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Best Online Poker for Real Money – Your Guide on How to Play, Rules & Tips

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After almost disappearing completely thanks to strict legislation in 2011, Online poker is back on the rise in the United States and the future looks much brighter. Many states are now opening their virtual doors to allow players to access a range of top online poker sites across the country.

In this guide, we want to look at how online poker works and how you can become a profitable player. Given that poker is a game of both luck and skill, we’re also going to include info on how to improve your game, how to find the best online poker sites, and, ultimately, how to make money playing online poker.

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The Best Online Poker Sites for US Players

One of our goals for this page is to bring you the best online poker sites for real money in the USA. Our list below has taken months to compile and keeps changing as we test and try real money online poker sites at the best new casinos in the country.

Use the list to pick from poker sites that are going to match your needs. We’ve ranked from one through to five, but it’s not always the case that it’s for each player. Take your time and pick the poker room that will work best for you.

  1. BetOnlineBest overall online poker sites
  2. BovadaBest for online poker bonuses for new and existing players
  3. IgnitionBest Rakeback deals for online poker players
  4. Sportsbetting.ag – Huge range of tournaments and freerolls
  5. Everygame Poker – 200% poker welcome bonus

Comparison of the Best Casinos to Play Online Poker with Real Money

We wanted to look at top online poker sites and from that give you a little overview of what to expect from each. In the table below you will see that we’ve highlighted how many games are on offer, the types of poker games, and the poker bonus you can claim as a new account.

Poker Bonus Casino Poker Games Cash Games Guarantees
BetOnline 100% deposit match up to $1,000 25+ Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, Americana, 32 Card Draw
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Ignition Poker 200% deposit match up to $2,000 8+ Texas Hold’em, Omaha
Sportsbetting.ag 100% deposit match up to $1,000 30+ Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, Americana, 32 Card Draw
Everygame Poker 200% deposit match up to $2,000 17+ Texas Hold’em, Omaha

Is Real Money Online Poker Legal in the US?

Online poker real money has been legal in the US since 2013 in one form or another. After the dark days of the fallout back in 2011, a period now referred to as “Black Friday,” the recovery of online poker has been slow but gradual, and it is on its way back.

The problem is that not all states have legalized real money online poker. But, on the flip side, not all states have made it illegal either. This has led to a technicality that allows offshore online poker rooms to accept US-based players without preselection.

Many of the sites that we cover on this page are based offshore. They come fully licensed, however, and are just as safe as those that are based in the United States, of which there is a vastly reduced number.

States with Legal Online Poker

There are a handful of states that have publicly announced that poker is legal. These all have bills that have been passed and most of them are running some form of online poker within state borders.

  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania

States Where Poker is Illegal

Below we’ve included a list of states that simply outright ban online gambling of any kind. This includes both online poker sites that are located within the US and those that are located outside of the US.

  • Utah
  • Hawaii

Live Poker vs Real Money Online Poker – Legal Aspect

Live poker rules differ quite a lot from online. The main reason here is that most live cardrooms are located within or on tribal land. Tribal casinos have special concessions when it comes to gambling and are one of the few legal routes to take for both casino and poker games.

This means that live casinos can often be more accessible than online in most states. The legality that surrounds live is more black and white than online and most states have some sort of access to poker as a result.

The list below highlights the states where you cannot legally play live poker in the United States:

  • Utah
  • Hawaii
  • Tennessee
  • Alaska
  • New Hampshire
  • Georgia

How to Play Poker Online – The Foundation of the Game

There are lots of different poker games that you can access and the rules for each will adjust accordingly. There are, however, key fundamentals that run through all variations and we’re going to take you through the basics of how to play poker with you now.

The first thing you need to do is decide if you’re in the hand or not. Your first hand will require you to pay a big blind and then a small blind (half the big blind) for the following hand.

The dealer will then deal you cards, which are usually face down for most games. You can then look at your cards and decide if you want to play. When the action is on you, it’s time to choose if you want to check, bet, raise or fold.

three card poker

If you decided to play, then the dealer puts down the first of five community cards, which is known as a flop. A round of betting occurs before the fourth card is placed face-up, which is the turn. One more round of betting happens before the final card (the river) is placed.

Should there be two or more hands come to the end of betting after the river, all player cards will be turned over and the best hand wins. Should two or more players have the same strength poker hand, the pot will be split equally.

