A Beginner’s Guide to Online Poker for 2020

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Poker is a tremendous game that merges skill and luck, made even better by the fact that you can play it from virtually anywhere. Online poker offers players the chance to experience this thrilling game from the comfort of their own homes and as well as on the go from their tablets and smartphones, earning impressive prizes and honing their skills along the way.

At GamblingNews, we’re committed to bringing you the best online poker sites on the web – where you can play in incredible competitions, earn generous bonuses and build your bankroll. Our team of expert reviewers provide in-depth insight about the top online gaming destinations, offering up honest advice that will help you have the best online poker experience possible.

Choosing the Best Poker Sites for Your Tastes

There are hundreds of poker sites out there for you to choose from, and it can be a little bit daunting deciding where to play. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered, and can suggest a number of important aspects to consider when choosing the best online poker sites for your tastes.


Take a look at the promotions page of the site and determine whether or not there are options available to you that are to your liking. There’s no point in signing up for a site that offers up a huge range of promotions that aren’t actually beneficial for your gaming preferences. So, take the time to browse the page and ensure that the promos are ones that a) will be fun for you to take part in, and b) actually offer up perks worth claiming.

Game Selection

What types of games and tournaments are you most interested in playing at online poker sites? If you want to play Texas Hold’em and standard tournaments, the choice shouldn’t be very difficult. However, if you’re mostly interested in Seven Card Stud and turbo tournaments, then you’ll have to do a bit more research. Make sure that the site you’re thinking of registering with has an abundance of the poker games that you enjoy.

Cash Game Traffic

Traffic at online poker sites.
Take a look at the site’s traffic to make sure you’re in for an exciting experience.

Another important consideration to make is the site’s traffic. What’s the point in playing poker online if there’s barely anyone else to compete with when you’re online? At the best online poker sites, you can browse the games lobby without having to make a deposit, allowing you to find out whether or not there’ll be plenty of players and games options available during your active hours.

Safety and Security

It’s not all just about fun when choosing an online poker site to play at. There are other serious considerations to make, specifically with ensuring the safety of your sensitive information and your money while playing online.


International online poker regulators.
Look for these seals from reputable online gaming regulators.

Poker sites should be licensed by a gaming regulator. Countries like the UK, Malta and Alderney have gaming commissions that provide licenses to the best online poker sites, which ensure that they adhere to strict player protection procedures.

The commission’s seal should be displayed prominently on the site’s homepage in the bottom navigation bar. If you can’t find it there, licensing information can be found on the About Us page. Failing that, it’s not in your best interest to play at that particular site.

Player Reviews and Reputation

There are millions of online poker players around the globe, and many of them make their opinions about certain sites known. Browsing player forums for information about specific sites will give you insight into their operations and whether they are recommended by other poker fans. However, do know that it’s common for players who have perhaps had a few tough losing streaks to vent their anger and frustration by leaving not-necessarily-true remarks about the poker sites. Therefore, don’t be too quick to judge just by a few negative opinions, but rather from a larger pool of players.  

Trust the Experts

You’ll also get some great guidance from professional poker reviews, like those provided by our team at GamblingNews. We are well-versed in picking out the important details of a site that will make or break the experience for you. Having played poker for many years, and at a huge range of rooms, we can point you in the direction of the best online poker sites.

Online poker site reviews
Read expert reviews for approved rankings on the best online poker sites

GamblingNews’ approved rankings provide expert insight on the most important aspects of playing poker in the online world. You’ll be able to find out everything you need to know about the finest bonuses, most trustworthy sites and best game selection at poker sites across the web.

Bonuses at the Best Online Poker Sites

Bonuses are an important aspect to consider when deciding where to play poker online. There are plenty to choose from in the online gaming market, and they tend to vary from site to site. As such, there are specific kinds of bonuses that you should keep your eyes peeled for and should serve as a great enticement.

100% Welcome Bonuses

All online poker sites provide players with the chance to earn extra money on their first deposit, as a “thank you” for becoming a member. The percentage at which the operator will match your deposit varies, anywhere from 25% to 100%. It’s best to look out for 100% match bonuses, as they offer you the best value for your money.

No Deposit Bonuses

No deposit bonuses tend to be pretty rare, but you can definitely find them if you look carefully at the best online poker sites. This particular type of bonus allows you to claim a small amount of cash simply for registering your account. There’s no need for you to deposit any money and you’ll be able to play basically any poker game your heart desires. No deposit bonuses can also come in the form of free tournament tickets.

