Online Poker FAQ

FAQ / Frequently Asked QuestionsWe receive a lot of questions about playing online poker. Questions that span all kinds of topics like where to play, poker laws, bonuses and strategy.

For some of these questions it makes more sense to create dedicated articles to answer them. That way we can give an in-depth response and examples.

However, other questions only require a couple of sentences or a paragraph to answer. It makes no sense to create dedicated pages for these. So what we’ve done instead is create a catch all page to answer those questions. That’s the page you’re on now. You’ll find a list poker related questions and answers below.

Online Poker Answers

Can I play Facebook poker for real money?

No, not at this time. Zynga, the largest poker platform on Facebook in terms of volume, has demoed and launched their real money client. [1] But it’s only available in the United Kingdom. They decided not to bother with the licensing needed to operate in the United States.So real money poker from Zynga is available, just not for American players.

What is intrastate poker?

Intrastate poker means two things. One, it’s when a state offers online poker, but only to residents within it’s state lines. For example, to play at Ultimate Poker, you have to be within Nevada’s state lines, or else you can’t play for real money. And two, it means multiple states that have passed laws making online poker legal, and working together to increase their reach. Meaning, instead of their players sticking within one state’s lines, they now can play within two states’ lines. [2]

When PokerStars launches their poker site, will I be able to play there?

When the time comes for PokerStars to launch their real money client in the United States, it will only be available to people/residents located in New Jersey. However, if New Jersey works with neighbor states, such as Delaware, than residents in those states will be able to participate as well. And, of course, if we see legal online poker on a federal level, then there is a good chance that you’ll be able to play at PokerStars then, too.

I don’t live in Nevada. Can I play at Ultimate Poker?

Yes, you don’t have to be a resident of Nevada to play at Ultimate Poker. The only thing they care about is whether or not you’re within their state lines. When you create an account they ask for your cell phone number. They use cell phone towers to determine where you are located, and if you’re within state lines, they’ll allow you (anyone) to play on their site for real money.

When will US poker players receive their money from Full Tilt Poker?

No one knows. It’s been more than 2 years, and no one has received their funds yet (other than the US government). Earlier in 2013 the government appointed the Garden City Group [3] in charge of the remittance process. According to reports and posts on poker forum 2+2, representatives from Garden City have mentioned that it could be 1-2 years before the process is complete. So I wouldn’t hold your breath.

What is PokerStars involvement with Full Tilt Poker?

Post-Black Friday, PokerStars made a deal with the Department of Justice to acquire Full Tilt Poker. This deal came with the caveat that PokerStars would pay the US government nearly $550 million over the next couple of years, as well as payback nearly $185 million in funds owed to FTP customers. [4]

Full Tilt’s operations are now overseen and operated by the staff at PokerStars, although from looking at Full Tilt you might not realize it. They kept (most of) the same games and tournaments, as well as the software. But there are the added benefits to having accounts at both sites which include site-to-site fund transfers.

Can I go to jail for playing online poker?

That depends on the state you live or are playing in. Technically, yes, you could go to jail according to some states’ laws. However, we’ve not heard of a poker player being arrested for playing online.

But there have been plenty of operators charged with online poker related crimes. A good example is Ray Bitar, co-owner of Full Tilt Poker. He was charged on five counts of bank fraud, money laundering and other online gambling offences. His faced a maximum jail time (sentence) of 65 years. [5]

What online poker sites are good for beginners?

There’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on the individual, you, and what they want to play. Carbon Poker is a good choice for any kind of micro stakes players, as well as small and medium stakes games. And Bovada is good for holdem tournaments.

What are the best tournaments to play online?

I think the best tournaments to play are guarantees. With these tournaments it doesn’t matter how many players sign up, if the poker site guarantees a specific prize pool, say $100,000, that’s what the prize pool will be (at a minimum) regardless if 15 or 5 people show up.

This is great for you because some rooms don’t have enough players to fulfill the prize pool requirements. That means you can compete for the same guarantee, but against a few number of players. This is referred to as an overlay.

Other than guarantees, knock out and satellite tournaments are (usually) pretty soft.

How big does my bankroll need to be to play online poker?

Given that you can play a hand of poker for as little as .02, or participate in a tournament for between .01-.06, your bankroll could be as small as a couple of dollars. If your concern is playing for as little as possible, your biggest challenge will be finding a poker site that accepts a deposit of under $10 or $20. Just keep in mind that the smaller your bankroll, the longer it will take to get traction to play the higher stakes games. But it can be done; I know of several people that started out with $25 or $50, and now they make hundreds of thousands every year playing online poker.

What is the smallest deposit I can make?

For most poker sites the smallest deposit you’ll be able to make is $10. But this depends on the poker site and deposit method you want to use.

Why does everyone say being aggressive is the best strategy?

