tight conservative game, waiting for your starting hand to meet some fairly stringent criteria before thinking about actually playing more aggressively. With a tournament at online poker rooms you can't afford to just sit still, since those blind will just eat you alive. This forces more 'gambling' to occur during tournaments, making them lively and exciting events.
Prize money at the best online poker sites tournament events is usually determined by two factors—where you finish (in what position you were eliminated) and the amount of the total prize money. Some events will have a guaranteed prize pool and first place award. Most events will simply divide the amount of money collected, less the part of the fees that go to the house as their commission, and then pay the top 10 to 100 players, depending on how big the event and how expensive the buy-in.
The sit and go (or sit n go, SNG) tournament is a special type of event developed or invented by online poker sites, and are now also played offline across the US in 2021. These events can encompass either a single table or multiple tables. Part of their big draw is their simplicity; to sign up you basically pay the entry fee and then sit down and wait for the rest of the table to fill up (which can happen very fast). When it fills up, the event 'goes,' or starts.
Just as an example, a one table SNG will normally pay the top two or three finishers a real cash prize. Of course, there are larger SNG tourneys as well, which will involve a number of tables. There are also several ways players can advance, but typically the top two or three winners will end up being merged with other tables after set periods of time, all leading to a major final table.
Texas Hold’em is the world's most popular poker game today and the main option you will find offered not only at the largest online poker sites, but even the smaller operations. Every one of the poker sites you use will have Texas Hold’em, so you might as well learn the basics for playing the game. To begin with, it uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards, with four suits and 13 cards to each suit, with the Ace the highest card and the 2 the lowest.
The first thing to learn is the ranking of the various possible hands. Here is a list, from the lowest possible hand, to the best possible hand:
Texas Hold’em does have an interesting dealing and betting pattern. Initially, each player is dealt two hole cards, face down and then a round of betting ensues (players may bet, check, call, fold, or raise). Next, three community cards turned face up in the middle of the table, known as the flop. Then, the second round of betting takes place. A single card is dealt face up in the center of the table as another community card, called the turn. A third betting round follows. Finally, the last community card is turned over in the center, known as the river, and a final betting round follows. After this, any remaining players must show their hands and a winner is determined.
The biggest thing to learn from this beginners guide to Texas Hold’em is that most new players stay in way too many games, way too long. Instead of trying to play every hand, you should be evaluating your starting hand to see if it makes sense to continue playing. For example, the best starting hand is considered to be the A-K in the hole. The top experienced players’ probably only play past their first two cards about 25 to 30 percent of the time.
Your starting hand strategy should also focus on your position. For example, if you are among the first players to make a decision (called early position), you could stay in with hands like A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, and A-K. In the middle position, those plus A-Q and 10-10. In late position, also play A-J, K-Q, A-Q, and 9-9. If you are in a short-handed game with 6 players or so, you could go a little lower on the starting hand scale, perhaps down to K-10 and 8-8.
For now, pay more attention on disciplining yourself and sticking with good starting hand criteria. Don't worry too much about trying to bluff ,playing at online poker sites is a lot different to offline games, so you can't rely too much on tells or being able to read a player.
Now you’ve had a read through our 2021 online poker beginners’ guide, you’re ready to put all that information into practice and start your first game in one of our top recommended online poker rooms for American players.