Taking the First Steps

Once you have taken the decision to play online, the first key choiceyou must make is to select a site at which to play. All sites are notequal and it is well worth spending an hour or two visiting differentsites and comparing what they have to offer. Most major sites requireyou to download their software before you are able to play, but thereare quite a few sites that work through Java applets and therefore donot require a download. In general, most players prefer the downloadapproach, since the time taken to download the software and install iton a hard drive is usually more than offset by the better graphics andperformance of the download version. However, Java-based programs areparticularly well suited to players who do not have access to theWindows environment, or are not permitted to install software on thecomputer at which they wish to play.

Once you have made your choice of site, it is a fairlystraightforward matter to download the software (or applet). Thissoftware will contain a poker client which runs on your computer andtalks to the online cardroom’s poker server. All you need to do then isselect a screen name (or ‘handle’) and sign up (don’t forget to take anote of your username and password for next time!). At this point, youwill usually be prompted to deposit some funds to your account.However, if you don’t feel ready to start playing for real moneystraightaway, but first wish to familiarise yourself with the peculiarmechanics of the online game, you can skip this and go straight to theplay money tables. It may seem a little strange at first, but once youhave played three or four times you should become more comfortable withit. If your chosen site offers freeroll tournaments, then you may alsowish to take advantage of these before deciding whether or not todeposit any cash funds to your account.

When you are logged-in at an online poker site, it is relativelystraightforward to take up a seat at a table. You simply select a tableby double-clicking on it in the lobby (if the table is full you will begiven the option of placing yourself on the waiting list) and then whenthe table appears you simply double-click on an empty seat. At thispoint you are usually asked to select how many chips you wish to buy-infor and then you are all set to go. After the current hand has beencompleted you will be prompted to either post a blind straightaway orpostpone this until you arrive in the big blind position. In ten-playerring games some players actually prefer to post their first blind afterthe button has passed (from the position to the right of the button,often known as ‘the cut-off) rather than in the big blind position,since they will then receive a number of ‘free’ plays before theyarrive at the big blind.

Once you are dealt in, the software will prompt you when it isyour turn to act and indicate how much you can bet, although you mayelect to use the ‘advance-action’ (or ‘in-turn’) boxes if you havealready decided what to do before your turn comes around. When you aresettled into the game, you may elect to click on the ‘auto-post blinds’option, so that your blinds are posted without causing any delay to thegame. If you decide to sit out for a while (note that most sites onlyallow you to sit out for a maximum three rounds before removing youfrom the table) and then return to the game, you will have to pay anymissed blinds, just as you would in a live-action game.

At some point you may decide to take the plunge and play forreal money. Be sure to visit the relevant section of the poker room’swebsite for instructions on this procedure. Essentially the process ofdepositing funds is not dissimilar to that of any other onlinepurchase, but depending on your nationality and the gambling policy ofyour credit card company, you may need to make a credit card transferto a third party handler such as NETeller, and then move the funds fromthere to your online poker account. If you do not possess a credit cardthen most sites allow you to deposit funds through some other means.

Many sites offer a deposit bonus for first-time customers, whichcan be as much as 250% of your initial deposit, transferable to youraccount once you have participated in a certain number of raked hands.It is well worth taking advantage of as many of these offers as youcan, while you try out different cardrooms. These promotions are notavailable at every site, and can also change from time to time, so youwill need to check their web sites to see what deals are currentlyavailable. It is important to read the terms of the bonus offercarefully, since often you will be required to play a certain number ofhands by a certain date, otherwise the bonus is deemed null and void.

Online cardrooms do place restrictions on the sums that may bedeposited in a 24-hour period. Partly this is for the protection oftheir clients, to prevent players from overexposing themselves bymaking substantial deposits that could lead to financial ruin, butfundamentally it is to ensure that they themselves are protected fromcredit card fraud or contested charges.