Online Poker is hugely popular around the world. South Africa is no exception. The online casino poker craze took off in 2003, when the aptly-named Chris Moneymaker, an American online poker amateur, shocked the pros by winning the prestigious World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament. That big win catapulted online poker into the spotlight. Here you can learn how to play the game, some poker strategies and tips, plus the best casinos to play poker online.
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How to Play Online Poker
Texas Hold’em is the poker variety you will most often find online. After shuffling a standard 52-card deck, the ‘dealer button’ rotates clockwise to each player in turn.
- The two players to the left of the dealer button place a set amount of money in the pot, called ‘posting the blinds’.
- Each player gets dealt two face-down “hole” cards.
- The player to the left of the second blind can call, raise or fold. Other players then make their bets in turn.
- Next comes “the flop”: 3 face-up “community” cards. Players get another chance to bet: check, call, raise or fold.
- A fourth community card is dealt, the ‘turn’. A third round of betting begins.
- A fifth and final community card is dealt, the ‘river’. A last round of betting follows.
Each player tries to use the 5 community cards, together with their own hole cards, to make the strongest possible five-card hand. The hand is ranked in the following order, the best on top:
- straight flush (5 cards in a row of the same suit)
- four of a kind
- full house of (3 of one kind and 2 of another)
- flush (5 of the same suit)
- straight (5 cards in a row, not of the same suit)
- two pair (2 of one kind and 2 of another)
- one pair
- If player have hands of the same type, the higher card rank wins.
Players assess how strong their hands are. Then, they call, raise or fold in this last round of betting. If more than one player remains in the round after betting, the survivors reveal their hands. High hand wins.
Online Poker Varieties
- Limit vs. No Limit – These Texas Hold ‘em varieties differ in how bet amounts are treated. In the former there is a fixed amount you can bet per round. In the latter, there’s no cap on what you can bet.
- Omaha – In this Hold ‘em variation, players are dealt 4 hole cards. They need to use 2 of their hole cards and 3 of the 5 community cards to make their hand.
- Seven Card Stud – After placing an ante bet, players get two hole cards and one face-up. After an initial round of betting, 3 more cards are dealt face-up. More betting ensues. Then a seventh card is dealt, face-down. Final bets are placed, and then a “showdown” takes place. The player with the strongest 5-card poker hand is the winner.
- Playing against the House – Online poker has a new form of play, where you compete against the house instead of against other players. Depending on your software provider, this may be called Casino Hold’em or Caribbean Hold’em. It resembles blackjack in that the dealer is constricted while you have choice. Some of these games are progressive, meaning you can win a jackpot for certain types of high hands.
5 Online Poker Tips
- Play Free Poker Games – Free poker can be found at online casinos in practice mode. Alternatively, play with a casino bonus so you don’t risking real money.
- Start with Low Limits – Play lowing limit “penny ante” poker till you feel confident. Most of our recommended sites offer low-limit games.
- Try a Sit ‘n’ Go – Before joining a full-blown multi-table tournament, join a lower-octane sit ‘n’ go tourney. There you can experience an intense half-to-full hour of competitive play to see if you like it.
- Adjust to the Need for Speed – Online poker is not a leisurely game with the lads. The clock pressures you to decide your bets quickly. Pace yourself. If you followed our first two tips, then you can work up to competitions with dozens of hands per hour.
- Start with a Single Table – Playing poker online is challenge enough at first without the complications of multi-tabling. One table at a time!
Poker Buy-in Structures
- Cash Game Poker – This form of online Poker is exciting because it moves fast and pays out immediately. Each hand is an independent game. Come and go as you wish. Players enjoy the biggest edge, more than in tournaments.
- Tournament Poker – Unlike cash games, you need patience and perseverance to enjoy potentially huge rewards. If you have a clear strategy, the big prizes may justify your wait and risk. You play at multiple tables, against many players.
- Sit ‘n’ Go Tourneys – These mini tournaments take place within a set timeframe, usually less than an hour. They are more suited to online players who cannot take off a day or two to play poker. In terms of variance, they fall between cash games and multi-table tournaments.
Live Casino Poker
Lots of players like poker for the human element. At online casinos that have a Live Casino section, you can easily enjoy playing with professional dealers and other poker players. Streaming HD video from multiple cameras connect you to a studio casino with live dealer so you can experience the thrills of playing like the pros at home. You can play for yourself, or “stand behind” other players and bet on them. This is something you must try, if only for the intense, immersive experience.
The Bottom Line on Online Poker
Online Poker is a game you can learn to play well. Trying and practicing a poker strategy or two will improve your outcomes. Learn them and you will both enjoy games more and have a better chance of winning. Experiment with the variations and see where you feel the most comfortable. Decide if you’re a cash player, a tourney player or something in between. The best way to get started is by trying out free poker games at online casinos in practice mode, where you can play without risking a single ZAR. Then pick up a bonus and pad your bankroll. Check out our recommended list of casinos where poker is on offer to South Africans and give it your best shot for real money.