Exclusive Promos

Some of the most generous promotions aren’t available to everyone. In some cases, the only way for you to have access to these exclusive promotions is through top poker partners, like GamblingNews. You’ll be able to claim the kind of exclusive bonuses that are only available to VIP players, receiving generous reloads and tournament tickets that are sure to make your online gaming experience more enjoyable and exciting.

Clearing Your Online Poker Bonus

The process of making your bonus available for withdrawal is called “clearing”. To clear your poker bonuses, you’ll either have to generate a certain amount of rake or earn a certain number of player points.

Some sites will allow you to clear your bonuses in increments. For example, if you received a $100 bonus, it will be cleared $10 at a time as you earn the required points. Other sites will make you wait until you’ve cleared the entire bonus before releasing the full amount.

Online Poker Variants

At the best online poker sites, you’ll have a wide range of games to choose from. Operators want to give players plenty of options when it comes to online poker variants, from classic games like Texas Hold‘em to more niche titles like Chinese Poker.

Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker variant in both the online and land-based gaming markets. Each player is dealt two hole cards and five community cards are dealt to the table across the flop, turn and river. The player who makes the best poker hand using any combination of their hole cards and community cards wins.

Hold’em is widely played across the web because it is easy to learn but also allows for experienced players to use advanced strategies. No matter what poker room you’re playing at, online or in-person, you’ll be able to find a game of Texas Hold’em going.


Omaha poker, popular variant at online sites.
Omaha poker is a popular variant where players are dealt four hole cards.

Omaha is similar to Texas Hold’em, except players are given four hole cards and they must use exactly two of them along with the community cards to make their hand.

This game is very exciting, as four hole cards allows for more hands to be made and more bluffing overall. However, it can be a be bit complicated for inexperienced players. So, it’s always good to start with Texas Hold ‘em when playing at the best online poker sites.

Seven Card Stud

Before the online poker boom, Seven Card Stud was the most popular game in the poker world. Each player is dealt a combination of face-up and face-down cards. After the ante bets are made, there are four rounds of betting after which all players reveal their hands and the one with the highest five-card hand wins.

Seven Card Stud is a very easy game to learn, whether you’re completely new to poker or if you’ve spent lots of time playing other variations. The game is great for players with good memories, as they can gain a significant edge by remembering which cards have been folded.

Chinese Poker

Chinese poker is a relatively new game, and you should be able to give it a spin at major online poker rooms. The game is played with four runners who have 13 cards. They have to arrange their cards into three hands with various criteria. For each hand that you win against each player, you receive a point (which has a cash value).

This is a very high-action poker game that offers players an exciting experience. While the scoring can be a little bit confusing at first, it’s quite easy to get used to once you’ve played a few hands.

Fast Fold Poker

Fast fold poker is a game that is exclusive to the online gaming market that you’ll be able to find at the best online poker sites. Sometimes it’s called Rush, sometimes it’s called Zoom – but the gameplay is the same.

In this iteration of Texas Hold’em Poker, you’re taken to a new table immediately after you fold. This allows you to play up to 250 hands per hour, whereas a regular 9-max poker table will deal you about 90 hands per hour.  

Rake at Online Poker Sites

As is the case with land-based poker rooms, online poker sites charge you rake for playing in cash games and tournaments. Depending on the type of activity that you’re taking part in, the way that the operator collects rake will change.

In cash games, a small percentage of every pot contributes to the rake, which will vary based on the type of game and the number of players who are at the table. At some of the best online poker sites, there is no rake charge if no flop is dealt.

Rake at online poker sites
Rake is a small fee taken by the operator from every cash game pot or tournament buy-in.

When you’re playing in online poker tournaments, the rake is charged when you register for the event. It is not determined per hand. If you rebuy, then an additional rake may be charged.

Sometimes, the rake is return back to players. At the best online poker sites, some of the rake will be rewarded to you as part of the operator’ rewards programs.

Playing in Online Poker Tournaments

At the best online poker sites, you’re sure to be impressed with the number of tournaments on offer. You can take part in various types of competitions that offer up an assortment of prizes and feature different gameplay to keep things interesting.

Online poker tournament lobby.
Tournament lobbies at the best online poker sites offer a huge range of activities.

Sit n Gos

Sit n Go tournaments are exactly what they sound like. Whenever the maximum number of players sit at the tournament table, the event will begin. The number of players varies from tournament to tournament. In these games, the prize pool is relatively small, as the number of entries is limited.


