Interest in online poker has grown immensely over the early years of the 21st century. Today, millions of people all over the world regularly play poker on the Internet, and hundreds of millions of dollars are exchanged on a daily basis. There are several reasons for this growth. Poker hit mainstream television in the US in 2003 when the World Poker Tour (WPT) started airing on the Travel Channel, and the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) got a lot of coverage on the sports network ESPN. In that year, online qualifier Chris Moneymaker became world champion of poker winning $2,500,000. The notion that any player could get lucky and win life changing amounts of money in major poker tournaments, like the WSOP, made a lot of people aware of online poker. The wide availability of cheap Internet access and improved technology for secure online money transactions were also important factors in this development.
In online poker, the function of the dealer is performed by a computer server. As a player you need to connect to the server from your own computer over the Internet, and you can then play with others who are connected to the same server. On your computer screen you see what you would see in a face to face game: your own cards, the community cards and any face up cards belonging to other players, and the bets made by the other players. On the basis of this you make your betting decisions. Compared to a live poker game, some of the atmosphere is lost since the other players are not physically present. In compensation there is the convenience of being able to play at any time, day or night, without having to travel. Also games progress quickly and smoothly with the server managing the cards and chips and to some extent ensuring that the game is played fairly.
In order to take part, you need to join an online poker room. Most provide the facility to play for real or virtual money. If you want to play for real money you will first need to buy some chips using your credit card or some other online payment system. While some online poker rooms are independent, many are grouped into poker networks. You enter a game by logging into a poker room, but the game itself is provided by the network. All players on a particular network will generally have access to the same games and facilities. The different rooms belonging to the network will each have their own branding and may provide their own special incentives or help for their players.
Factors that may influence your choice of where to play include:
- Player volume. A large player volume usually means a good selection of games.
- Player strength. Beginners should look for weak competition. Experienced players, however, want games that suit their playing style.
- The software. Inexperienced players need software that is clear and easy to understand. Skilled players my look for advanced functionality - for example the facility to play at several sites and tables simultaneously.
- The rake. It is reasonable for the poker room to make a small charge to pay for providing the service, normally as a percentage or fixed amount taken from each pot, but these charges can vary significantly from room to room.
- Bonuses/Promotions. Sign-up bonuses and other promotions provide a useful cushion against early losses for inexperienced players. For those who play at the same poker room for a longer period of time, some offer loyalty programs.
This page has links to a selection of online poker rooms, with brief descriptions. This site has other pages with general information about poker and details of its rules and variants. There is also page listing poker portals providing poker room reviews and other resources, and a further page of links to online poker sites.
Mark Madner has written a useful overview of Online Poker and its history.
In October 2006 the US government passed legislation restricting banks from dealing with online gambling sites. As a result several major online poker rooms have stopped accepting deposits from US players. Anthony Von Ducci is organising an online petition to legalize online poker in the USA.
OwnTheCards.com is a free server on which you can play Texas Hold'em with friends over the Internet. Play is for chips - it is up to the players whether to play for fun or to settle up in real money afterwards. There is no charge to download and use the software and no rake.
An older and less user friendly application that also allows live Poker play with other players over the Internet is the IRC Poker Dealer. Further information about this service can be found on the IRC poker page of the rec.gambling.poker FAQ.
If you want to play online for money with strangers, you will need an onlinepoker room that handles the money transactions for you as well as just the play. Below are some of the many commercial rooms that provide this service. They normally take a small amount, the rake, out of each pot to finance their operations.
At PKR Poker you can play limit or no limit Texas Hold'em or Omaha for fun or real money and play up to 9 tables simultaneouly. They host a variety of tournaments every day with buy-ins from 10c up to $250. Live Chat and email support are available in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. PKR operates 3D software which allows players to design their own avatar, perform actions at the table and select their angle of view.
Bwin poker is the poker room of the Austrian-based Bwin online gaming company. It is available as a downloadable Windows of Mac program or as a Java client, so users of Macintosh and Linux computers are welcome. Formerly known as Betandwin.com, Bwin was founded in 1999, and in 2006 they completed the acquistion of the Ongame poker network, which was founded in 1999 by professional Swedish poker players Oskar Hörnell and Claes Lidell. This network has offered real money poker games since 2001 under various brand names including PokerRoom.com, EuroPoker.com and HoldemPoker.com. The interface is available in 22 European languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Polish and Russian, enabling players from many countires to play Texas Hold'em, Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw or Omaha together, at any time of day or night.
PartyPoker.com, launched in 2001 was for a while the world's fastest growing online poker site. It offers a variety of games and tournaments. There is a "party points" loyalty scheme: these points are awarded per real money deal played, and are used to qualify for tournament entry and to access various promotions.
Note: to comply with French gaming law, real money players players in France should use the separate French site PartyPoker.fr.
