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All About Internet Poker


If you're playing poker for the first time, you'll need to do some learning before you click into a game online, even if it's only for play-money. Poker is a house that requires a foundation. Only when that foundation is secure you can go ahead and build on it. When all the elements are solidly fixed to the structure, you can begin to add flourishes and decorative touches. But you can't begin embellishing anything until the foundation is poured, the building is framed, and all the other elements that come before it are in place. In this site, we put first things first - where they belong - and provide a basic understanding of what you need before you play.

You don't have to be one of the best players in the world to earn money at poker - that's one of the best things about it. If you learn to play at a level akin to that of a moonlighting musician, you'll be good enough to win consistently. While it's true you'll have to play far better to make a lot of money, even a good, work-a-day poker player can supplement his or her "day job" income.
Determined work, study, practice, and analysis make lifelong winning players. If you apply yourself, you'll have a hobby that pays, and with the growing prevalence of Internet poker, you won't have to go further than your PC or laptop to ply your skill!

Even if you've never played poker before - anytime, anywhere for any limits, not even across the kitchen table with Uncle Billy and Aunt Edie - you can learn.

The Real Basics

Poker is a simple games; even a child can learn it. It's a game of money and of people, played with cards. The object of the games is to win money or chips, collectively called the "pot," wagered during the play of each hand. (Don't get confused here, but a hand also refers to the cards in a player's possession.) A pot can be won in just two ways:

- By showing down the best hand: When two or more players are still active after all betting rounds are over, they show down their hands by turning them face up. The player holding the best hand wins the pot. While with in-the-flesh play it's possible for an all-too-human dealer to goof by misreading your winning hand at showdown, in Internet poker it's not. Online, your winning hand will always be rewarded, whether you've read it correctly or not. As long as you've called all bets in the final round (or gone "all-in," meaning you've put the remainder of your table stakes into the pot in the course of the hand), the games' "invisible dealer" automatically awards you the pot, or whatever portion of it you're entitled to if you've gone all-in.

- By having all opponents fold their hands: No, their hands aren't clasped in front of them. Folding means a player relinquished any claim to the pot by deciding not to match (call) an opponent's bet. He discards his hand - also called "folding" or "mucking." To "muck" one's hand means to fold it. Either way you put it, those losers bit the dust. But in Internet poker, rather than see folded cards in a physical discard pile, or "muck," you'll simply see them vanish into the void of cyberspace. Poof! They're gone!

If you win the pot because all your opponents fold, you may have had the best hand, or you may have been bluffing it doesn't matter. If all others surrender their claim to the pot, it belongs to you.

Single Pots versus Split Pots

Seven-card stud, hold'em, and Omaha high have a single pot that's divided only in cases of a tie for best hand. In split-pot games like Omaha/8 or 7-stud/8, the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand divide the spoils, provided someone makes a low hand. Five unpaired cards, all with a rank of eight or lower, comprise a low hand. While there's always a high hand in split-pot games, there isn't necessarily a low hand. When there's no qualifying low at showdown, the high hand "scoops" - it wins the entire pot.

Blinds and Antes: Forced Bets to Stimulate Action

Games with community cards, like hold'em and Omaha, require forced "blind bets" to start each hand. One or two players are required to make a bet - or portion of a bet - before the hand is dealt. Because this requirement rotates around the table, each player pays his share of "blinds".
"Board" games, like seven-card stud and 7-stud/8, in which players have only their own cards and no community cards use antes instead of blinds. Antes are token bets required of each player before the hand is dealt. Antes and blinds serve the same purpose; they stimulate action by seeding pots with money.

Each time a hand is dealt in hold'em or Omaha, players must fold, call, or raise the blind bet. In stud games they fold, call, or raise a forced "bring-in" bet. The bring-in bet put up by the player holding the lowest card dealt face up on the first wagering round. Antes and "bring-in" both go into the pot. In razz - seven-card stud played for low only - the high card on the first betting round is the forced bring-in (although razz is seldom dealt in either cyberspace casinos or brick and mortar casinos).

On the second and all subsequent rounds of betting, the first player to act may either check - which amounts to a bet of nothing - or bet. If he checks, the next player in turn may check or bet. Once a wager has been made, however, the next player to act must either fold his hand; call the bet by matching the amount of the wager, or raise. In most Internet poker games, as in the vast majority of casinos, a bet and three or four raises are permitted on each round of betting.

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