Freezeouts are the most popular poker tournaments online. You pay your buy-in and are allocated a number of chips. Once you’ve depleted your balance, you’re out of the event and there’s no option to enter in once again.

Rebuy and Multi-buy Tournaments

The opposite of freezeouts, rebuy and multi-buy tournaments allow you to buy back in for a small price if you’re eliminated. These types of tournaments attract many more runners and they last for quite a while – so, they’re not for impatient players.

Turbo Tournaments

These are fast-paced tournaments where the blinds increase much faster than they would in a standard tournament. In regular tournaments, blind levels last about 10 to 15 minutes – but in Turbo competitions, they can be as short as 5.


Satellite tournaments offer players the chance to win entry into bigger tournaments with more generous prizes up for grabs. For example, a satellite tournament that costs just $5 to enter could provide you with entry into a larger event with a $10 000 prize available that would normally cost $50 to play.

Poker Freerolls

One of the best parts of playing poker online is that that you can take part in tournaments that do not require any entry free. These are called freerolls and the best poker sites will have plenty of them on offer.

Mobile Poker Sites

If you prefer to play poker on the go, it’s possible to do so using your tablet or smartphone. The best online poker sites on the web offer you the chance to access poker games either using your mobile browser or by downloading apps.

Mobile poker cash game lobby.
Instant-play mobile poker sites can be a little bit limited when it comes to game selection.

While it’s great that you can play at the best online poker sites when you’re out and about, the game selection is pretty limited. Browser-based poker rooms don’t normally offer up as many different types of cash games as downloadable clients. You also don’t usually have the option to choose which table you get to play at, and multi-tabling simply can’t be done.

As such, we’d recommended playing mobile poker only if you’re a casual player interested in Texas Hold’Em. If you’re more on the serious side and prefer to try different poker variants, then it’s still best to play on your desktop using a downloadable poker application.

Legality of Poker Worldwide

The legality of online poker has been a confusing topic ever since the game was introduced. Around the world, online poker laws continue to change – so, it can be pretty difficult to remember where the game is legal and where it is not. If you’re having a little bit of trouble keeping track, we’ve got you covered:

Regulated Online Poker in Canada and the UK

In Canada and the United Kingdom, you’ll find more liberated online poker markets. Both countries have a very open attitude towards online gambling, so you don’t have to worry about breaking any laws by playing poker online.

Playing Poker in America

Things get a little bit complicated when it comes to legal online poker in America. Currently, there are only four states that have regulated online gambling: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. Each of these states license and regulate poker sites individually, providing players with easy access to playing this popular card game online.

If you’re located in any other states, you won’t be able to play at sites that are regulated by your local government. You’ll only have access to offshore sites that are owned by private companies – but, there is no legal recourse against anyone who plays at these destinations. All that we advise is for you to be extra cautious when choosing an offshore site to register with, ensuring that they are licensed and have a good reputation.

Online poker laws in Australia are quite similar to those in America. There are no country-wide laws that have permitted online poker operators to offer their services to local players. The government has cracked down on offshore gaming sites, so it can be a difficult to find reputable online poker providers. This makes it particularly important for you to do your research when it comes to finding reputable operators and the best online poker sites for Australian players.

Want to Know More?

The online poker world is vast, and we could go on about online poker for days – but, we’ll let you take it from here. If you want to know more about the game of poker and learn additional strategies, here are some recommendations for further reading/watching:

Every Hand Revealed

Gus Hansen is one of the best poker players in the world, and you can get incredible insight into his strategy by reading this book. Bet Raise Fold offers a breakdown of the hands Hansen played en route to the 2007 Aussie Millions, where he took down the main event.

Famed poker pro Gus Hansen
Every Hand Revealed is a poker guide by Gus Hansen, a famed pro who has many tournament wins under his belt.

It’s a great read for intermediate players who want to learn more about the game from the perspective of an accomplished pro. Every Hand Revealed can really help you polish up your own strategy by learning from one of the best players in the poker market.

Bet Raise Fold

Watching this documentary is a must for any online poker fan. This film takes a look at the origin and evolution of poker in the digital world, while following the poker careers of three individuals: a young mother who plays online to support her family, a Las Vegas tournament pro and a mathematics prodigy who uses his poker winnings to travel around the world.

Small Stakes No Hold’Em

This book by Ed Miller is considered a must-read for novice poker players. It is a step-by-step poker guide that offers up practical examples that will help beginner players get to know the game and perfect their personal strategies.