New to Poker
Poker player on black background

The number of players playing poker online constantly grows, as does the number of card rooms. But strategy for online poker is still only in its adolescence. This guide was the first of its kind when put online. It is my attempt to fill a void in poker literature.

This Guide offers tips to both for players who have never played a hand online as well as those with experience who want to learn to play better — to win, or win more. Experienced users can skip some of the basics, but even in discussions of the basics I hope experienced users find some valuable ideas. Also, many of the linked pages below offer other information that should contribute to helping you win.

Since little has been written specifically on how to play online games, why am I? Why give away “secrets”? First, I want to encourage more and more people to enjoy poker in all its forms. Some new players, too far away or too intimidated to walk into a conventional card room, will be glad to start out in a relatively unthreatening online environment. Online free games represent the best opportunity ever for new players to learn the game. Many of these players will naturally go on to also play in casinos, so this guide should benefit brick & mortar clubs as well as online card rooms.

Signing Up

Joining an online site is simple. You can fund your online poker account in many ways, and different card rooms may have various deposit options. In order to comply with current regulations, some online poker rooms may restrict play or deposit options based upon the state or country in which you reside. If you are facing such a restriction, the poker site will inform you of your options during the deposit process. In most cases, even if you are facing a deposit/withdrawal restriction, you will still have several different methods available to you for depositing or withdrawing funds. You may be able to deposit in any one of the following ways:

  1. Directly from your checking account.
  2. With a credit card.
  3. Through a courier like Moneygram.
  4. With a Bank Wire
  5. With a personal check through the regular mail.
  6. By receiving a funds transfer from another online player.
  7. With a money order.
  8. With an online payer like Neteller (citizens of some countries may be prohibited from using this option).

When you sign up, you don’t even need to deposit at first. You can play free games without giving any credit card or bank information. In fact, you should play the free games for at least an hour or so to get the hang of how fast the action goes, what buttons to click, what happens when you click a button if you aren’t sure of what it does: all the bells and whistles of how the site works.

The drawback of the free games is that they have virtually no instructional value as to the correct method of play. This is because free players do not pay for their chips and therefore do not place much value on correct or winning play. This pretty much eliminates the game within the game, which is the heart and soul of poker. The free games are, however, excellent for a total novice. They offer newbies a way to practice calculating basic odds on the fly, and discover the relative strengths of hands. Still, you should get off free games as soon as you can. Even playing the .5/.10 games will offer you far more useful learning opportunities than the free games.

Give some thought to your login or screen name. Some people want to be distinctive, memorable. Others want to be as anonymous as possible. Your screen name is the first bit of “table image” you present to the other players. Choose one that presents the personality you want to convey to your opponents. Keep in mind that you may be restricted from making multiple changes to your screen name or picture.

Building an Online Poker Bankroll

The first enormous difference you confront between playing poker online and in a casino is when you go to buy chips. Online card rooms may limit how much you can deposit each day, depending upon the deposit method that you choose. This means that your daily deposit limit is your de facto bankroll even if you have more funds readily available. You can start to build your online bankroll either through winning play, or by making additional deposits on subsequent days. If you are a high limit player, you should contact the support staff at the poker site about easing deposit restrictions.

Deposit limits can affect both the way that you play and the limit you are able to play at. Even if you are a winning player, if you play very aggressively, or too high for your online bankroll, you can end up broke and out of action with no way to rebuy. Don’t let this happen. Putting yourself out of action is a critical mistake.

If your online bankroll is limited, you should make sure that you are playing at a level where your bankroll can withstand the daily swings. This usually means starting lower or medium limits, and playing higher as your bankroll grows. Keep in mind that your short term swings will normally be greater online than they will be in online casino poker, because the games tend to be more aggressive online. If you are trying to acquire a large online bankroll without facing deposit restrictions, consider getting funds transfer from another player. Many sites do not restrict how much players can transfer between themselves.