This is the basic outline for most online poker real money games. It’s worth noting that casino poker games are a little more automated. Most games will process automatically with little player interaction.

Top 3 Popular Online Poker Variations

If you took the time to read through the table of what we consider to be the best online poker sites on the market right now, you will notice that the same poker variations crop up in each room.

In this section, we wanted to talk a little more about how each of these popular games works and take a look at the pros and cons attached to each game.

Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is by far the biggest and most popular online poker game. The game starts with two hold cards that are dealt to each player and the aim is to have the best Texas Hold’em hand at showdown or to get your opponent to fold before you get to showdown.

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Given the vast range of players that play this game, the quality of the games can vary massively. This is where most players will start, but it’s also where you’re going to find most professional players, especially at no-limit games.

The basics of the game are very easy to learn, but there’s a ton of information to digest and nuances to practice to master it. If you’re selective about which tables you play at and actively avoid good players, then the games can be very lucrative.

Pros:

  • Huge range of players to play against
  • Lots of resources to get better very quickly

Cons:

  • ❌ Lots of professional players at all levels

Omaha

Omaha is a variation of Texas Hold’em that gives you four hole cards instead of two. The rules then allow you to take any two of the four hole cards to make the best 5 card hand (includes three community cards). As you can imagine, it gives you a lot more options to make the best possible hand than Texas Hold’em.

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Omaha has a much wider player skillset and generally, games are easier for more experienced players who have a better knowledge of the game. Lots of players jump across from Texas Hold’em and apply the same skill set, but even basic strategy will differ greatly.

It could be argued that you need to be less skilled to churn a decent profit at Omaha simply down to the fact that few people take the time to invest in tools like PLO odds calculators and training guides.

Pros:

  • Lots of players who don’t know even basic strategy
  • Easier to make money than Texas hold’em

Cons:

  • ❌ Smaller player pools mean that games can break quickly

3 Card Poker

3 card poker is the casino variant of online poker. This is the game that you’re going to find in a lot of online and live casinos and while it resembles poker, it’s a long way from both Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

The game starts by placing an initial bet, which is called an ante. Most games will allow you to place additional bets as well, such as pair plus and 6-card bonus bets, but the minimum that you can place is the ante.

You are then dealt 3 cards face up before you then choose to play or fold. If you play, you need to add a bet to your ante. If you fold, then you lose your ante.

To win you need to beat the dealer’s hand. High cards are a huge part of 3 card poker and anything with a King or higher is relatively strong. Bonuses will be awarded for strong hands such as royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, and so on.

There is a strategy in play here, although it’s minimal. Generally, you need to set a cut-off of hands to play, and even playing basic hands such as King or higher will likely yield decent results.

Pros:

  • Very little strategy is involved and easy to play
  • Good player interaction considering it’s essentially a casino game

Cons:

  • ❌ The simple nature of the game makes it hard to get an edge

Casino Variations of Poker – Betting Against the House

Casino variations of poker work very differently from more traditional games. It’s easier to compare these games to blackjack than poker as you’re playing against the house.

However, like blackjack, there is an element of skill that you can include with all variations of casino poker. You can follow poker hand charts to see when to play or fold based on your starting hand, which is going to maximize your edge, but more importantly, minimize the casino’s edge.

The games work just the same as table games. You’re getting fixed payouts based on if you win or not and access to a paytable based on the strength of your hand. For example, in Let It Ride, four of a kind will pay out 50 to 1, with a full house paying 11 to 1.

These games require a good amount of luck to see positive returns long term. The house has an edge on you, but as they involve a lot of player decisions, they are much more exciting than most casino games.

Online Poker Tournaments – Format & Games

Tournaments are some of the biggest and most popular online poker real money games you can play. These are games that can include anywhere from 10 to 10,000+ players and include some incredible prize pools as a result.

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The variations of these games are pretty much endless. If you can dream up a format, then there is likely a poker room online somewhere that will be running it.

Below we’ve included an overview of what types of poker tournament casinos you can access, and then, in the next section, take a look at poker tournament strategy to see how you can maximize winnings from these games.

Sit & Go (SNG)

A Sit & Go is a short tournament that includes just a single table of players. The numbers will usually range between 6 and players with the winner being the last player standing.

