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Enjoy Poker Online
Online poker is the game of poker played over the Internet. It has been partly responsible for a dramatic increase in the number of poker players worldwide. Christiansen Capital Advisors stated online poker revenues grew from $82.7 million in 2001 to $2.4 billion in 2005, while a survey carried out by DrKW and Global Betting and Gaming Consultants asserted online poker revenues in 2004 were at $1.4bn.
Traditional (or "brick and mortar", B&M, live) venues for playing poker, such as casinos and poker rooms, may be intimidating for novice players and are often located in geographically disparate locations. Also, brick and mortar casinos are reluctant to promote poker because it is difficult for them to profit from it. Though the rake, or time charge, of traditional casinos is often high, the opportunity costs of running a poker room are even higher. Brick and mortar casinos often make much more money by removing poker rooms and adding more slot machines.
Online venues, by contrast, are dramatically cheaper because they have much smaller overhead costs. For example, adding another table does not take up valuable space like it would for a brick and mortar casino. Online poker rooms also allow the players to play for low stakes (as low as 2¢) and often offer poker freeroll tournaments (where there is no entry fee), attracting beginners.
Online venues may be more vulnerable to certain types of fraud, especially collusion between players. However, they have collusion detection abilities that do not exist in brick and mortar casinos. For example, online poker room security employees can look at the hand history of the cards previously played by any player on the site, making patterns of behavior easier to detect than in a casino where colluding players can simply fold their hands without anyone ever knowing the strength of their holding. Online poker rooms also check players' IP addresses in order to prevent players at the same household or at known open proxy servers from playing on the same tables.
Free poker online was played as early as the late 1990s in the form of IRC poker. Planet Poker was the first online cardroom to offer real money games. The first real money poker game was dealt on January 1, 1998. Author Mike Caro became the "face" of Planet Poker in October 1999.
The major online poker sites offer varying features to entice new players. One common feature is to offer tournaments called satellites by which the winners gain entry to real-life poker tournaments. It was through one such tournament on PokerStars that Chris Moneymaker won his entry to the 2003 World Series of Poker. He went on to win the main event causing shock in the poker world. The 2004 World Series featured three times as many players as in 2003. At least four players in the WSOP final table won their entry through an online cardroom. Like Moneymaker, 2004 winner Greg "Fossilman" Raymer also won his entry at the PokerStars online cardroom.
In October 2004, Sportingbet, at the time the world's largest publicly traded online gaming company (SBT.L), announced the acquisition of ParadisePoker.com, one of the online poker industry's first and largest cardrooms. The $340 million dollar acquisition marked the first time an online cardroom was owned by a public company. Since then, several other cardroom parent companies have gone public.
In June 2005, PartyGaming, the parent company of the then largest online cardroom, PartyPoker, went public on the London Stock Exchange, achieving an initial public offering market value in excess of $8 billion dollars. At the time of the IPO, ninety-two percent of Party Gaming's income came from poker operations.
In early 2006, PartyGaming moved to acquire EmpirePoker.com from Empire Online. Later in the year, bwin, an Austrian based online gambling company, acquired PokerRoom.com. Other poker rooms such as PokerStars and Poker.com that were rumored to be exploring initial public offerings have postponed them.
As of March 2008, there are fewer than forty stand-alone cardrooms and poker networks with detectable levels of traffic. There are however more than 600 independent doorways or 'skin's' into the group of network sites. As of January 2009, the majority of online poker traffic occurs on just a few major networks, among them PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and the iPoker Network. The vast majority of high stakes action takes place on Full Tilt Poker, with the top ten winning players from 2008 all coming from this site.
Differences compared to conventional poker
There are substantial differences between online poker gaming and conventional, in-person gaming.
One obvious difference is that players do not sit right across from each other, removing any ability to observe others' reactions and body language. Instead, online poker players learn to focus more keenly on betting patterns, reaction time, speed of play, use of check boxes/auto plays, opponents' fold/flop percentages, chat box, waiting for the big blind, beginners' tells, and other behavior tells that are not physical in nature. Since poker is a game that requires adaptability, successful online players learn to master the new frontiers of their surroundings.
Another less obvious difference is the rate of play. In brick and mortar casinos the dealer has to collect the cards, shuffle, and deal them after every hand. Due to this and other delays common in offline casinos, the average rate of play is around thirty hands per hour. However, online casinos do not have these delays. The dealing and shuffling are instant, there are no delays relating to counting chips (for a split pot), and on average the play is faster due to "auto-action" buttons (where the player selects his action before his turn). It is not uncommon for an online poker table to average ninety to one hundred hands per hour.
In the brick and mortar casinos, the only real way to increase your earnings is to increase your limit. In the online world players have another option, play more tables. Unlike a physical casino where it would be impossible to play multiple tables at once, most online poker rooms allow this. Depending on the site, a player might play from four to ten tables at the same time, viewing them each in a separate window on the computer display. For example, a winning player may make around $10 per 100 hands at a low-limit game. In a casino, this would earn them under $4 an hour. After dealer tips, the winning player would probably barely break even. In an online poker room, the same player with the same win rate could play four tables at once, which at 60 hands per hour each would result in an earning of $24/hour. Some online players even play eight or more tables at once, in an effort to increase their winnings.
Another important difference results from the fact that some online poker rooms offer online poker schools that teach the basics and significantly speed up the learning curve for novices. Many online poker rooms also provide free money play so that players may practice these skills in various poker games and limits without the risk of losing real money, and generally offer the hand history of played hands for analysis and discussion using a poker hand converter. People who previously had no way to learn and improve because they had no one to play with now have the ability to learn the game much quicker and gain experience from free-money play.
Finally, the limits associated with online poker are much less than the table limits at a traditional casino. On gambling sites, players can find limits as low as $.01/$.02. However, at most brick and mortar establishments the lowest limits are often $1/$2.
Many online poker sites offer incentives to players in the form of bonuses. Usually the bonuses are given after a certain number of raked hands are played. For example, a site may offer a player who deposits $100 a bonus of $50 once he plays 500 raked hands. A poker player who can at least break even can become a long-term winner by playing with poker bonuses. A winning poker player can add to their winnings with the use of bonuses.
In addition, several online cardrooms have developed VIP programs to reward regular players. Poker rooms often offer additional bonuses for players who wish to top-up their accounts. These are known as reload bonuses.
See the online casino article for more on general information on bonuses.
Online poker rooms typically operate through a separate piece of software. This may be cross-platform, for example using a Java Applet, allowing the program to run equally well on various computer systems such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS. However, many online poker rooms offer downloadable programs designed only for Microsoft Windows which require a compatibility layer such as Wine to run on Macintosh or Linux computers. Some sites do make available clients that run natively on Mac or Linux.
Some mobile content providers have started offering poker on portable devices (mobile phones, PDAs). The functionality of mobile online poker software is much the same as computer-based clients, albeit adapted to the interface of mobile devices. The player must be able to receive a cell phone signal in order to play.
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