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Online Poker

Online Poker General Information and Odds:

Pitting skill with luck, online poker is the most popular "skill" card game on the internet. Although some government body's would seek to keep this multi-billion dollar industry at bay, consequently billing it as a game of chance, the fact of the matter is that poker requires skill to win, or at least to become consistently successful playing it. What makes online poker so lucrative is the fact that so many people are taking part in real cash games and wide area tournaments. The more people, the more money, and the more money, the more people. Call it the snowball effect or the online poker craze - the bottom line is that online poker is here to stay. And the way things look, it is only going to become even more popular.

Having successfully merged itself with the brick 'n mortar poker industry, online poker is fueled by the promise that anyone with a computer can earn a seat at the largest poker tournaments in the world. Called online qualifiers, or rather, satellite tournaments, this open pathway to playing with the pros, if you will, was and continues to be the ultimate dream for all aspiring poker professionals. Thanks to the "cinderella story" of Chris Moneymaker - a guy who spent $40 at an online qualifier tournament to make it to the final table of the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event, then proceeded to finish in first place and bag a $2.5 million pot - online poker and land-based events will forever be united.

The WSOP, now owned by Harrah's, is certainly the largest international poker tournament circuit today (the other being World Poker Tour, aka WPT). Through an ingenious marketing model, hugely popular online poker rooms, like Poker Stars, encourage players to participate in affordable satellite tournaments with the prospects of having their seat paid at the main event. In case you are wondering, this can easily cost $10,000, not to mention the costs of travelling and staying in Las Vegas. In other words, the Chris Moneymaker story is alive and real - satellite qualifiers are some of the most popular online.

The largest of the online poker rooms, however, often host tournaments that pay out more than the largest of land poker tournaments, many of which are now being hosted in conjunction with television entertainment. Poker Stars, for example hosts the World Championship of Online Poker, which in 2010, guaranteed $50 million in winnings over a two-month period. The final winner - a played named "POTTERPOKER", took home a $2.3 million pot. These days, there are just a handful of major online poker networks, such as Playtech's iPoker Network, Cake Poker, Full Tilt, Cereus and the aforementioned Poker Stars. As reported at Wikipedia, there are over twenty stand-alone poker sites and networks, while an estimated 545 poker sites (skins for each network) are active as of February, 2010.

One last thing worth mentioning about online poker is that it hasn't been without some very massive cheating scandals. Player collusion and other player-fraud activities are no doubt a constant concern at poker rooms. However, more concerning is when the poker room operators themselves are compliant in cheating activities. In 2007, Absolute Poker room paid $1.6 million back to players cheated by a "company consultant", whose identity Absolute Poker would not reveal. The very next year, Absolute's sister site (on the Cereus Poker network), was called out by a stats-savvy player who analyzed one mysterious player's remarkable winning record. Turns out "former employees" (according to Ultimate Bet) had access to software code enabling them to see the hole cards of other players at the table. The entire scheme, which CBS news called "the biggest scandal in the history of online gambling" was traced back to poker pro, Russ Hamilton. Ultimate Bet would eventually refund over $22 million back to players affected by the scandal.

Online Poker Game Setup and Playing Mode:

The playing interface at the online poker table is self-explanatory to the player familiar with the basic rules and terms of poker. Below, is a screen shot of a Texas Hold'em game as viewed from outside. Notice the space that says "Seat Open". A player wanting to join this table would need only click the Seat Open space.

After joining a table, one must wait until the Big Blind rotates to their seat or simply opt to pay it the very next round.

In the screen shot below, notice the highlighted options to Fold, Check or Bet4. Players will also have the option to pre-act by checking a series of available boxes like Fold/Check, Raise etc. Also note the dealer dialogue box in the lower-left corner giving instructions to all seated players. Notice there is a time limit to act. In this case it is 7 seconds.

Game Objective and Rules: Depending on the version of poker being played, the rules will vary somewhat. However, Texas Hold'em is certainly the most played, and consequently, the most loaded. All poker games can be described as a series of betting rounds and card reveals. The objective of the game is 1) to get lucky being dealt with a high-ranking poker hand, and 2) to make other players think you have a high ranking poker hand (even if you don't) via a series of bets and bluffs. This is the skill part of playing poker. The winner of the pot is the player left standing with the highest ranking poker hand (see below), culminating in a series of card reveals.

Before starting any game, the blinds (initial bets) must be made, and is the responsibility of two new players each game. If a tournament is listed as a $1/$2 game, $1 is the minimum stake and the small blind is half this amount: $0.50. The $2 is the maximum bet at the table, and the big blind is half this amount: $1. The player to the immediate left of the dealer will make the small blind bet and the next over from this player will make the big blind bet. Two pocket hold cards are then dealt to every player, and a betting round commences with a series of calls and raises (no greater than the minimum stake).

The Flop - After betting round 1, the dealer will reveal three face-up community cards in the center of the table (cards all players use to complete their two hole cards). The second betting round commences, just like the first time around but with the ability to "check" raises (passing on calling a raise).

The Turn - This is the addition of a fourth community card, after which the third betting round ensues. This time, the raise amount is for the maximum table stake.

The River - This is the addition of a fifth and final community card, after which the final betting round commences (just like the betting round before).

Any players who have not folded and are left standing at the end of the final betting round will reveal their hole cards to determine who has the highest ranking poker hand, which are as follows:

One Pair - A pair of matching cards.

Two Pair - Two pairs of matching cards.

Three of a Kind - Three cards of the same value/denomination. Three Kings or three 7's.

Straight - Five cards in consecutive order of rank. For example, a 3/4/5/6/7. The hand cannot go "around the corner from Ace to 2.

Flush - Five cards of the same suit in no particular order.

Full House - Combination of a three-of-a-kind and a one-pair

Four of a Kind - Four cards of the same value/denomination.

Straight Flush - Combing a Straight and a Flush together: Five cards of in consecutive order of the same suit. 3/4/5/6/7 all of Spades

Royal Flush - All of the same suit, the highest value cards - 10/Jack/King/Queen/Ace

If none of the players hold at least a One Pair or there is a Tie, the player with the highest ranking card (value and suit) - called the High Card - wins.

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