Multi-Table Tournaments (MTT)

A multi-table tournament includes multiple tables. It’s the same process as an SNG, but with a lot more players. Fields will range based on the type of tournament, but some of the bigger games will get thousands of players which creates massive prize pools.

The biggest purses in poker are generally in MTT events but players tend to need a huge amount of poker tournament strategy to prevail.

Heads Up

This is a simple poker game played between two players on one table. It’s a straight fight and the winner is the player who knocks their opponent out. These types of tournaments will include several rounds that you need to keep winning to be crowned the overall winner.

Freezeout

Freezeout is a poker term that is used to describe how an MTT runs. In its simplest terms, a freezeout is where you get one chance and once you are out, you are out. These are the most common online poker real money tournaments you can play.

Unlimited Rebuys

Rebuys are where you can buy several shots at a single event. So, when you get knocked out you can pay the admission fee to get your starting stack renewed. An unlimited event will allow you to rebuy as many times as you wish within a certain period.

Turbo

Turbo is a term used to highlight how fast the blinds increase. As the name would suggest, in a turbo, they increase much faster than a normal MTT meaning that they take a shorter amount of time to complete.

Satellites

A satellite is a feeder into a bigger event for a smaller buy-in. For example, a satellite MTT might have a buy-in of $10 and if you win, you get entry into an MTT that has a buy-in of $100.

One of the most famous examples of this was Chris Moneymaker back in 2003, who won a $39 satellite for the WSOP Main Event ($10,000 buy-in) and ended up winning it all and walking away with $2.5 million.

Guarantees

A guarantee is a term used to highlight the prize pool that is guaranteed for that tournament. This money will be paid out regardless of how many people enter the event and to the value of the minimum that was in the pot.

Deep/Short Stack

Deep and short stack events are based on the number of chips that a player starts with. Short stacks mean that chips are low in relation to the blinds, whereas deep stacks are the opposite.

Freeroll

A freeroll is a tournament that is free to enter. Usually, there is money that is put up by the poker room, but it’s not uncommon to have prizes and even tickets to bigger events as part of the prizes.

Knock Out

Knock-out events are where players will win extra money for each player they eliminate. These are also sometimes known as bounties.

MTT SNG Heads Up
Freeze-Out
Unlimited Rebuy
Round Robin
Turbo
Satellites
Guarantees
Deep/Short Stack
Freeroll
Knock Out

Tips for Playing Online Poker Games

As a game of skill, there are several things you need to consider when you play poker online for real money. You can apply these to both playing poker against people and poker games that you can find within online casinos.

Use the tips below to get started and to help you win more from online poker games.

  1. Learn hand rankings – You need to know what the hand rankings are and what hands are the strongest. There are plenty of charts that you can use while you play, and it won’t take long to memorize them for future games.
  2. Set a budget – You need to set a budget or as commonly referred to in the poker industry, a bankroll. This needs to cover any potential losses as even the best players lose sometimes. 30 buy-ins for the games that you want to play is generally considered to be a good place to start.
  3. Choose your game and get good at it – You will have noticed that there are lots of games and variations of poker games to choose from. Pick one and master it before moving on to the next. Play poker online for free until you’ve got to grips with it. The easiest and most common place to start is No-Limit Texas Hold’em.
  4. Set time to play and learn – You should be spending as much time learning and practicing as playing. There are tons of free online poker resources out there that will allow you to improve your play very quickly. Use them!

Poker Tournament Strategy & Tips

Tournament poker plays differently from cash games. You need to adjust how your game functions and for this, you need to apply a poker tournament strategy that will allow you to win more. Use some of these tips below to maximize your tournament profits.

  1. Choose your stakes – Make sure you pick stakes that you are comfortable playing. Tournament poker can be very high variance and it’s not uncommon for losing streaks to be longer than cash games.
  2. Adapt your strategy – You need to change your strategy based on the type of tournament you are playing.
  3. Have a plan for each street – As you get into each hand you need to plan for what might happen and then you can adjust to that. It doesn’t always work how you want it to, but a plan is better than no plan.
  4. Take your time – Most tournaments give you time at the start to get reads on opponents and generally assess the table. Take your time and pick off weaker players as you see fit.

Cash Game Poker Strategy & Tips

Cash games are some of the fastest and most profitable games in poker. You can win (and lose) lots of money in a short amount of time. Games generally play out a lot differently than tournament poker, so use our cash game poker strategy below to help you win more.

