Online poker remains one of the best casino games you can play. When you play poker online you’re not playing against the house but other players, hence there’s no house edge. Although there’s an element of luck involved, skill is the deciding factor in the long-term.
However, to succeed you need a viable poker strategy. The best players are constantly learning new tactics and analyzing the mistakes they make.
How to Play Online Poker
For newer players, it’s vital to get used to the way poker is played. If you’re used to playing slots and other table games, online poker is a far more complex game to master.
What’s the Aim of Online Poker?
Classic Texas Hold’em poker, which is by far the most popular form of online poker, uses the same poker hand ranking system as other forms of poker.
The royal flush is the strongest hand in the game and a high card is the weakest hand. Unlike video poker, it’s not important which hand you finish up with. The only aim is to beat the hands of the players opposing you.
Even if you have no hand, you can still defeat other players through clever bluffing.
Royal Flush - The hand that can not be beaten and must contain an ace, king, queen, jack and ten of the same suits.
Straight Flush - Five cards that make a sequence in the same suit, wins the hand if there is a tie.
Four of a Kind - Four cards with the same rank and a “kicker” which is used in the event of a tie and win goes to the player with the highest “kicker.”
Full House - Three cards that are the same and two different but matching a suit from the three. In the event of a tie, the winner holds the highest three cards.
Flush - Five cards in the same suit in no particular order. In the event of a draw, the winner is holding the highest card.
Straight - Five cards in sequence but not in the same suit. The highest card in the sequence is the winner.
Three of a Kind - Three cards worth the same and two in no order. The highest side card wins the hand.
Two Pair - Two cards that match rank, two cards that have different match rank and one “kicker.” If players have matching doubles then the winner goes to the player holding highest “kicker.”
Step-by-Step Guide for How Each Online Poker Hand Plays Out
Online poker is such a difficult game to master because there are so many potential actions you can take.
Step One – Every player will receive two cards. These are hidden from all other players on the table. The first person to act is the player to the left of the person who posted the big blind. They can fold their hand, call the big blind, or raise.
Step Two – Once everyone has acted, the first three community cards hit the table. This is known as the flop. You’ll use all the eventual community cards to help you create the best possible hand. Once the flop has been dealt, there’s another round of betting.
Step Three – The fourth community card hits the table, known as the turn. Another round of betting follows. Of course, you can ‘check’ and choose not to bet, make a bet, or fold your hand.
Step Four – The fifth and final community card lands on the table. Known as the river, there’s one final round of betting.
Step Five – Assuming there are two or more players in the hand, the hand will enter what’s known as the showdown. During the showdown, there are no more bets and the remaining players will flip their cards over to see who has the best hand.
Basic Strategy for Playing Poker Online
The first step of poker strategy is mastering some basic rules of play. This will enable you to beat most novice players. Despite so much money being at stake in the game of online poker, it’s amazing how many players have no idea what they’re doing.
The position is everything in online poker. The person who acts last has a distinct advantage over the person acting first.
At the start of a round, how you play in each position can define whether you win or lose. The hands you should play with are dependent on which position you’re in.
The most powerful position is known as the ‘button’. It’s the final position before the blinds. The weakest position is known as ‘under the gun’ and the player in this position is always the one to act first.
Download a hand chart to help you understand which hands you should be playing per position. When you’re under the gun, you should play nothing but the strongest of hands. When you’re on the button, you have a lot more flexibility in what you can play.
Maximizing the Value of Your Strongest Hands
Newer players are usually best served by playing tight. In other words, they fold most hands and only play their strongest offerings.
The way to make a profit from playing online poker in this way is to get the maximum amount of value from your biggest hands.
When you get two aces or two kings, you should be betting big. Don’t be afraid to go all-in, if necessary. These are the hands that don’t come along often and the worst thing that can happen is you don’t get a big win from them.
Novices using a tight strategy must win big in order to stay profitable when they’re playing so few hands.
Knowing How to Bet
Are you tempted to start out a hand by calling the big blind and seeing three cards? It may seem like a good idea, but it’s actually a mistake.
Don’t think of it as getting three community cards on a budget, think of it as other players getting three community cards on a budget.
If you’re going into a hand you need to make it expensive for your opponents to see another community card.
Nobody should be opening a hand with a simple call. You should be betting at least 3x the big blind. From there, you should be betting at least 50% - 75% of the pot. If you’re not willing to do this, get out of the way.
