How to Play Online Poker


Chris Moneymaker turned $40 into $2.5 million by winning the World Series of Poker in 2003, and from that point on he was synonymous with online poker. His story was improbable because he won his entry on an online satellite tournament. April 15, 2011, known as Black Friday, would halt the online poker universe until 2013 when some of the state governments decided to legalize and regulate online poker.

Poker is a game of skill, patience, bankroll management, math, focus and a tad bit of luck. Online casinos have provided poker rooms from the convenience of your computer, tablet or cellular device and in the comfort of your home. While there is a massive boom in the online space, there are currently just six states that approve the play of poker online.

Where is Online Poker Legal?

The states that have legalized online Poker are Nevada, Michigan, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. While six states currently offer a platform for online Poker, only Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey are part of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association. Michigan will soon join the MSIGA.

The MSIGA is critical in providing larger pools and bustling player lobbies to poker players logging on to their favorite poker sites. If you are in a state that is not part of the association, you can only play online with players in your state.

Free play poker is legal throughout the United States.

Best Online Poker Sites

Legal States
Bonus Code
Claim Offer

100% UP TO $1,000

T&C's Apply, 21+

Available in: NJ

UP TO $600

T&C's Apply, 21+

Available in: NJ, MI, PA
No code needed

UP TO $600

T&C's Apply, 21+

Available in: NJ, MI, PA
No code needed

100% UP TO $1,000

T&C's Apply, 21+

Available in: NJ, PA

Updated on : 05/19/2024

How to Choose an Online Poker Platform That is Best for You

Delving into the available online poker sites can be a tad bit intimidating, but we are here to help. Quite honestly, making the decision boils down to user-friendly interface and a welcoming offer for new players and an abundance of rolling promotional offers for existing players. Some sites offer deposit matches, spins on their slot games, tournament tickets and even some real money bonuses for just playing one hand.

Easy deposit and withdrawal methods also play a big role in choosing a site to play the hands at.

➡️ Look for Guaranteed Prize Pool

A guaranteed prize pool is put together by the tournament organizers to guarantee a minimum dollar amount is available in certain tournaments.  We noticed some sites offer a ton of poker tournaments that offer a guaranteed prize pool which ultimately increases traffic and tournament attendance. Sometimes the tournaments are FREE and still have a guaranteed prize pool attached! Sites that offer these types of tournaments tend to get our attention.

? Online Poker Bonuses

  • Deposit Match: Some poker sites will help your increase your deposit between 10%-100%. Deposit matches typically have a limit, the highest we have seen is around $2,500.

    Sometimes the deposit match is also tied play through requirements. The most common play through requirements seen on poker sites 3x-16x. For example, if you deposit $1,000 on 100% match at 10x play through requirement, the total amount wagered would have to be $10,000 before the money is released into your withdrawable real money account.

    This does not mean you need to spend $10,000 to complete the bonus, it just means that the total value played from your account must be $10,000. You can bet the same $1,000 until you equal $10,000.
  • Free Chips: Some of the bonuses included in online poker are free chips. Playing just one hand can earn you up to $50 in chips to play in either cash or tournament games.
  • Risk-Free Play: Risk-Free plays sometimes come in the form of tokens. After an initial deposit, you can head over to the poker lobby and choose a tournament. If you lose, the poker site will reimburse you the amount of your deposit in terms of free plays to utilize on the site.

How to Secure an Online Poker Bonus

Anytime you sign up at a new poker site, be on the lookout for any codes that you can enter. VegasInsider will often provide a link that you can use to opt-in to site offers. Many of the bonuses require an initial deposit to the site. Welcome offers are specifically for new players, but most sites offer certain bonuses periodically throughout the year for current and existing players.

How to Play Online Poker

The most popular poker played online is Texas Holdem. In Texas Holdem each player gets dealt two cards, known as hole cards, and uses a community board of five cards. The goal is to make the best five card hand out of the seven cards between the community board and your two. An entire Holdem hand is played through four rounds of betting.

Pre-Flop Betting

The flop comes after the initial round of betting where the dealer places three of the community cards face up. A round of betting occurs based on the cards held by the players.

Pre-turn Betting/Post-Flop Betting

The turn is the fourth card dealt into the community board. This is also known as fourth street. After the flop, those still in the hand will have a choice to bet again. If they like their hand enough, it may be worth seeing the fourth card turn.

Post-Turn/Pre-River Betting

After the turn, players again have a chance to bet. This is known as the river or 5th street. By this point, your hand should be in good shape if a lot of action is on the table and betting is still live.

Post-River Betting

After all cards have been dealt and your hand completed, a final round of betting take place. If you have nothing, this may be a good time for a bluff.

Below are the hands ranked in order from best to worst:

Poker hands from best to worst: Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Four-of-a-Kind, Full House, Flush, Straight, Three-of-a-Kind, Two Pair, One Pair, High Card. Image provided by BettingExpert.

Other Poker Variants

  • Seven Card Stud: Like Holdem, but very different in the same breath. Seven Card stud still utilizes seven cards like in Holdem, but instead of a community board, each player is dealt their own individual seven cards. The dealer starts with two cards face down and one card face up. There are no blinds either, just an ante to get started on the betting.

