One thing that prevents many poker enthusiasts from actually playing the game competitively is their lack of formal game knowledge. Many players whose sole experience is Friday night poker games with the boys are worried about getting embarrassed if they sidle up to the felt at their local casino. One wonderful advantage of online poker is its anonymity. If you've let your inexperience intimidate you, then online poker rooms are the perfect place to finally get some cash game action. That said, there are still a few things you'd be smart to cover before playing poker online.
The Online Poker Technology
The requirements of playing poker online are simple enough: a computer and an Internet connection. Sounds easy right? For the most part it is, but there are a few important exceptions. For one, dial-up is generally not fast enough to support a full poker software package, and if you're running the clock out waiting for your cards to load you're likely to get booted. Second, not all poker sites support Macs. While Mac-friendly software and no download flash sites are becoming more common, it's still best to check a poker room's tech requirements before you make any big plans.
Choosing a Poker Room
A misguided majority of first-time poker players give their money to the first poker room they find only to later learn that that room is swimming in sharks or that it doesn't even offer the game they prefer. It's quick and easy to check out a poker room's traffic, design and table offerings by loading a flash version of their site. Always review a room before you make your first deposit.
Getting Started Playing Poker Online
Once you've found a poker room that suits your needs, the next step is downloading their software. While a flash version of the site can give you instant access to the action when you're playing away from home, only the downloadable software package gives you access to all player features. Most poker software platforms only take a couple minutes to download; it's a small price to pay for the full experience.
After the software is installed, you'll need a member's account to start playing. Signing up for an account is free and rarely requires any sensitive information beyond your name, age and address. If you're planning to play at the free tables, then this is the final requirement before playing. Once you've confirmed your new account, you're ready to hit the tables and tourneys.
Depositing / Withdrawing
If you're planning to play for cash, then you'll need to make a deposit before you can participate - even in freerolls. Part of your pre-download poker room review process should be looking at payment options. You need to know what's accepted, especially if you live in a country with anti-gambling legislation that may prevent you from using common options like a bank account or credit card. Many online poker players open e-wallet accounts that streamline withdrawals and deposits while adding an extra level of security to the funds transfer process.
It's important to note that while deposits are generally instantaneous, withdrawals may take days or even weeks to process depending on a player's home country and available withdrawal options.