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Internet Poker Intro

What an Internet Poker Game Likes

Let's assume you're in your first Internet poker games. Here's what you're likely to see:

First, Internet poker screens are designed for eye-appeal, convenience, and psychological familiarity. Games are colorful, user-friendly, and pleasant to look at. The idea is to conjure up an inviting, comfortable ambience in the disembodied cyberspace medium.

Graphics differ widely from site to site, but one common denominator of every Internet poker casino we've seen is a green table of some kind that fills much of the games screen. Some tables appear more three-dimensional than others; some are round rather than oval; some showed chairs and some do not; some have a dealer box - with or without a depicted dealer - and others don't. But all of them - assuming your monitor displays what's intended - mimic the green baize felt of real poker tables. Another common denominator is brightly colored chips, with denominations differentiated by appealing, contrasting colors serving to minimize eyestrain.

Still another visual feature common to all sites is a user-friendly interface, with action buttons, check-boxes, and chat fields conveniently and clearly presented. Games graphics differ most, perhaps, in the way virtual players are depicted at the cyberspace table: To represent them, some designers did their utmost to conjure up as close an approximation to real poker as possible, creating avatar or puppet-like figures to "sit in" for clients.

The avatars at one site actually lift up freshly dealt cards after clients click on them, placing them back on the table face-down after they've Peeked," just as people do in physical casino games. The avatars also the physical movements and "speak" as they bet, call, raise or muck. The movements are stiff, and the speech somewhat stilted. No matter. It works - and it's fun.

Other designers went in a different direction altogether. Not even attempting to portray human forms, they went the minimalist route, showing players as mere screen names encased in oval blobs twinkling on and off as action passes around the table. As we go to press, the industry leader, paradisepoker.com, is one of several successful Internet poker casinos using this concept. Clearly, level of abstraction in graphics has little correlation with site success.

Still another popular site gives customers a choice: A player may take the default route of appearing at the table as a mere encapsulated screen name, but also has the option of uploading almost any type of picture or image to enhance it. Fans of this site revel in creating amusing, whimsical, or bizarre personas to accompany their pseudonyms.

The Virtual Dealer

If a dealer is depicted at all, he's only for show. Indeed, one successful site employs a round table with no dealer box and no dealer, creating the illusion of a home game rather than a casino games.

Whether visually represented onscreen or not, the actual dealer of online games is invisible. All dealer functions are implicit in the games technology. You'll see and hear cards shuffled, scrambled, and dealt; bets collected; pots and side pots awarded - all at lightning speed though functions generated by games software.

At some Internet poker tables, you'll see a dealer box where it's customarily found in brick and mortar games - in the center of the table between the #1 seat (directly to the dealer's left) and the last seat on the dealer's right.

If there is a dealer box, it's often a one-stop information and chip supply post where you'll re-buy when your stack gets low, and, depending on the site design, do such things as change player images, modify chat or sound effects, request a four-color deck, or request live assistance. Dealer box functions vary widely between sites. Try double-clicking on it to bring up a command list.

If there's no dealer box, or clicking on it fails to bring up a command list. Look for anything on the games screen that says "Options," and also try going to the lobby screen, where you're likely to find an even more extensive option list under a prominent tab.

The Players

Your screen name or "handle," centered in a simple geometric form or accompanied by a more elaborate image, represents you at the table. It appears above your seat position after you double-click on an empty seat. At some sites you're encouraged to submit your own image - which may be anything from a cartoon character, emblem, or insignia to a real life photo of you, your dog, your old sneaker, or your Aunt Mabel - while at others you assemble a composite avatar from components, select a pre-assembled one from a list, or have one arbitrarily assigned to you by the programming.

Seated around the rest of the table are your opponents, who may be anywhere in the world. Like you, they're represented by screen names along with images, avatars, component composites, or whatever else is used to depict players at the site. By resting your cursor over a seat, you'll usually see the city or country declared as that player's place of residence, as well as the dollar amount of his chip stack. (At some sites, the amount represented by a player's stack is constantly visible.) Otherwise, you and your opponents play under the cloak of anonymity.



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