Online Poker FAQ

This online poker FAQ is meant to answer many of the questions and concerns new online poker players may have. If you don’t see your question answered, send me an email and I’ll send you a personal response.

Which online poker site should I play at?
This depends a lot on what you are looking for in an online poker room. Some players play at sites their friends play at, some look for large bonuses and VIP programs, while other look for the site with the most players. Full Tilt Poker & Pokerstars are the two most popular poker sites and the ones I recommend for all players. Both sites accept US players, have large bonuses for new players, and have fast and secure deposits and withdrawals.

Which online poker room is the largest?
The largest online poker site is Pokerstars by a long shot. At peak hours, you can find over 100,000 online poker players at the tables.

What is an online poker bonus and why do online poker rooms offer them?
Online poker is very competitive, which means online poker rooms need to do more to attract new players. In turn, they offer online poker bonuses to get you to make a deposit and play for real money at their online poker site.

How do online poker bonuses work?
Online poker bonuses come in two different types. There are no deposit poker bonuses and first time deposit poker bonuses.

No deposit poker bonuses are bonuses that do not require you to make a deposit to get. These free poker bonuses are usually around $10. Most of the time they are offered by smaller poker rooms who want you to try their software.

The problem with no deposit online poker bonuses is that they often force you make a deposit to withdraw your winnings. Also, most of the time the poker room has a cap on the amount of winnings you may cash out. For example, say you turn a $10 no deposit poker bonus into $1,000 after playing for a few weeks. You may find out that the site’s terms and conditions only allow you to cash out $50 of those winnings. Always read the terms and conditions before you take a no deposit bonus.

The most common type of online poker bonus is the first-time deposit poker bonus. With these bonuses, you are matched on your first deposit (or multiple-deposits like the Pokerstars bonus) up to a certain percentage and dollar amount.

For instance, if the poker room advertises 100% up $500, that means if you deposit $500, they’ll give you $500 free. If you deposit less than the $500 , the poker room will match the amount you deposit. If you deposit over the $500 you’ll still receive a maximum of $500.
First time deposit bonuses are the best online poker bonuses since you get to keep the money once you clear the bonus.

How do you clear a poker bonus?
Clearing an online poker bonus means playing enough hands that the bonus money is released to your poker account. Most online poker rooms have some sort of VIP points that help you track how close you are to clearing the bonus.

For example, the Pokerstars deposit bonus requires you to earn 17 VPPs per dollar of bonus money. The bonus is released in $10 increments or 170 VPPs. Poker rooms have different bonus clearance rates based on their requirements, what stakes you play, and how many tables at a time you play.

The higher the stakes and the more tables you play, the faster you will clear a poker bonus.

Is online poker safe?
One of the biggest concerns players have is whether it’s safe to play online poker or not. Most of the time players wonder if the online poker rooms will pay up. Or, they ask “what’s to keep the poker room from keeping my money?”

In nearly all cases, online poker sites pay their players, but occasionally there are small problems. These are usually related to processing problems and tend to happen more at smaller sites.

But nothing is ever 100% safe. These days, due to the large number of online poker networks, it’s easier for anyone to start a poker site. Many times these startups don’t have the capital needed to establish a new poker room in an already competitive market. That means you need to be extra cautious about signing up at a brand new online poker room, and is why I tend to stick with well established rooms like Pokerstars.

A good rule of thumb is – the smaller and newer the online poker room, the larger the inherit risk involved.

Is online poker legal or is online poker illegal?

In several ways, online poker differs from online casino gambling from a legal standpoint. That’s why the legality of online poker has become such a subject of controversy over the past few years.

Many countries in the United Kingdom and the Caribbean have legalized online poker. In the USA however, whether online poker is legal or not is still a subject of debate.

The online poker legality debate reached a new level when on October 13, 2006, President Bush signed a bill known as the Safe Port Act into law. The purpose of the bill was to increase the security of U.S. ports. However, attached to the end of the bill was a provision called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The UIGEA defines unlawful Internet gambling as,

to place, receive, or otherwise knowingly transmit a bet or wager by means of the internet where such bet is unlawful under any law in the State in which the bet is initiated, received, or otherwise made.

The goal of the UIGEA is to stop online gambling sites from accepting transactions from American financial institutions. This puts the unimaginable burden of regulation on U.S. banks.

Following the passage of the UIGEA many large poker sites pulled out of the U.S. market. These include Partypoker, Pacific Poker, Titan Poker, Full Tilt, PokerStars and Bodog.

A few poker sites have not closed their doors to customers from the USA, however. Sites like Full Flush Poker still welcome American residents who want to play online poker for real money. You can check out this review of full flush poker here.

In the last few years there has been a big push for legal online poker in USA. The Poker Players Alliance has been one of the leading lobby groups to help get online poker legalized in American. The PPA’s talking points clearing define all the reasons legal online poker makes sense.

Some states in the USA have passed laws that specifically ban online poker. Always make sure to check your local states laws before playing poker online.

Is online poker rigged? (is online poker a scam, is online poker legit, is online poker fair)
Online poker is not rigged.

How do I choose an online poker name?
Choosing a good online poker name is one of the best things about online poker. I won’t say it will make or break you at the tables, but sometimes it does influence your table image. Trends in online poker names include;

* Men choosing names and avatars to make them appear as a woman. Ex. HoldemGirl2009, LittlePokerLady, PrincessPoker – Guys do this in hopes that other men will think of them as softer players or just to mess with people.
* Choosing poker names that depict strength or skill. Ex. TakeYourMoney69, PokerShark33, igotpokerskillz – These more egocentric names are meant to intimidate opponents.
* Choosing poker names that depict weakness or lack of skill. Ex. Donkeyplayer, pokerfish22, dontraisemepls – These players are usually better players who want to appear weak to entice opponents into making wild plays against them.
* Choosing a name that plays off a popular poker pros name. Ex. BoyleDrunson (instead of Doyle Brunson)
* Choosing a name as an attempt at humor. A couple of classic example are OMGClayAiken and YoDontTazeMe, which refers to the video of the University of Florida college student who yelled “don’t tase me bro!” while being restrained at a John Kerry rally.

What types of poker games can I play online?
The most popular online poker games are Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Seven-card Stud. But there are more varieties of online poker games popping up every day. Games that have made their way on the Internet include Razz, Badugi, 2-7 Triple Draw, Five Card Draw, and mixed games like H.O.R.S.E. (Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Eight or Better Stud).

How do online poker sites make money?
If you’re referring to online poker sites like Pokerstars, then they make money by “raking” a small portion of each pot. For instance, if the pot is $1 then they would take a $0.05 rake. There is no fee or “time rake” when playing online poker.

If you’re wondering how online poker websites like this one make money, it’s by becoming an affiliate for different poker rooms. Some online poker websites sell flat rate advertising in addition to, or instead of, being a poker affiliate. Basically, online poker rooms pay a commission (kinda like refer-a-friend bonuses) to affiliates to send them new players. If you enjoy playing & writing about poker, becoming an online poker affiliate is a good way to make extra money.