Playing for fun? To make money? Here are some steps to get you started in the world of online poker:
- Choose an online website to play on. There are literally hundreds of websites out there, with thousands of players online every day. If you're looking for sheer size, Partypoker.com is the top dog, boasting the most tournaments, and highest user base. If you're looking for qualifiers to the World Series of Poker or other professional events, you're going to want to do some specific research on a site to see what qualifiers they have available. Google up "internet poker" and you'll find links to sites, and sites dedicated to reviewing other sites.
Download, install, and run the software. Though some sites let you play through Flash enabled interfaces, you're more often than not going to be downloading the poker client onto your hard drive. Always be sure to download the software from the main page of the site you want to play on, so you'll be eligible for any sign-up bonuses they may offer.
Set up your real-money account. To play for money, you need to deposit money through an online accounting service, the most popular of which are Firepay.com and Neteller.com. You can deposit from a bank account, an e-check, or a credit card (among other options), but you must provide a bank account to withdraw into. If you aren't playing for cash, then you can skip this step.
Decide what stakes you want to play for. If you're playing for fun, then you can play any stakes you can afford. If you're playing limit, it's usually best to pick a limit that is at least 50 times smaller than your bankroll. For example, if you have $50, you don't want to be playing limits higher than $.50/1. By having a much higher bankroll, you can play many hands without worrying about going broke and having to rebuy. If you're playing No Limit, it's best to play at limits 100 times smaller than you bankroll. So that same $50 is good for buying into a $.25/.50 game. At professional levels, it is recommended that you have at least 300 times more than the big bet in the limit you're playing.
Pick a game, any game. Currently, there are many rules variations available online: 7-card stud, 7-card stud Hi/Low, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Low, Omaha 8 or better, and Texas Hold'Em. Then consider that all of these games can be played as Fixed Limit, Pot Limit, or No Limit games, and you've got 18 variations right there! Each game has different rules and strategies, so be sure to read up. Strong Texas Hold'em players aren't necessarily great stud players, and vice versa.
Decide how many tables you want to play at a time. Many online sites allow you to play on multiple tables at the same time. Some people prefer it because they get to see more starting hands, and subsequently play more hands. For a beginner, you should probably only play one table, two at the most. As you progress, you may want to add-on more tables to heat up the action. For a veteran online poker player, it's not unheard of to play 8 hands simultaneously!