Licensed in Panama, Poker Host offers Texas Holdem and Omaha. They accept US players and offer to host private tournaments for afilliates.
Bet365 Poker is a member of the iPoker network offering Texas Hold'em Stud Poker and Omaha. There are regular freeroll tournaments as well as the regular iPoker tournaments and promotions. Customer support is available in 25 languages. Players from the bet365 poker room also can wager in the sportsbook, casino and bingo room by use of the bet365 common wallet. bet365 will match 100% up to $500 in free cash for all new depositors, and new players will automatically earn points towards the VIP program based on every hand dealt.
Tiger Gaming provides on line Texas Holdem and 7-Card Stud. By downloading their 'legacy games' you also have access to Guts, Pan, Chinese Poker and Big Two.
Titan Poker is the leading poker room in the PlayTech 'iPoker network', and provides interfaces in English, French, German and Italian.
24h Poker is a member of the Entraction network offering Texas Hold'em, Omaha, Ohama Hi-Lo, Soko (5-card stud with 4-flushes and 4-straights), 7-Card-Stud, 7-Card-Stud Hi-Lo, 5-Card-Draw, Deuce to Seven Triple-Draw, Americana and Telesina. The interface is available in nine languages.
Carbon Poker offers an unusually wide range of online poker games for money, including Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi or Hi/Lo, 5-card Draw, 5-card Stud, 7-card Stud Hi or Hi/Lo, Razz, H.O.R.S.E., A-5 or 2-7 Lowball and Badugi - also non-poker games, including Euchre.
A member of the iPoker network using Playtech software, CD Poker offers Texas Hold'em (No Limit, Pot Limit, and Limit), Omaha and Omaha Hi Lo. All games can be played for fun or for money in US Dollars, Euro or Sterling, and there are regular tournaments and freerolls.
At RedKings your can play Texas Hold'em, Stud, Omaha and Draw poker.
Now owned by Sporting Bet and a member of the International Poker Network, Paradise Poker is a well established online Poker room offering Texas Hold'em, Omaha High, Omaha Hi/Lo, 7 Card Stud, 7 Stud Hi/Lo and Hold'em Tournaments.
Winamax is a French online poker room offering Texas Hold'em and Omaha games for Euros.
Unibet offers an online poker room based on Microgaming software, where you can play Texas Hold'Em, Five Card Draw Poker, Five Card Stud, Seven Card Stud and Omaha.
A member of the Digital Gaming Network, PokerEon offers Texas Holdem, Omaha, 7 Card stud and 5 Card Draw poker, plus a range of tournaments.
Triple Jack Poker is an online poker room that claims to be safe for the whole family. The game is Texas Hold'em for play money only, with animated cartoon players, side bets, and the opportunity to throw tomatoes and pies at your opponents.
Planet Poker offers an on-line game of Texas Hold'em at set stakes.
Backgammon Masters - Poker offers an online poker game and a collection of brief articles about poker.
Get Minted Poker, run by the Cashcade group based in Alderney, Channel Islands, offers a UK-oriented on line poker room, using Pounds Sterling as the currency.
Casino Software India can provide custom-written poker software for running a range of online poker games, and offers features such as a webcam interface and voice chat.
Multi-player Texas Hold'em and Omaha Hi games for fun only are included in the Favorite Games Ltd. package.
Goodgame Poker is a browser-based multi-player Texas Hold'em game for play money only.
Zynga Poker is a free poker game for play money which runs on Facebook, Android, iPhone and several social networking platforms. The same company has launched Zynga Plus Poker which is played for real money.
Games.com offers multi-player online Poker (several versions) for play money only.
Net Poker, from NetIntellGames, allows you to play against a computer opponent or with a human opponent over the Internet, LAN, modem or direct connection.
The following sites also offer on-line poker games:
- WPT Online - online poker room for the World Poker Tour
- Lucky Ace Poker is powered by the large and well established 888.com casino group, which also runs Pacific Poker.
- Poker Heaven is a member of the International Poker Network using Boss Media software.
- Sky Poker is a UK-based online poker room run by British Sky Broadcasting.
- VC Poker is powered by leading independent UK gaming company and bookmaker Victor Chandler.
- Play Win Poker is an online multi player poker room featuring voice chat and webcams
- Bombshell Poker offers "access to sexy women through Online Poker".
- UWin Poker - another member of the Everleaf network offering Texas Holdem Poker, Omaha and 7 Card Stud. US players accepted.
- Ludopoli offers Texas Hold'em in Portuguese at its Brazilian site and in Italian at its Italian site.
- Poker in Venice allows poker players the choice of five different networks to play on, all accessed from a single account.
- PokerWorld Online Cardroom
- Jazz Poker Room
- Cool Hand Poker
- Lock Poker
- Game Desire
- Jogatina (Brazilian site - Portuguese language)