Updated March 26th, 2020:
Ever since Chris Moneymaker shocked the planet with his World Series of Poker win in 2004, Americans have been in love with the game and dreamed of taking down a huge tournament and collect a life-changing cash prize. Of course, these are just fantasies for the most part, as only a tiny portion of players ever win big, and often it’s the same veterans who finish in the money.
Now this doesn’t mean only experts who have logged hundreds of hours of playing should sit down at the felt. It simply suggests that beginners need to carefully monitor their bankrolls and stay within predetermined budgets. Many individuals are guilty of gambling “too much too soon” at the poker tables and busting themselves right out of their dream occupation.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of people across the country figured out the hard way they weren’t going to be able to quit their day jobs and play poker for a living, as their bankrolls were hungrily gobbled up by much better players. It’s now commonly known in the community that the only way to get the necessary experience to be successful is to grind it out on the tables, day in and day out. It’s imperative to treat it like a full time job.
That said, through enough practice and skill anyone can join those in the U.S. who are making a very good living playing the game they love. As long as there are fish, there is always money to be made.
Best USA Online Poker Rooms
If there’s one thing that’s true about the online poker community, it’s that they can be very fickle about where they put down their chips. They hold operators accountable for every little thing that happens there – even the trash talk from others at the table. However, as the game grew in popularity, an increasing number of websites opened up to take advantage of the craze and give the drooling masses what they wanted: non-stop 24 hour action. People started to just gravitate to where the most action was and stopped caring about the perks or reputations.
Then when “Black Friday” came along and shut down all of the country’s biggest rooms such as PokerStars and FullTilt, dozens of the top sites were wiped out in a day, having been directly targeted by U.S. law enforcement. Only the strong survived, with the “strong” being websites owned by sole proprietors like maverick Calvin Ayre with Bodog, and a few others led by brave warriors who weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Now over the past few years, we’ve seen a resurgence and the “best” place to play is all going to depend on which factors are prioritized. For example, some people don’t care at all about incentives, while others will only go to websites that boost their bankroll as soon as they walk through the door. Some individuals want to be able to contact customer service any time of the day or night, while a select few don’t care if their email goes unanswered for a week.
However, when all of the possible categories are examined such as software, banking options, bonuses, number of tournaments, amount of cash tables, and everything else that’s important at an online poker website, conclusions can be made on who is rising above their competitors. Therefore, we now know only a handful of places are trustworthy and if you go anywhere else, you’re on your own. Good luck.
Online Poker Tournaments
Today there are tons of different styles of poker tournaments available online in the USA, with the most crowded ones featuring the universally-loved Texas Hold ‘Em. Within this category there are many different ways to structure a tournament like short stack, deep stack, 6 seat, turbo, etc., and everyplace has these options available to their members.
A popular type of tournament for rookies is the freeroll, which gives a shot at winning cash prizes or entries into real money tourneys without having to use your own funds. These are great practice for the real thing and a good way to test out your abilities against others risk-free. These are usually a little crazy since most who register often play a lot looser in freerolls than they would if they had staked themselves, but it’s always going to take some skill to outlast the competition.
Something to keep an eye open for is the “overlay” of a tournament when an operator hosts an event and guarantees a minimum amount in the prize pool. Occasionally there are ones where only a small number of players have entered, making it amazing value for anyone who’s registered in it, with the extra money that didn’t come from entry fees being known as “overlay”. The bigger the overlay, the better the chances of stacking up chips are, due to the smaller number of competitors needed to be knocked out to get to the final table.
Cash Poker Games Online
Although numerous people across the country prefer tournaments, there are also lots who like cash games as well, and it was these individuals who drove online poker to the level of popularity it’s reached today. The ability to sit down at a table 24 hours a day from the comfort of your own home (or anywhere on mobile) is obviously going to lead to increased action.
The most important thing to remember about cash games is that a land-based strategy cannot simply be transferred over and expected to work online. Moving past the obvious differences of not being able to see the faces of the other players or hear them speak, stake amounts should be drastically reduced because this version is so much faster than in person. Anyone used to firing bets at a casino on tables with blinds of $2 and $1 will probably want to join a ¢25 one in the beginning to protect bankrolls and get used to the rapid pace at which the cards are dealt.
Once comfortable, blind levels of all different sizes are found, from high roller tables to just pennies per big blind. Whether it’s Stud, Seven Card Stud, Omaha, Omaha High-Low, or Holdem, there are options and stakes for anything that you could possibly be looking for.
The main way online players receive bonuses and rewards for their patronage is through a rebate system commonly known as “Poker Points”, which are issued based on rake, number of hands received, and average bet size. After the accumulation of predetermined amounts set by the operator, cashback or other perks are eligible to be redeemed, depending on the levels and specifics of the program. It’s all very similar to the VIP reward systems found at land-based establishments in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
Some places like Bovada will simply lump all of the action on the felt in with casino handle and sportsbook wagers to calculate the player’s level, and then reward them accordingly. Other destinations like BetOnline will isolate all activity and issue points solely per channel. Regardless of the destination, there will usually be a clearly outlined cashback system where “X amount of points” are traded in for “Y amount of money”, with any bonus funds having a rollover requirement before they can withdrawn.
Back in the mid-2000s when there were more poker websites than you could shake a stick at, members of the community would always argue about who had the best software, who had the worst, and which features were “must haves” when playing online. These days there aren’t nearly as many options so people aren’t as choosy – they’re just happy with what they’re given and consider themselves lucky. Of course, it helps that the technology has come a long way since then and the number of bugs and annoying quirks has been reduced dramatically.
Before Black Friday took most of the top sites offline, there were tons of advancements being made in software and new functionality was released all the time. One of the revolutionary breakthroughs was FullTilt’s Rush Poker, enabling individuals to fold a bad hand and immediately be taken to another table to receive new cards, eliminating the need to sit through a hand that you were no longer a part of.
This of course “inspired” others to add the same functionality, with the aforementioned Bovada launching Zone Poker, which coincidentally had most of the same attributes as Rush. Oh well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
One of the biggest advancements in internet gambling was the creation of mobile software, which allowed people to sit down at cash tables and join tournaments from the palm of their hand. For many years only Android devices like Samsungs were properly supported but in this era everyone is also Mac compatible and has software optimized for iPhones and iPads too.
So now whether you want to play poker on a smart phone, tablet, or laptop, you’ll be able to use any device and always have a fantastic experience. We should be thankful for this because there was a time not too long ago when it was absolutely impossible to even consider this – now we can hit the felt from anywhere in America with a strong WiFi connection.
The technology now is basically perfect.