    After the initial deal, the lowest face up card gets the option for first action on betting. After that round of betting is complete, the dealer will then deal another card face up. The second face up cad then changes the betting order, because instead of lowest showing card, the first action is awarded to the player with the highest ranking two cards shown. The same thing happens for the next two rounds, which also has cards dealt face up. The last card is dealt face down, and a final round of betting occurs. The best five card hand wins. This game is also known as two down, four up, one down.
  • Five Card Draw: Arguably the easiest game in the poker world to play. Each player is dealt five cards. Betting can either be done by an Ante which is a forced price on the table, or by blinds. There are two blinds and are paid for the two people to the left of the dealer. In five card poker, you can change all five of your cards or stand pat by not exchanging any cards. After the “draw” round, a final betting round takes place. The best five card poker hand wins.
  • Omaha: Omaha is the same as Texas Holdem aside from one key difference. Omaha players are granted a community board of five cards, but they get four cards dealt to them at the start. The best five card poker hand still wins. This game can also be played Hi-Low. This is a variance of the Omaha game that focuses on hands at either the hi or low spectrum of best hands. Hi-Low can be won by two different players per hand.
  • Chicago: This is played exactly like Seven Card Stud, except the pot is split between the highest hand and the highest spade dealt in the hole (the three cards face down).

✍️ How to Sign Up with an Online Poker Site

Use VegasInsider links and get started on one of the many poker sites available. Remember to use any bonus codes or links to receive promotional offers. The next step is to sign up and verify your identity and age. Signing up requires your name, address, birthdate, email, phone number and in some cases your last four numbers in your social security number.

Choose a deposit option and then head to the lobby and join in a tournament. Tournaments start at just one table of six players.

? How to Win Online Poker

“You have to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know went to walk away, know when to run, you never count your money when you’re sitting at the table,” as Kenny Rogers so eloquently stated in his song The Gambler.

The great and late Kenny Rogers might have had the best words in poker strategy. We recommend structured betting and being able to read bets made by other players. Some more aggressive poker players will play by the philosophy that any two cards can win. We found that poker is a strategic and time-consuming game, take your time and let the action come to you.

Defend Your Blinds

Blinds in poker are set in two increments, a small blind and a big blind. The small blind directly to the left of the dealer and the big blind is directly left of the small blind. Poker gives the position to the blinds, meaning action starts to the left of the big blind. This is an advantage because if you are the big blind, you can be reactionary to the table and ultimately decide if you want to be aggressive or passive.

If you are in a blind position the goal is to always protect yourself. Some players will be ultra-aggressive out of position, but if your hole cards are decent enough and the raise on the blind is not too expensive, we recommend a call.

Play the Variance

Online poker allows players to play multiple tables at once, and that could be a benefit because more hands could equal more chance to win. We caution playing too many tables at once because your attention would be spread a little too thin, but multiple tables is just non-stop poker action.

Some of the sites allow you to make notes on certain players and we recommend using that option. If you notice a player being aggressive or having a particular bet strategy you can make a note about it, and the next time you are in a tournament and that player is at your table you can look back on your notes.

Kelly Criterion

BANKROLL MANAGEMENT. BANKROLL MANAGEMENT. The Kelly Criterion is a bet strategy also known as the Kelly Bet or Kelly Strategy. In simplified terms, the Kelly Criterion is a strategy that ensures you are betting the right amount in each given hand or situation. In a perfect world, getting 60% chance of winning (p=0.6, q=0.4) and the gambler being a position of 1-to-1 odds of winning a bet (b=1), the Kelly Criterion recommends betting 20% of your bank roll.

If a gamble has zero advantage or edge, the Kelly Criterion recommends no bet. Anything can happen in poker though, and this is where reading the situation can help guide your betting path. The Kelly Criterion is useful in all types of betting and investments.

Card Counting is NOT Cheating

Understanding probability can help your poker strategy. Having two jacks is a decent enough starting hand, but the flop could be the four of spades, five of spades, and the six of spades. The jacks are still the best hand shown, but a straight and a flush are now shown as possibilities on the board.

Understanding what could come on the turn and river will help determine your future bets. Understanding that some of the higher starting hands may still be in the hand, but after that flop and some post-flop betting they may fold their hands. How many spades were thrown away? What about any Jacks that could help you get to three of a kind? Poker is all about the probabilities of cards coming or not coming.

How to Play Online Poker-FAQ

What is the best online poker site to win on?

VegasInsider has a ton reviews of different poker sites. No one poker site is the best to “win” on, but a few sites offer preferred interface, promotions and full lobbies with a guarantee of live games 24/7.

Which online poker app has the best payouts?

No legit poker app or website has "better" payouts, and sites advertising higher payouts are typically scams. The best way to get a payout on a poker site is to improve your skills and to bet on legal, real-money poker apps like the ones we recommend here.

Can I play poker online for real money?

Yes, all poker sites reviewed by VegasInsider are legal and regulated. To play for real money you must complete your sign up by verifying your identity, and any money won is yours. While money can be won, we want to reiterate to play responsible because money can also be lost. Some of the sites also have free roll tournaments that cost no entry, but there is still a guaranteed prize pool for players. You must still be verified to play in the free roll because real money can be won.

How do beginners play poker?

A good first step is to check out VegasInsider for the poker basics and to see what preferred sites are the best for play. We recommend hopping in on some of the free roll tournaments to get a feel for how the game is played. Most of the sites also have a free area that utilizes free poker tournaments with no real money implications. BANKROLL MANAGEMENT is paramount.

How do you start playing online poker?

Check out the preferred VegasInsider poker sites and sign up. Use the links provided for some promotional offers and deposit some money. Start on lower limit tables and then work your way up until you get a true feeling or the interface and how to be successful at poker. Once again, bankroll management is paramount, and the Kelly Criterion can help you with that. Bankroll Management has been stated a few times, and that is because it may be the most important criteria in being a successful at poker.