How We Find The Best Online Poker Websites For Players
We thoroughly vet all online poker websites before recommending them to our readers. The safety, privacy, and enjoyment of our readers is our number one priority. To ensure that the websites we recommend really are the best, we test them out as any player would—by creating an account, playing hands, and testing every feature we can find. We also catalog each website’s unique promotional offers, which is a great way of distinguishing between two otherwise equally matched poker sites. Considerations for recommendation include:
- Smoothness of play
- Payout times
- User reviews
Are Online Poker Sites Legal For US Players?
Even with the national stance on gambling becoming laxer in recent years, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 effectively made internet gambling illegal. On top of that, there are some states, including Louisiana and Utah, that treat individual gambling as a crime. Some states dictate that downloading any kind of online poker software is a felony. It is worth noting, however, that no individual has ever been prosecuted at either the federal or state level for participating in online poker. Anti-gambling laws like the UIGEA exist to oppose full companies rather than individual consumers.
For players using reputable, sanctioned websites, there is no legal downside to playing online poker. The fallout from Black Friday has subsided and the nation as a whole has begun to adopt a much more favorable view of both online and in-person gambling. There are now a number of popular poker websites that serve millions of players both in the United States and around the world. Some states, namely Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, offer state-sanctioned online poker, but for players in the rest of the country, offshore poker websites are not subject to the Federal Wire Act and are thus completely legal to play.
Are USA Poker Sites Safe?
This all depends on which site you use. There are a number of large online poker websites that handle tens or hundreds of thousands of players every day. Most of these websites are completely safe and trustworthy for players. However, in any industry as large and potentially lucrative as online poker, there are bound to be some bad actors. Some online poker companies have been accused in the past of embezzling player account funds, money laundering, and more abuses of power. However, this doesn’t mean that all online poker websites are inherently bad. There are plenty of operators who understand that integrity and player trust are key to building and maintaining a successful online poker business. While you should always ensure with a trusted source that the poker website you elect to use is secure, the reality is that abusing your player base is much harder than it’s ever been. Players’ account information can’t be exploited and embezzled in the same way because the predominant method of funding is cryptocurrency, which uses a technology called blockchain to ensure optimal security at all times.
Poker Bonuses For USA Players
One of the keys to finding success early in your online poker career is figuring out which websites offer the best bonuses, either for new players signing up or to reward player loyalty. Every major poker website will offer promotional bonuses ranging from free tournament entries to deposit bonuses. Before signing up for a new online poker platform, all players should do enough research to be sure that they are getting the best possible deal for their needs.
Deposit bonuses are the simplest to explain. A deposit bonus is basically an assurance from an online poker platform that will match a percentage of your first deposit. Bovada, for instance, offers a 100% deposit match for poker players, up to a maximum of $1,000. In other words, whatever amount of money a new player deposits, Bovada will deposit the same amount into their account, like an employer-matched 401(k). Some deposit bonuses may require users to deposit money using certain forms of currency or for other conditions to be met.
Other bonuses can include free entries in tournaments, bonus chips added to player accounts, and more. Free tournament entries are probably the most enticing offer, owing mostly to the word “free”, but players in these tournaments will find that it is a lot harder to win a $10,000 tournament with 50,000 players than one with 200. Still, there’s nothing wrong with the opportunity to win huge amounts of money without risking anything personally.
Free Online Poker For US Players
There are a number of great options for online poker players who don’t want to risk real money. Free online gambling doesn’t offer the same stakes or thrill, but it is a great way to pass the time for anyone bored at their office or on a bus to work. Some of the most popular choices for free players are the Zynga app, which features Facebook connectivity to make it easy for players to connect with their friends and play, as well as PokerStars. However, players should be warned that free poker does not offer the same experience as money games because nothing is at stake. Players in free lobbies will always play looser and less realistic than those in money lobbies.
Real Money Poker Sites
Poker websites that take real money bets are going to be the most interesting and exciting for players. The fact that there are actual stakes incentivizes players to tighten their strategy and focus intently on every hand. Putting actual money at stakes also tends to curb erratic or illogical behavior like players going all-in or folding on every hand without any apparent reason. Real money poker sites also have the best infrastructure and the widest variety of playing options, so they generally make for smoother playing experiences. Real money gambling sites have poker tables with buy-ins ranging from one or two dollars up to thousands of dollars at high roller tables. They can also offer tournaments with thousands of players with prizes potentially reaching thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of players and the buy-in fee to play.
