Play Real Money Poker

Real money poker is the single-most popular card game in the casino. While blackjack is a favorite and for good reason, poker is the glamorous game in any gambling hall. Television shows and worldwide events center around Texas hold’em, while a half-dozen other versions of the game have wide popular appeal. The poker boom of the early 21st century led to a massive interest in the online gambling industry and, in the United States, led to the kind of attention that causes politicians to pass intrusive laws. The idea of a showdown over a hand of cards is dramatic, fascinating everyday people and drawing those who enjoy personal competition.

Online Poker & Its Popularity

Competition is what separates real money poker from most other games in the casino. Slots players sit at a gaming machine and play against a pay schedule. Blackjack players go against the dealer, while craps players tend to all bet on the same outcome, enjoying a shared social experience. In poker, it’s one gambler versus another. Not only are you encouraged to feign strength or weakness to fool your opponent, but the successful players must learn how to read the body language of the opposition. Poker mastery involves cool under pressure, math skills, and insight into human nature. No wonder it continues to draw such a wide ranging crowd.

Texas Hold’em

Real money Texas hold’em is the most popular form of poker in the 21st century. When people think of betting on a card games, they probably think of holdem. Heck, even James Bond plays Texas hold’em these days. This was not always the case. The game was used by Texas road gamblers like Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim back in the 1950’s. When they moved to Las Vegas in the 1960’s, they took the game along with them. When fellow Texan Benny Binion started the World Series of Poker at the Horseshoe Casino in 1970, holdem became the chosen game to decide who was best. As the WSOP got more popular over the years, Texas holdem surpassed seven-card stud as the game of choice for most poker players.

If you’ve watched poker on TV, then you probably know the basic rules. Each player at the table (of 9) receives 2 face-down or hole cards. In the center of the table, five community cards are revealed (in three draws). Each player must build the best 5-card hand with these 7 cards. Those five cards can all come from the community cards (not likely), involve 4 community cards and 1 hole card, or 3 community cards and the two hole cards. Bluffing is a major component of the game, especially in the no-limit holdem games. Pot-limit is also a popular variant of the game. People consider the pot-limit game to be a challenge for those who prefer patience, skill, and grinding to dramatic swings in fortune. Because of the Hollywood type drama no-limit Texas hold’em produces, it’s the most popular game on television, in live tournaments, and in online cardrooms.

Omaha Holdem

Omaha is the second most popular form of poker in many online card rooms. Omaha looks a lot like Texas hold’em, except players are dealt 4 hole cards and 5 community cards. Once again, you must build the best 5-card hand with these various cards. Instead of building the hand with any of the cards available, though, you must create your hand with 2 cards from among the hole cards and 3 cards from the community cards.

Therefore, if you’re dealt three aces among the four hole cards, you could only use two of them. With so many cards in play, a dizzying number of hand combinations are possible, so Omaha tests a player’s ability to see all the possibilities. Once again, this makes Omaha hold’em a much different challenge than Texas holdem.

Stud Poker

Next to the community card games like Texas holdem and Omaha, stud poker is the next most popular type in casinos these days. Seven-card stud remains a favorite in poker rooms online and offline, while razz has a devoted following. Five-card stud is less popular, though a couple of table games use 5-card stud as their basic: Caribbean stud poker and Let It Ride. Eight-or-better high/low stud is played in larger tournaments. Other games are less prominent, such as Mississippi stud, Mexican stud, and six-card stud.

Of these, 7-card stud is by far the most popular in land-based casinos and poker tournaments. Because it has one more round of betting than the holdem games, it’s considered a test of a player’s nerve. Bluffing is less of a factor than predicting the various combinations your opponent is holding (or you might hit), so it’s considered a game for more for thinkers and less for hotshots. You need focus, a good memory, excellent mathematical skills, keen observational talents, and patience to win at seven-card stud. Seven-card stud hi/lo is a popular variant on the Internet and in live poker events for real money. Razz, which is like the “low” version of hi/lo stud, is also popular. In razz, you play a game which looks much like 7-card stud, but players try to build the worst hand possible.

Draw Poker

Many gamblers probably learned how to play cards while playing draw poker. Five-card draw is a favorite option of families and friends playing at home, because it’s easy to deal and keeps the game flowing. Many people learned 5-card draw along with a host of variants, usually involving some type of wild card. In the casino, draw poker is rare and getting rarer. Games like badugi, Gardena jackpots, Kansas City lowball, California lowball, double-draw, triple-draw, California high/low split, and Q-Ball are played in various locations. On the Internet, you might find one or two of these games offered, but only a minor number of virtual tables devoted to them. Badugi (or Padooki) is sometimes found in online card rooms.

