Guide to Playing Poker Online

Poker has been a popular card game for a very long time, but its popularity has exploded in the 21st century. This growth in popularity is probably, in part, due to the fact that it’s possible to play over the internet. The first poker sites started appearing on the web a couple of decades ago and now it’s hard to imagine a time when they didn’t exist. These days, a lot of people learn the game by playing online and in actuality there are many players who have only ever played online.

If you like the idea of playing poker online but don’t know where to start, then you’re in the right place. This section of our poker guide comprehensively explains everything you need to know. We’ve written a number of articles that cover a variety of related topics and feature plenty of useful information and advice.

We’ve compared the live and online versions of the game and also detailed how poker sites work. We’ve written about some of the myths relating to online poker as well as provided some advice for choosing where to play, a step by step guide to getting started, and details on how you can earn extra money through bonuses and rewards.

The articles in this section are listed below, with a brief explanation of the topics they cover. Also on this page is a selection of our top ranked poker sites; these sites are among the very best places to play and we highly recommended them. For those of you that might be worried about playing online for real money, we’ve addressed the most common concerns about using poker sites. There’s also some information about online poker networks.

Recommended Reading for Beginners

The information and advice in this section of our poker guide is useful for anyone looking to play poker online, regardless of whether they are completely new to the game or just new to playing over the internet. However, any of you who have never played the game before should also take a look at our beginner’s guide. This guide covers the basics of the game that you need to know before sitting down to play. You might want to look at our game guides too, as these fully explain the rules of several popular poker variants.

Online Poker: Introductory Articles & FAQ

Online Poker vs Live Poker

There are many advantages to playing poker online but the live game has its merits as well. In this article, we compare playing online to playing in a live setting in an attempt to determine which is the best way to play the game. We also look at the most notable differences and discuss how they affect players.

Poker Site Software Explained

This article explains the basic mechanics of how poker sites work, the role of the software that they use, and coverage on the different types of poker site software. You don’t actually have to know this information to enjoy playing online, or even to win money, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.

Online Poker Myths

Do you think online poker is all a big scam? Or do you believe that everyone apart from you is cheating somehow? If you answered yes to either of these two questions, then you need to read this article. It looks at several online poker myths and explains just why there’s no real truth in them.

Choosing Where to Play

Poker is a game of decisions and there’s one important decision you have to make before you can even start playing the game online. You need to select where you are going to play, which isn’t an easy choice to make given the numerous options available. This article provides advice for how to make the right decision concerning this matter.

Joining a Poker Site

Joining a poker site isn’t particularly hard but doing it for the first time can be a slightly daunting prospect. That’s why we’ve put together this step by step guide that walks you through the whole process from start to finish. It makes signing up at your chosen site as easy as it possibly can be.

Poker Bonuses & Rewards

Most poker sites offer players bonuses and rewards based on how much they deposit and/or their playing activity. It pays to understand how these work, as they can be invaluable for boosting your bankroll. This article looks at the various types and explains how to take full advantage of them.

Poker FAQ

If you’re new to online poker, then it’s likely that you have lots of questions that you want answers to. It’s also likely that your questions have been asked before, a myriad of times. There are certain questions that we hear time and time again and the following are just a few examples.

  • Is Online Poker Legal?
  • Do I Pay Rake Online?
  • Can I Play At More Than One Site?
  • What Stakes Can I Play For Online?

Our poker FAQ provides answers to each of the above questions and many more. There’s a very good chance you’ll find the answers to any questions you may have about playing online right here.

Recommended Poker Sites

As soon as you’re ready to start playing poker online, the first thing you need to do is decide where you’re going to play. This isn’t a particularly easy decision, as there are a lot of options. There’s some useful advice for picking a site in one of the articles above, “Choosing Where to Play”, that will help you make wiser decisions. Alternatively, you can simply follow our recommendations and join one of our top ranked sites.

The following is a small selection of the sites that we believe have the most to offer.

Rank Gambling Site Deposit Bonus Get Started
BetOnline Poker
100% Up To $1,000 Visit Site
Bovada Poker
100% Up To $500 Visit Site
SB Poker
100% Up To $1,000 Visit Site
Ignition Poker
100% Up To $1,000 Visit Site

It’s worth pointing out that the best poker site to use for one individual may not be the same site to use for someone else. Different players have different preferences and requirements and this is why we also rank the top sites in a variety of categories. These rankings can help you find a site that’s exactly right for you. The following are some of the most popular categories that we cover.