Mobile Poker Sites and Apps
Major online poker platforms like Bovada and BetOnline offer fully optimized mobile versions of their main websites. These mobile websites offer all the same features as their desktop counterparts, including the ability to play online poker. While there are inherent drawbacks to playing on a small screen, the user interfaces are intuitive and easy to pick up. The rapid advancing of telecommunications technology allows for high-speed internet almost anywhere, so players can play on their phones while taking a bus to work, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, and more. There are also numerous apps for players just looking to play recreationally without wagering real money. Some of these apps feature internet-connected multiplayer, while others pit users against computer opponents driven by artificial intelligence. Some of the most popular free poker apps include:
World Poker Club
Live Dealer Poker Sites For US Players
One of the fairly recent innovations in online poker is the introduction of a live dealer option. Because computer algorithms are shrouded in mystery and prone to things like coding errors, some players feel more comfortable playing with a physical deck of cards. Major online poker platforms allow players the option to play using a live video feed to a real dealer, to ensure that they are getting an authentic, fair experience. Because live dealer rooms are costlier to run, they also require larger buy-in fees, so only serious players will likely consider this option.
Banking Options At USA Poker Sites
Because of the legal pressure on online poker platforms, the banking methods available to players might be slightly unconventional for anyone not already accustomed to online betting. But once players overcome kneejerk fears of buzzwords like “cryptocurrency”, they’ll find that depositing and withdrawing money from online poker websites is actually very easy.
Poker Deposit Methods
Each of these deposit methods will offer various promotional bonuses, minimum and maximum deposits, and speeds of processing. Major online poker websites will feature a variety of options when it comes to depositing money into a poker account.
Most consumers will already be familiar with how to input credit or debit card information online. Because of the Wire Act, credit/debit cards can only function as one-way transactional tools with online betting websites, so players who deposit with a card will need to select a different method of withdrawal.
Crypto is the fastest and most secure way to transfer money into your online poker account. It is also the preferred method of online betting websites because there are no associated transfer fees and because the blockchain-powered security of cryptocurrency ensures both a lack of liability concerns and anonymity for players.
This is a wire transfer in the traditional sense, using a service like Western Union to wire money directly from your bank account to your online poker platform of choice. Because of the high cost of facilitating such a transaction and the time it takes to process it, wire transfers are recommended only for very high deposits.
Peer to Peer
Peer to peer deposits offer players to send a portion of their winnings to another player’s account. This is a great way of introducing and encouraging new players. This option is available for players when they go to cash out their winnings.
Online Poker Payouts
Each of these online poker payout methods offers different ways in which players can cash out and gain access to their winnings. The main differences are the speeds of each method as well as different costs associated with each. Rest assured that they are all safe. The most popular one these days is definitely bitcoin, which allows you to cash out on the same day in most instances.
Like with deposits, crypto is the fastest and easiest method, with most platforms processing cryptocurrency payouts almost instantly and requiring only a very small minimum withdrawal amount.
As stated before, wire transfers are secure and simple, but have high associated costs and take several days to process. These transactions are probably best saved for a few select circumstances.
Peer to Peer
If you want to introduce a friend to your favorite online betting platform, selecting a peer-to-peer service like Person to Person on the payout screen allows you to share some of your riches with another account.
Check by Courier
Online betting websites do offer players the option to receive their winnings via certified courier mail, but this option usually comes with a hefty fee and winnings will take around 7-10 days to be delivered.
- The Deck
- Poker uses the standard deck of 52 cards, encompassing nine different number cards and four “face” cards, each of which comes in four different suits: spades, clubs, diamonds, and hearts. At casinos, it is standard practice for dealers to keep several decks in rotation between each round, but that isn’t necessary in online poker, which uses advanced algorithms to shuffle decks between rounds. The value of these cards, from lowest to highest, goes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, K, Q, A.
- The dealer deals cards one at a time in a clockwise direction, starting with the closest player to their left. The first player to the left must put a small number of chips (called the small blind) into the pot, while the next player to the left puts twice that amount (called the big blind). This is to ensure that there is something at stake with every hand and instill a sense of urgency.