Real Money Poker

Playing poker in a land-based casino is a real trip these days (or maybe it always was). You’ll find various “types” of people inhabiting the poker tables, who’ve no doubt seen a favorite player on the television and are trying to emulate their styles. Some try to play loose the way Gus Hansen does, though most won’t pull it off with near the success rate. Others try to be talkers like they’re Phil Hellmuth or Tony G. This makes for an entertaining character study, though the level of play will vary from table to table.

I encourage players to develop their own style. Four types of players exist loose/aggressive, tight/aggressive, tight/passive, and loose/passive. “Loose” or “tight” describes how many hands you play in a session. Most players should see the flop only 15% or 20% of the time. That’s a far cry from the impression you might get from televised poker, because those shows are edited to avoid much of the drudgery. Playing 15% of the hands might sound boring, but a gambler cannot be in every showdown and they must know when to pick their spots. However loose or tight you play, each hand should offer additional insights and information. In many ways, the hands you don’t play are the ones you should be studying your opponents. Pay attention.

The terms “aggressive” and “passive” describe an entirely different player dynamic. Your level of aggression is defined by what you do once you do start betting. A passive player tends to call or check often, waiting for the other gamblers to tip their hand (or simply limping into pots, if they can). An aggressive players tends to raise and re-raise when they get into a hand. When they start gambling, they want to put pressure on the other player and force them to make a decision. Aggression is a two-edged sword, since a person can become pot-committed, but it is suggested by most professionals that a person who’s betting should be raising–not calling–bets. One aphorism states that if you aren’t comfortable raising the pot, you should probably fold.

Becoming a loose/aggressive player has its advantage, while becoming a tight/aggressive player each has its advantages. When you play tight and aggressive, most players get out of your way once you get into a pot, because they expect you have really strong cards. When you play loose and aggressive, this can drive your opponent to distraction, because they never know if you have a strong hand or not. In either case, it’s best to mix up play somewhat, so you don’t become predictable. As a general rule, being a passive player is ill-advised, though passivity occasionally has its place at the poker table.

Strategy Tips

This isn’t the place for a big list of strategy tips, but I wanted to give some general guidelines. Try to get a read on all the players at the table, because they could be your opponent on any hand. Try to peg them by the categories described above. Also, try to spot tendencies of when they raise, call, or fold. Certainly, if they have any obvious tells, pick up on these. Most of the time, people try to mask tells, so reading a person is a subtle art. One suggestion is to wait to look at your cards, and instead look at your opponents when they look at their cards for the first time. It goes without saying you should avoid falling into any patterns yourself.

Remember that luck always plays a factor in real money poker. You can do everything right and lose. You can do everything wrong and lose. Good players win more than they lose in the long run, but that doesn’t assure you’ll win any given hand. Bad beats happen to everyone, so don’t let these make you go on tilt. Remember, you’re a better player when you aren’t agitated, so remain calm and view every hand (even bad losses) as a chance to learn more. Also, when you are tired, sleepy, hungry, thirsty, bored, distracted, depressed, or under the influence, walk away from the table. You don’t need to be playing poker for real money when you have other things on your mind.

Online Poker for Real Money

When you start playing online poker for real cash, you’ll encounter a number of new features you aren’t used to in brick-and-mortar casinos. Play around with the software interface before playing for real money. Online casinos allow freeplay gaming on their software before you even make a deposit, so get comfortable with the technology before betting on poker. Once inside the poker room, you’ll see all sorts of new terminology: sit and go events, turbo events, freezeouts, add-ons, rebuys, freerolls, ring games, and so on. Learning the new terms only takes a little playing around. To be short, a freezeout is the type of tournament you see online, where a person gets one chip stack and that’s it.

On the bigger poker sites, new events start all the time, perhaps every few minutes. Sign up, pay your entry fee, and get ready for gambling entertainment. You can find events set to end in an hour or guaranteed jackpot games (often on the weekend) which offer prize pools in excess of $100,000, $250,000, or even a million dollars.

Poker in the United States

Texas holdem is the most popular poker game in the United States, with Omaha a distant second. Not all states have legal poker rooms, although you can find private games just about anywhere. I live in Texas, and I used to play in some private games that even got raided by the police–that was exciting. Now I just drive to Oklahoma for a game.

Examples of states which offer casinos with real poker rooms include Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Rhode IslandSouth Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are examples of states where you can’t play legally in public. In Vermont, you can only play in charitable events, but adjoining states with real money games are only a short drive.

See Also

  • Two Plus Two – They publish some of the best poker strategy books in the business, and their forums are filled with legitimate insights into poker strategy.

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