Online Poker Games Fall Into Two Main Categories - Those Against the House, and Games Played Against Other Players
At first sight you could easily be forgiven for thinking that poker played at a specialist poker site is the same as poker you’ll find at a casino – in both games you’ll be given a hand which you’ll be able to bet on, however apart from this, the two versions of the game are actually worlds apart.
In this guide I start by explaining how you’ll play poker at a specialist poker site, and the selection of games you’ll be able to play. I then detail casino poker and describe the dynamics of this game. I finish by highlighting the key differences between the two games that really set them apart.
Multi Player Poker
You’ll find multi-player poker at any specialist poker site – examples include PokerStars or Party Poker. When visiting a poker site you’ll be presented with a large number of options – these will include the size of the stake you want to play at, the number of opponents you’ll want to face at the table, the speed of the game and the actual type of poker you’ll want to play. There are many forms of poker you’ll be able to play, including Omaha, Stud and Draw, although by far the most popular game is Texas Hold’em. This can be played with two main betting fomats – limit and no-limit, the no-limit game the one played most often and the game seen in the vast majority of televised poker games.
When you join a table you’ll be playing against all the other players at the table. If playing no-limit hold’em, two players will start the betting automatically by posting the blinds (the small blind and the big blind). These bets are automatic and not made by choice and players will take turns posting these as the ‘button’ moves around the table - after this all betting is done voluntarily. You’ll win the hand (and the money in the pot) in two ways – firstly if you are the only player left in the hand or secondly if there are two are more players left in at the end of the betting rounds and you have the best hand of these players. The number of betting rounds varies from game to game – in hold’em there are four betting rounds (pre-flop, flop, turn and river).
More on Online Poker Games:
- Learning Poker Strategy (stage-by-stage approach to building your skills)
- Jackpot Sit N Goes (a single table tournament format with jackpot for landing 6 in a row)
Casino poker games are played against the house. There are many different variations including 3-Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Let it Ride and Pai Gow Poker. Each game has a specific set of rules on betting, dealer play (the individual dealers do not decide what to do on the fly) and the decision points. In most games your decision is to raise (continue with the hand) or to fold.
The most popular form of casino poker is casino holdem. When you join the game, you’ll notice that you are facing just one opponent – the dealer. Before playing you’ll decide on a stake, which will have to adhere to the minimum and maximum amounts set by the table. To play you’ll have to post an initial ante, and then you and the dealer will be dealt two cards (you’ll see your cards but not the dealers). You will also see the flop, which are the first three ‘community’ cards. At this point you have a decision to make – to continue or to fold. If you fold you lose your initial stake and the hand ends there. If you decide to continue by hitting the ‘call’ button you’ll have to post another bet which is double your initial ante. The two final community cards will now be dealt and your hand will be compared to the dealers. If the dealers hand beats yours you will lose all your ante and your bet. If you win there will be a check to see if the dealers hand has ‘qualified’ which asks the question whether the dealer has a hand of a pair of 4’s or better. If qualified, you will win both your bet and your ante, if not qualified you will win the amount of just your initial bet (the bet will be considered a ‘push’ and returned to you).
When playing casino poker you’ll also be able to place a ‘side bet’ on the strength of your hand – the better the hand you’ll receive the higher odds you’ll be paid.
PlayTech are the biggest international casino software house. I have outlined their top casino poker games in this article.
The Key Differences between the Two Games
Opponents – At a poker site you’ll be playing against other users of the site. When playing casino poker you’ll be taking on the dealer (who represents the house).
Rake/Edge – A specialist poker site makes money by taking a small percentage of every pot (this called the rake), the rest going to the winning player. When playing casino poker, there is no rake, the casino making a profit by the inherent house edge when playing – meaning that in the long run, the house will always make a profit.
Winning – At a poker site it is possible to make a profit in the long run if you good enough (compared to your opponents) to win enough money at the tables to cover the rake. As you are playing against players of different abilities, this is entirely possible and the top players in the game can make huge profits.
When playing casino poker it is possible to make a profit in the short term, however you should expect to make a small loss in the long run as the game is not mathematically beatable. Betting systems can help ride out short-term swings, though they can not beat the casino in the long-run.
Which Should You Play?
Multi-player online poker games have the potential to bring you profits - though most players lose money. When considering these games you shoud keep in mind that many specialists 'multi-table' these games, making a small profit from 8 or even more tables to bring in a nice hourly rate. This means that the standard of play for equivalent stakes is significantly higher than in live casino games. My advice is to start at small stakes while you get a feel for the games, and then move up when you are comfortable. You should also choose sites which have a large proportion of recreational players (I recommend 888 Poker for International readers and Bovada for US players). Some larger sites have a large proportion of pros, and need to be avoided.
Casino Poker can be very entertaining, and you can now enjoy Casino Holdem with a live dealer at many casinos. The house edge is small enough that you'll get a lot of play for your money, and bonuses / promotions will make this last even longer. The progressive jackpot side-bets in some games can result in a significant windfall.