Playing Online Poker From The United States

Online gambling from the United States can be something of a challenge which means playing poker can also be a challenge. Many of the biggest and best gambling sites don’t accept customers who are based in the US, primarily because of the complex legal situation. There are several sites that still do though, many of which are of good quality and perfectly safe to play at.

As many of our readers are American, or at least live in the United States, we’ve compiled separate rankings specifically focusing on the US market. We’ve listed the very best options available, as these are the places you should be playing if you reside in the States. In addition to that, we have a complete guide to online gambling in America, which you may also be interested in.

Common Online Poker Concerns

Playing poker online can be both an enjoyable experience and a potentially profitable one too. Understandably, though, many people are anxious about the idea of actually depositing their own money and giving poker a chance. There are three concerns that are particularly common and they are as follows.

  • Legalities
  • Safety & Security
  • Game Fairness

Even though it’s only natural to worry about any or all of the above issues, the reality is that there’s no need to. Below we have addressed each one of these concerns and explained why they are largely unfounded.


The legalities of online poker, or any form of online gambling for that matter, aren’t as clear cut as they might be. There’s no worldwide legislation that states what’s legal and what’s not, as each country is responsible for passing its own laws. Gambling laws vary significantly from one region to the next and in some regions they provide very little clarity. A lot of gambling legislation was written long before the internet was around, so it’s hard to determine how it applies to betting and gaming online. This means people wanting to gamble online are often confused as to whether they legally can do so.

However, it’s important to note that the majority of online gambling legislation is targeted towards companies that provide and facilitate online gambling services. In essence, this means laws generally affect the organizations that operate gambling sites rather than the people who use them. We have never heard of a single case, anywhere in the world, where an individual has been prosecuted for using a gambling site. We can’t firmly state that it has never happened but we’re confident we would have heard about it if it had.

Our view is therefore that you really don’t need to worry about breaking the law when playing poker online. With that being said, we do suggest that you only use a site if it’s properly licensed in an appropriate gambling jurisdiction. You might also want to take a look at our section on gambling laws and licensing authorities. This covers the relevant laws in countries all over the world and also explains the role of the authorities responsible for licensing gambling sites.

Safety & Security

It’s entirely rational to be concerned for the safety and security of your funds when depositing at an online poker site for the first time. It’s also entirely unnecessary, providing you use a reputable and trustworthy site. There has been a small number of cases of poker sites disappearing with customer funds but these have typically involved sites with questionable reputations in the first place. Your funds will be perfectly safe if you avoid shady operators and stick to quality sites such as the ones that we recommend.

You don’t need to worry about people hacking into your account and accessing your funds or your personal information either. The top sites all use advanced security technology to protect their customers’ money and privacy.

Game Fairness

This concern is probably the most common and yet it has the least amount of substance to back it up. Many online poker players have claimed at one time or another that the game is “rigged” or fixed, but such claims are usually made after a particularly bad beat or a prolonged period of bad luck. They also frequently come from players who simply aren’t very skilled at playing the game.

We tackle the subject of the game being rigged in detail in our article on online poker myths, because it is indeed a myth. There’s simply no need for a site to fix the game, as they make money no matter who wins. Their revenue comes from the rake they charge, not from players losing money, so the actual results don’t affect their profits at all.

No matter how good you are at poker, there’s always a chance that you’ll go on a long losing streak. It’s also likely that an opponent will hit a miracle river card to beat you in a large pot every now and then. These things happen during live poker too but neither situation is a result of the game being fixed. It’s simply due to the random nature of the game.

Online Poker Networks

Online poker networks play an important role in internet based poker. They are basically groups of sites that all share the same software and provide access to the same games. A player using one site can play against players who are using other sites on the same network, which helps to ensure that the tables are always busy. Networks effectively allow sites to pool their players together for the purposes of the games but still maintain the management of their own players.

Many of today’s leading poker sites are part of networks due to the notable advantages to operating in this way. We explain about these advantages and how networks work in the following section of our poker guide. We also provide detailed information on all the major networks.

  • Microgaming
  • iPoker
  • Bwin
  • Equity
  • 888
  • Winning
  • Merge
  • Revolution