When you’ve got a hand, go hard.
Advanced Strategies for Playing Poker Online
Once you’ve mastered the basics of poker strategy and you begin to move to the more lucrative tables, you’ll need to begin implementing more advanced strategies into your poker play.
Take note, these strategies are best avoided when playing at the lower stakes tables.
Bluffing is perhaps the most satisfying part of playing poker, next to winning a huge tournament. When playing with novices, bluffing should be avoided at all costs.
People who don’t know how to play poker will call anything. Bluffing only works successfully on a consistent basis when the other player knows what they’re doing.
This is a tactic you should employ sparingly to shake things up. If you acquire the reputation of being a maniac at the table, your bluffs won’t work because other players will just call you out.
Playing a Balanced Style
The poker pros will tell you that it’s important to play a balanced style. In other words, you shouldn’t play tight the whole time because whenever you wade into a hand all but the strongest hands will instantly fold. You’ll never get any action at the table this way.
That’s why when you hit the higher levels you need to employ a balanced style. Mix things up a little by, say, playing tight but working some weaker semi-bluff hands into your play.
A balanced style is unimportant at the lower levels, or if you’re specializing in tournaments. Either the players you’re facing will be idiots or you won’t be playing with the same people long enough for them to get a read on you.
When you reach the point where you need to implement an advanced poker strategy, you’ll start spotting the same players time and time again.
Play with Ranges Not Hands
An average poker player will try to put their opponent on a specific hand. A great poker player thinks in terms of ranges.
Let’s take a look at how this works in practice:
You have an ace and a king against one other player. The community cards dealt are an ace, king, and a ten. Two of these are of the same suit.
The other player responds by making a large bet. What would you do in this situation?
Newer players would go in with all guns blazing because they have two pairs. Two pair, however, is the third weakest hand in all of poker. It’s not an impressive hand and there’s a lot of hands that could beat it.
Instead, the smart player considers the range. Here’s what they’re thinking:
- They don’t have top pair because you have top pair. They also don’t have a middle pair because you have middle pair.
- They may have a flush draw. They may also have a straight draw.
- It’s also likely that if they bet aggressively there’s a chance they have a pocket pair. That could have given them three tens.
- Alternatively, it may be a stone-cold bluff.
These are the thoughts that a smart player has. They’re considering whether they’re beaten. And they go through this process on every betting street. It’s all about trying to pinpoint whether the other player has you beat, rather than figuring out which hand they have.
Of course, you’re also adding how the player is behaving in your thought process. A sudden all in with a big stack is a likely sign they have the best hand, for example.
How to Analyze Other Players
A big part of learning poker strategy is analyzing other players. When you’re sitting at the same table with the same players for an extended period of time, it’s long enough for you to spot how they behave.
There are even specialist software options that track how your opponents are performing.
In the absence of being able to look at a real human, you have less information to base your decisions on. However, it remains a crucial factor when playing poker online.
Analyzing Other Players
Poker pros are able to analyze their opponents on a deeper level because most of the games are televised and they play with the same people regularly for many years.
In your case, you simply need to watch how your opponents are playing. Here are some common attributes to look out for:
The Maniac – Does a player seem to play the vast majority of hands at a table? He’s a maniac and he’s difficult to get a read on. This player likes to steal hands and the chances are most of his big bets are bluffs.
The Rock – This player rarely intervenes in hands. He may play just a couple of hands every hour. When going up against this player, you must be sure you have the strongest hand on the table or prepare to lose big.
The Fish – At first glance, this player may seem stable. They don’t play too much or too little. However, when they go to showdown you see them going all the way with trash hands in the vain hope they’ll hit a flush or a straight. These are the players you’ll make most of your money from.
The Shark – This is the guy you want to avoid playing against at the table. He plays with a great strategy and when he goes to a showdown he always seems to have the nuts. You’ll often see this guy sitting at the table with a huge stack.
Poker Rules Every Player Should Follow
Online poker is a complex game because there are different ways to play at every level. There are certain rules everyone should follow, though.
Manage Your Bankroll
Bad bankroll management is the number one reason why players go bust and have to get their credit cards out again. Playing at tables you don’t have the bankroll for will lead to disaster.
Unless you have at least 50 buy-ins for the table you want to play, it’s time to leave your ego at the door and move down a level.
