All of that's great news for the experts but if you're new to the game it can seem a bewildering world at first. There's a whole culture, vocabulary and set of norms you're going to have to pick up quickly. Not to mention getting used to that haunting feeling that if you're looking around the table wondering who the sucker is, the sucker is probably you.
But don't despair! It's never been easier to actually live the dream and play online poker for real money. You can even play with a live dealer! There's a long road to travel for sure but put one foot in front of the other using our easy to follow overview and you'll be laughing all the way to bank in no time at all. Let's get going!
Step #1 For Getting To Grips With The World Of Real Money Poker: Do Your Homework
It's all too easy to get seduced by the promise of riches to come and dive into playing before you're really ready. Sharks scent blood and there's nothing they like more than picking up some easy bucks teaching expensive lessons to newbies. Do yourself a favour and get familiar with the obvious bare minimum of knowledge required to play online poker for real money and you'll be the one learning at someone else's expense when the time comes rather than vice versa.
First of all, pick your game of choice and stick to it. We've all seen eager newbies thinking they can somehow simultaneously get to grips with the subtleties of 5-card draw, 7-card stud and Texas Hold'em. This way madness lies. Study the options, pick a variant that appeals and master it. Dilettantes who flip from variant to variant are easy meat for more experienced players as they never pick up more than a surface knowledge of how to play.
Once you've selected your game from the range of casino games on offer, hit the books and study some classic literature on the subject. Gone are the days of poker strategy being a matter of rumour and legend. The basics for any variant are all readily available on Amazon at the click of a button. You'd be amazed at how many players refuse to do even the most basic research by studying books such as Phil Gordon's Little Green Book of Poker. Don't be one of them.
For the bigger picture, start with Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker and Big Deal and then dive deeper into the history and strategy of your chosen variant. Big Deal is a particularly useful read here as it follows an enthusiastic amateur on his journey to being a pro.
Once you're starting to get comfortable with the basics and you have a handle on game theory, join a local real-life game. You need to pick up on the subtleties of play and start learning the personality types involved in poker. A local game with buddies for low stakes is a virtually risk-free way of taking off your poker training wheels and having some fun while you're at it. Don't get stuck at this stage though, things are about to get serious.
Step# 2 On The Road To Real Online Poker Mastery: Getting Set Up Online
Ok, you've done your basic due diligence. You know your variant, you're comfortable with strategy and you've tasted both the thrill of winning and the agony of defeat. It's time to set sail into the wider world of real online poker. Begin by taking care of the basic infrastructure.
You'll need an online casino account to get started. Don't be a penny pincher or get seduced by offers that seem to good to be true. They're probably just that. Stick with the biggest brand name in your particular territory while you're getting your feet wet. There'll be plenty of time to switch down the line.
Be certain that the outfit you're dealing with is operating firmly within the bounds of local law as well. The last thing you want is some fly-by-night outfit making off with your funds when the regulatory hammer drops.
Some examples of legit, big-time gambling names with reputable casinos to begin with include Paddy Power and William Hill.
A note about kit: Play will either be direct in-browser or using special software downloaded to your machine (generally in the form of a Java plug-in) so make sure you're running on a modern machine with the latest browser versions installed. You don't want the machine wheezing and sputtering when you're trying to concentrate.
Once you've registered with a casino, you'll need to load your account with funds before you can play. This is not an on-credit environment. If you want to experience the thrill of online poker for real money it's strictly pay to play. Which brings us nicely on to our next point - establishing your bankroll.
The movies are full of poker players taking huge chances with money they don't have and then coming up trumps on the last card turned. In real life, only a fool bets with money he can't afford to lose. Establish what your stack is early and stick to it. Weakness here can open you up to a world of pain that's better avoided. Especially when you're starting out. Stay sensible.
Step 3 In Real Money Poker Dominance: Be In It To Win It
When you're playing socially, a shark-like focus on the bottom line isn't really the point. You're there to kick back and bond with your buddies. Online poker is a different kettle of fish. The time for relaxing with banter is at the bar afterwards when you're spending your winnings. You need to start cultivating a ruthlessly professional attitude as quickly as possible.
The main thing that distinguishes the pro from the amateur is his commitment to strategy. First of all they actually have a strategy. Secondly, they stick to it. Executing on this second component takes the sort of discipline and experience that can only be won in real life on the tables. Stay strongand focused while you're building this up.
Now that you're actually playing for real money online, managing your table time is also going to assume more and more importance. The initial temptation is to indulge in marathon sessions thinking you're somehow "getting in the zone" and earning your spurs. This is nonsense. You need to be fresh and alert to maximise your opportunities which means getting your practice, tournament, travel and sleep schedules all in order. Chaos is for amateurs.
An obvious corollary to this is knowing when to call it a day. Your success as a professional poker player will be judged over the course of your career not on any one hand or tournament. As a wise man once said, you've gotta know when to fold em'. You'll make as much money knowing when to walk away as you will going all-in.
As a novice, you're better off sticking to lower-stakes tables at the outset and resisting the lure of multi-tabling. Pace yourself and move up the food chain gradually once you've outgrown a particular table size. Don't try to bite off more than you can chew and look out for attractive bonus offers along the way.
Step 4 In Playing Online Poker For Real Money: Study The Masters
Once you have experience and some table time under your belt, it's a great opportunity to start the lifelong process of refining your game. Subtleties that would have overwhelmed you as a novice will now start to be worthy of in-depth study.
Get yourself over to Youtube and dive right in. There's no right or wrong way to do this. Just stay sharp and keep asking yourself questions that are relevant to your particular playing style and go where the links take you. Here's 3 to get you started:
- Phil Helmuth's Million Dollar Poker System
- The $1.1 Million Poker Hand - Sit back and enjoy as one of the biggest pots in the history of televised poker plays out.
- Phil Ivey Interview - Another modern master breaks it down over 52 sizzling minutes. Get the notebook out and let it all sink in.
Step 5 In Mastering The Real Money Game: Widen Your Horizons
Beyond a certain skill level, poker is really a game about people. A strictly odds-based approach will get you only so far. You'll need to probe the mysteries of human behaviour to really lift your game to the next level. Here's three areas that will get those little grey cells humming and give you an edge at the table:
- Get familiar with Robert Cialdini's work on influence.
- Know your cognitive biases backwards.
- Leverage Paul Ekman's work on micro-expressions to blast through bluffs.
There should be more than enough there to keep you busy for a while! Show some patience in following the steps above and you'll be well ahead of the pack when it comes to playing online poker for real money. We'll see you online!