Online poker has been played for real money since the end of the 1990’s, though today’s games would be unrecognizable from these early prototypes. This page will cover the key aspects of real money poker games online. It will also point to other resources which go into more depth on the different poker sites and the poker bonuses which you can take advantage of.
Below you will find information on how real money poker sites are organized and licensed, how to get your money into the games (and how to withdraw your winnings) and an overview of the many game variations you can now enjoy.
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Real Money Poker in the US – Offshore Sites
The poker sites which offer real money games to US players are based offshore – mostly out in the Caribbean. Some of these sites have been around for 10+ years, and have solid reputations for speedy payments and great games. They are licensed and regulated in places like Antigua, Panama or the Netherlands Antilles. Our Poker Sites page has detailed information on these sites and how they operate, along with some recommendations on the best and most trusted of them.
Payment Methods at Real Money Poker Sites
In order to play for real money, you’ll need to make a deposit. A complicating factor here is that US banks are not allowed to knowingly transact with gambling sites. This means that the offshore poker sites need to be creative in helping players get money on board. Their success and growth over the years shows that this is an area that they are getting better at.
Here are some of the main ways for US players to deposit:
Visa or MasterCard Credit Cards: In order to work your credit card needs to be able to make international payments. If you can do this then your credit card is generally the fastest and easiest way to get your money on board.
Pre-Paid Visa Card: You can buy these in convenience stores and gas stations. Check with your site which brand to go for first, and ensure that your card works internationally.
Money Transfer Services: This could include either of the big brands of Western Union or MoneyGram. You need to work with your site, which will give you the name of an individual recipient that collects the cash on their behalf. You then use your local branch office to have the money wired.
Bitcoin: Many sites are now allowing the virtual currency Bitcoin. Your balance will be held in dollars at the poker site.
In addition to these methods you will find some sites able to take wires and other forms of pre-paid vouchers / cards. This is a constantly evolving cat-and-mouse situation, and worth keeping up to date with via your poker site’s payment pages.
Withdrawals for US Players
It makes sense to ensure you have a viable withdrawal option before you go ahead and build your poker bankroll. These are restricted to checks and money transfers at most sites – though you may find some operators able to organize bank wires.
Checks can either be sent by courier or regular mail. Some sites allow one free check withdrawal per month, while others have charges and minimum cash out amounts attached to these. This is worth checking upfront, especially for smaller bankroll players. Many sites will wire the cash back to Western Union, where you can collect it in person. The charges and minimums can be on the high side for this service.
Poker Payments for Non-US Players
Outside of the US these banking restrictions are not in place. This opens up a wide range of options for both depositing into your real money poker account, and for withdrawing. Debit and Credit cards are still the easiest option. These work exactly like any other online purchase. Many players choose e-Wallets such as PayPal or Neteller instead. Where there are restrictions on withdrawals (for example MasterCard), poker sites will usually use a bank wire or check instead.
Real Money Poker Games
When poker first game online you could only play cash games, where you sat with the chip equivalent of real money in front of you. Nowadays, the choices and variations are huge. The main formats are cash games, tournaments, sit n goes and fast-fold poker. These are described below, followed by some notes on the game variants and betting types you will find. If you are new to the game it can pay to choose one format and specialize in it until you have a winning record. You will then have the bankroll and experience to try the other formats.
Cash Games: These are real money games in their purest form, the chips you have in front of you are the equivalent of hard cash – a $10 bet on the turn is a real $10. You’ll generally find cash games in 10, 6 and 2 player tables, and at stakes ranging from pennies to thousands of dollars.
Tournaments: These are elimination events where you get a stack of chips for a fixed buy-in amount. The game progresses until one player has all of the chips – with payouts based on how long you last. To encourage action, the blinds increase throughout the game. There are many variations within the tournament format including the speed of the blind increases, availability of rebuys and game types.
Sit N Goes: This real money poker game is a small tournament which starts as soon as the table is full. These games range from the most popular 1-table through to around 20 tables. Again there are plenty of variations in game format and speed.
Fast Fold Poker: Instead of using a table, fast-fold poker games pool players together based on their choice of buy-in. Players from the pool come together to play a hand and as soon as you fold (or the hand ends) you are instantly randomly recombined with players from your pool into a new hand. You can even fold before the action gets to you. This format is up to 4 times as fast as regular poker games, and works for both tournament and cash game setups.
These categories of real money poker can be played with different poker variations. Most of the games you’ll find at any online poker site are No-Limit Holdem. Alongside this you will find any number of the following formats, with the largest sites having the traffic to be able to offer you the most niche games:
Pot-Limit Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7 or 5 Card Stud (including Stud Hi-Lo and Razz), 5 Card Draw, Fixed or Pot Limit Holdem, 2-7 Triple Draw (or sometimes single draw), Badugi.
One more level of interest is added by the different formats that the games can be spread in. These include turbo (or even super turbo) speeds, shallow stacks and deep stacks, jackpot formats (for example the popular lottery Sit n Goes with random prize pools) and tournaments with rebuy or multi-entry possibilities.
With new game structures and innovations occurring all the time – you can be sure there is a real money poker game to keep you entertained out there somewhere!