Be Prepared for Big Swings
Poker is a game of skill in the long-term and a game of luck in the short-term. Even the best players experience long losing streaks where the cards just won’t fall for them.
You must be prepared to deal with these big swings. The idea is that over tens of thousands of hands playing with the correct poker strategy will lead to a profit.
You need the right mindset to handle these big swings.
Tilting is a term for getting angry when playing poker. Someone who tilts is no longer playing with correct poker strategy they’re playing with emotions.
This most often occurs when you have a strong hand yet you still lose because of a bad card, known as a bad beat. Sometimes, though, it can even happen when someone is on a long winning streak and they get cocky.
Tilting happens and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. What separates a bad player from a good player is knowing when to walk away and take a break.
Legal Online Poker Sites in Pennsylvania
Online poker in Pennsylvania was ready to launch on July 15th, 2019 with the legalization of online gambling in the state. Online operators are allowed to offer any poker game they want so long as they attain the license. PokerStars and PartyPoker are among the seven companies to have secured and paid for online poker licenses. Due to the state population of 13 million, the market potential is great.
Anyone who wants to play legal online poker in Pennsylvania will need to adhere to the regulations set by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board which include being at least 21 years of age, providing valid identification upon signing up, and being inside state lines to wager (all online casino sites will be using geolocation software to enforce this). Sites will also be paying a 16% online gambling tax on gross revenue. While players must be within PA borders to play online, they will have access to games with competitors from around the world wherever online poker is also legal.
Playing poker online compared to playing at a real casino has its advantages and disadvantages. For starters, the rules are the same no matter what platform a player is playing on but with online poker, the game tends to be faster and comes with less risk as players have the option to wager lower amounts. The disadvantage comes with not being able to see other players' faces, but with practice, players can find other ways to catch an opponent bluffing.
The following casinos have been approved to offer legal online poker in Pennsylvania as of July 15th, 2019:
- SugarHouse Casino
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National
- Mount Airy Casino
- Parx Casino
- Sands Bethlehem
- Valley Forge Casino
Best PA Online Poker Sites
There are a few operators that already have strong connections in Pennsylvania. The following are the best online sites for Pennsylvania players to play legal online poker:
PokerStars is partners with Mount Airy and is the #1 poker operator in the world.
888 Poker/WSOP.com is connected to Mount Airy and Harrah’s, although ties are stronger with Mount Airy. The company also owns the interstate poker network that runs through Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.
GVC/Partypoker.com has signed a deal with MGM which gives them access to Boyd Gaming and is continuing to grow its expansion in the United States with other partnerships.
Rush Street Interactive has two online gaming licenses and is rumored to have its own poker software.
Best PA Live Poker Rooms
Harrah’s Philadelphia is considered to be a leader in the market as they are owned by Caesars Entertainment. Caesars also owns the World Series of Poker which currently runs online poker sites in Nevada and New Jersey.
Harrah’s will be using a platform designed by 888Poker and is expected to merge Pennsylvania player pools with NJ and Nevada.
Harrah’s Philadelphia currently has the only WSOP Poker Room in Pennsylvania made up of 28 tables, open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It offers a generous amount of promotions and tournaments with games including Texas Hold’em, Seven Card Stud and Omaha and more ensuring any Philadelphia poker play will find a game that suits them.
Parx Casino is the gross revenue leader when it comes to PA poker rooms, having a venue made up of 80 tables. The casino hosts poker tournaments on the daily, 150-300 mixed games as well as offering players the most variety in PA for cash game offerings. Parx Casino also hosts the biggest poker tournament in the State called Parx Big Star that runs five times a year.
Sands Bethlehem has 30 tables located in the middle of the casino and attracts players from not only Pennsylvania but New Jersey and New York City as well. The casino hosts daily tournaments and a DeepStack Extravaganza, with a varied playing schedule.
SugarHouse Casino is made of 28 tables and had the first poker room in PA called the Poker Night in America Poker Room at Sugarhouse Casino. Due to the casino's connection with “Poker Night in America,” they also host TV events and offer tournaments 6 days a week with two on Saturdays and Sundays, and promotions including an instant high hand progressive jackpot.
Other PA casinos like Hollywood Casino, Meadows, Mount Airy and Presque Isle Downs also have good poker rooms but they are on the smaller size ranging from 7-15 tables.