- Object Of The Game
- The objective in poker is to create the best possible combination of five cards, ranked by a predetermined hierarchy based on rarity. These combinations are comprised of both the cards in a player’s hand and a set of “flop” or “community” cards that the dealer places in the middle of the table.
- Players place bets in the same order they are dealt cards. Each rotation of the table, players have the options to fold (forfeit the hand), call (match the highest bet) or raise (increase the highest bet). The game within the game is a psychological battle between players, which requires both a basic understanding of probability and an ability to read and disguise patterns in behavior. This dynamic creates a unique tug of war between players. Players with a bad hand can still win a round by manipulating their opponents into thinking they have a good hand and inducing them to fold. This is called bluffing. Even players with an amazing hand still must play the game and string their opponents along with gentle raises to ensure that they win the largest possible pot. This dynamic is why, despite the random nature of dealt cards, poker is still a game of immense skill.
- Ranking Hands By Value
- In cases in which two hands are tied, the tiebreaker usually goes to whichever hand has the highest value card. If multiple winning hands have the same high card, the pot is split. The hierarchy of hand values, from highest to lowest, goes:
The highest possible hand is a royal flush (10, J, Q, K, A all in the same suit). The chances of a royal flush are approximately 1 in 650,000.
A straight flush is a five-card hand in which all five cards are in sequential order (e.g., 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) and in the same suit (e.g., all five cards are hearts).
Four of a Kind
When You have all four cards of the same rank (i.e., A’s in all four suits). The fifth card can be anything. The chances of this hand are approximately 1 in 4,164.
A hand in which a player has both three cards of the same value as well as two additional cards of different equal value. An example: two K’s and three 8’s.
Five cards that are all in the same suit, but not in sequential order. Example: a 5, 8, 9, Q, and K of clubs. The chances of this hand are approximately 1 in 508.
Five cards of sequential rank, but not all the same suit. Example: a 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. The chances of this hand are approximately 1 in 254.
Three of a Kind
Three cards of the same rank plus two other cards not of this rank or value. Ex. Three J’s. Typically a strong hand with odds of 1 in 46.
Two pairs of same rank cards plus another two cards of another rank. Ex. Two Q’s and two 7’s. The chances of this hand are approximately 1 in 20.
One pair of same rank cards plus three other cards not of this rank or value. Ex. Two A’s. Determining tie breaker is the next highest card in hand.
If no player has any of these hand combinations, the round is decided by which player is holding the highest value card in their hand.
Online Poker Games
Play Texas Hold Em’ Online
By far the most popular variant of poker is Texas Hold Em’, where players each receive two cards for their hand. They use these personal hands in combination with a handful of cards in the middle of the table, called community cards, to make a winning hand. After an initial round of bets, the first three community cards are laid out. After this, players go through three additional betting rounds before finally revealing their hand. The player whose personal hand forms the best combination with the community cards wins the round and takes the money in the pot.
Omaha rules offer a similar brand of poker to Texas Hold Em’, except players receive four cards for their personal hand rather than two. This encourages more bluffing and more betting action while taking roughly the same amount of time as a Hold Em’ round. The rules with community cards are the same, except that players can only choose two of the four cards in their hand along with three community cards during the showdown. As above, the best five-card combination wins the game and takes the pot.
Hi/Lo offers the same basic framework of rules as traditional Omaha, except that there are two winning hands in each round; both the highest and lowest hands split the pot. The high hand is determined by the same rules as in traditional Omaha rules or Texas Hold Em’ poker, but the low hand is determined by which player has the lowest high card. In Hi/Lo, aces act as both high and low cards. It is possible for players to win both the high and low hand. For instance, if a player could have a straight flush (all cards are the same suit and sequential) of A, 2, 3, 4, 5. To win a low hand, a player’s high card cannot be higher than an 8. If multiple players have the same low high card, then the next lowest card is used.
Future of Online Poker in the USA
While Black Friday was a pretty huge speedbump that severely hindered the development of online poker in the United States, the industry has bounced back nicely and still thrives today. With nationwide gambling attitudes become more relaxed, it is likely just a matter of time until prohibitions against online poker are rolled back and states begin offering their own, legally sanctioned domestic online poker platforms. This could potentially result in a tax windfall just as the legalization of sports betting in the U.S. has, which would only be beneficial for legislators.