  1. Choose your network – Make sure you choose a poker network that is going to have the games you want to play. This might be a variation, or it could be staked.
  2. Start low and work your way up – Play the micro stakes games to get started and get a feel for how the games play out.
  3. Don’t play too tight – You want to be relatively aggressive with cash games as when you play tight, it’s an easy tell for other players at the table. Steal blinds, open in position and try and take down small pots early.
  4. Don’t slow-roll – A slow-roll is when a player takes an age to call even though they have the best possible hand. This is a big no when it comes to playing cash games and lacks respect for other players at the table.

Poker Hand Ranking

Below we’ve included a list of hand rankings for all poker hands. Use this as a guide to see what ranks and where.

  • Royal Flush – The Royal Flush is the best possible hand in poker and includes A, K, Q, J, and T all in the same suit.
  • Straight Flush – A straight flush is any running hand all the same suit. For example, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 all of Hearts would be a straight flush.
  • Four of a kind – Four cards all the same suit.
  • Full house – Three of a kind with a pair – T, T, J, J, J, for example.
  • Flush – 5 cards all the same suit in any order
  • Straight – 5 cards all running in any suit – 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, for example.
  • Three of a kind – Three cards that are all the same.
  • Two pair – Two different pairs making one single hand.
  • Pair – Single pair of cards that are the same.
  • High Card – When none of the combinations above have been made, all you have then is the highest-ranking card starting from Ace and working down.

Find a Poker Room that Suits You

One of the biggest advantages of playing online poker is being able to find a poker room that suits you. While there are a lot of crossovers between each poker, no two rooms are ever the same, so it’s important to find one that is going to tick the most boxes.

betonline poker lobby

You’re going to find that some networks have more good players than others. This means that games are harder and generally it’s tougher to make money like this. If this is the case, jump ship and find a network with weaker players.

Try and work out what sort of games you want to play and for what sort of stakes. Check the traffic at your chosen network at the times you want to play and then simply go from there. It’s very easy to up and move to the next poker room should you not find the match you’re looking for.

Playing Online Poker on Mobile

The online poker landscape is now changing, and mobile poker is starting to become a lot more popular. The ability to play on the go is the biggest lure and, as software improves, playing faultless mobile poker when out and about has become easy.

All the poker sites that we’ve tested so far have some form of poker app, even if it’s not a dedicated app. The best poker app for us is BetOnline. Here you’re able to access the full range of poker games that you would find online in an excellently worked package.

Payment Methods for Playing Online Poker

Digital wallets are starting to become the payment method of choice for most poker players. The likes of PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller have long been used to have a bankroll that could be accessed across a range of networks.

Many of the offshore poker sites that we’ve mentioned on this page offer incredible deals with crypto payments. Options to play Poker with Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum can all be used to fund your account.

No deposit poker rooms are rare, but some sites will allow you to access freerolls and other free games when you create a new account. If you’re new, use these to get to grips with how the poker room works and home in your settings for when you play real money poker.

More on Poker Online for Real Money:

If you want to learn more about online poker, then check out some of our poker articles below. Each has been made to allow new and experienced players to learn, win, and enjoy online poker to its fullest.

  • Best poker sites – We look at the best poker sites on the market right now, including the best poker bonuses and promos you can claim.
  • Caribbean Stud Poker Sites: This article is an everything-you-need-to-know guide on Carribean Stud poker. It includes strategy, games, bonuses, promos, and advice on how to make the most from this poker variation.
  • Decentraland ICE poker – Ice poker is a virtual game that is starting to gain traction in a wide range of online casinos.

Best Online Poker Casino

BetOnline takes the top spot as our best online poker casino. It comes packed with a wide range of games, along with a relatively low standard of gameplay throughout, meaning even novice players stand a chance of winning money.

By registering an account with BetOnline, newcomers are able to get a 100% match on their first deposit of $50 or more. The bonus is worth up to $1,000 and comes with a reasonable 10x rollover, meaning that to clear the bonus you need to rake in $50 to release $5.

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FAQ

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Jonathan has been working within the iGaming sector since 2007. After graduating with a BA Hons in Marketing from Northumbria University, he's been able to set up his own online content business, working with some of the biggest brands in the iGaming sector. Outside of work he enjoys any type of sports, especially cricket, golf, football and darts.