As I wrote way back in May 2013 (can you believe it’s been that long already?), online poker is legal, up and running in Nevada. Subsequently, Delaware and New Jersey also joined the party. Whether you’ve been playing poker for ages or have just started to take up the game, it’s clear as day that online poker and live poker are dissimilar in a number of different ways.
Specifically, if you’ve always preferred playing live poker and are just now beginning to dip your toes into the land of online poker, here are five important tips that will surely help ease the transition to virtual tables and help get the most enjoyment out of your experience.
1. Pay Attention to Poker Sites’ Legality
Online poker continues to be affected by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in every state besides the three mentioned above. Basically, the UIGEA states that playing games of chance across the Internet is illegal (though I personally feel otherwise, poker unfortunately falls into that category). Yet, the ways in which the law is understood and enforced has allowed considerable wiggle room for people who wish to play poker online — even for those living outside the aforementioned three states. For starters, so far, bettors have never been targeted by the feds, whereas some sites’ owners operating on U.S. soil have been.
To try and get around the law, most players outside the states where it’s legal to play choose websites that operate out of countries outside the United States’ jurisdiction. While this tactic works (so far), it can cause some headaches in relation to getting paid, keeping up with taxes, and the like.
In other words, if you’re looking to try and play online poker while in Oklahoma or Michigan, you need to be aware of the UIGEA and how it might affect you. On the other hand, even if you live out of state, you can be play online poker in Las Vegas while on vacation there.
2. The Rules Are the Same
While anyone will tell you that there are plenty of differences you’ll encounter between live poker and online poker, one constant is the rules. There are many variations of poker available online, just like there are in casinos and basements throughout America. So long as you know how to play poker with real people in a real room with real chips and a real deck of cards, you’ll be able to play real poker in a virtual room with virtual chips, and a virtual deck of cards.
Many poker players are also concerned that some of the nuances of the language of the game may be different when they’re playing online, but, thankfully, this isn’t the case either. Check, bet, fold, call, raise — they all mean the same thing on the Internet, whether you’re playing on a site based out of Antigua or one in New Jersey.
4. Not All Poker Sites Are Safe
Arguably the most important of the five tips we’re offering here, if you’re new to online poker you ought to be advised that not all sites are safe to play at. Because many of the poker sites players are using operate outside of the jurisdiction of the United States, you do need to be certain that the site with which you’re dealing is trustworthy. By sticking to sites that are legal within the U.S., you pretty much guarantee the safety of your money and credit card information. On the other hand, some people find reputable sites outside the U.S. as well. As a general rule, be sure to do some research on the sites you’re interested in using. If they’ve been in business for 10 years or more, and they use high-quality software such as that offered by Microgaming, Vegas Technology, or Realtime Gaming, then they’re more likely to be trustworthy.
5. The Pace Is Different
Because shuffling, dealing, and handling chips happens in real time during a live poker game, the online equivalent is blisteringly fast-paced in comparison. As a result, you have much less time to relax your focus — a reality that can feel unnerving to players who like to “chill” between hands. In addition, online poker almost always includes a time limit for all decisions, which can certainly take some getting used to at first.
Regardless of how much live poker you’ve played in your lifetime, if you’re just starting to play live poker, you’re going to have to adapt and adjust. Keep these five important tips in mind as you’re transitioning from the real tables to the online tables, and you’ll be far better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead at the virtual felt.