Being aggressive, either by raise or re-raising, gives the illusion that you have a strong hand (whether you do or don’t). Aggressive play also introduces the element of fold equity. No one can fold if you don’t bet. Being aggressive also gives you the opportunity to pick up dead money by stealing the blinds or making continuation bets.

If you look at all the successful poker players, one of the things they have in common is aggression. The level of aggression varies from one player to the next, of course.

How do I become a professional online poker player?

Being a professional poker player is about more than just being a good player. That’s important, but if you can’t manage your money, be disciplined enough to play or keep track of your income and taxes, you’ll never make it long term. The trick to playing poker as a job or career is to treat it as such.

Before you get started, though, I recommend playing long enough to get stats that show you’re a winning player. You should also have your finances in check, several months (6-12) of income set aside, and have a game plan for how to pay yourself, when you’ll play and how to get better.

I also recommend reading a couple of books:

  • Treat Your Poker Like a Business
  • The Mental Game of Poker

The first book will help you with the business aspect of things, and the other will help with the mental aspect. Both are arguably more important than knowing when to 4-bet check-raise shove the river with a bluff while having only 10 big blinds.

Is poker a game of skill, or a game of luck?

That depends on who you ask. If you ask many US states what they think, many will tell you that it’s luck. Even though you’re playing against players, where ultimately your cards don’t matter (a skill), the randomness of the cards being dealt is enough to make it more luck than skill. However, it’s been proven to great lengths that it’s a game of skill, [6] and many states, such as New York, have made court rulings in favor of the defendant (being charged with a gambling related crime) as a result.

Will I get in trouble for hosting a home poker game?

That depends on what state you live in. Most states have social game clauses that make it ok to host and/or participate in home games. Others have laws that only prohibit the participation or hosting of these games (making a home game pointless), and then there are the few states that deem it illegal.

In all cases where it’s ok, the laws state that you cannot take rake or charge a fee to play. In other words, you can’t make money off hosting the game. You can only make money from competition – from playing against the other players. If you stick to this you should be fine (in most cases). I would also recommend you ask your local authorities or lawyer, as we are neither, and can’t give you a definitive answer even if we wanted to.

What is the best poker site for someone with a VISA debit card?

As I mentioned above, the best poker site is relative, even for something as specific as a VISA debit card. That said, I think most people will be happy playing at Carbon or Bovada Poker.

What is the best poker site for low limit players?

See my answer above. Both sites have micro stakes games. I know Carbon Poker runs plenty of games at .01/.02 for cash, and .01-.06 for tournaments. They also run freerolls where you can sign up for free, and win free money prizes.

How many types of poker games are there?

There are lots of games and variations to choose from. Look at all the options you have. Most poker games are a combination of the following options:

  • Limit – Fixed, pot and no limit
  • Stakes – Ranging from .01/.02 to $1/$2k
  • Game – Omaha, holdem, stud, draw
  • Variations – Hi/lo, bounty, turbo, cap, deep stack, shallow stack, hyper, heads-up, 4-max, 6-max, 9 and 10-handed, double or nothing, quick fold, anonymous, etc, etc.

A lot of game variations can be made from a list as short as this one. A lot.

Where can I play online poker with my friends?

Most poker sites will allow you to create and host private games just for you, your friends and family. Carbon Poker is one example. If you don’t see the option in the lobby, just contact support and ask.

What is the legal minimum age to play poker online?

Most poker sites go by what’s legal in your state / country. In the United States you can gamble at 18, although it’s 21 in most live casinos because of alcohol being served. To answer the question, though, it’ll be either 18 or 21.

Can I play online poker without using a credit card?

Absolutely. Americans can also use money transfers (Moneygram and Western Union), echecks and bank/wire transfers. You can also use a prepaid card.

How do I know if I have a gambling problem?

There are a number of signs that will indicate that you have a problem, and that you should seek help.

  • You feel that you need to hide your (poker)  playing.
  • You have trouble controlling your gambling. You find it hard to quit, set and stick to budgets, and feel as if you need to spend every last penny.
  • You don’t have the money and you gamble anyway.

A person that has their gambling under control will be able to establish and keep their priorities in check, such as their bills, friends and family. If you don’t fit this bill, you might have a problem. [7]

Where can I go for gambling help?

There are a number of resources you can turn to for help:

  • National Council on Problem Gambling [8]
  • GamCare [9]
  • Gamblers Anonymous [10]

You might also consider talking with friends, family and/or a professional.

How do taxes work for online gambling?

You’ll need to talk to your account for the exact details, but as far as I understand Americans need to report all gambling income that exceeds $600. So you’ll want to document your earnings, what you spent in buy-ins and fees, as well as any money associated with going to live events, like gas, food, hotel and entertainment.

What is poker tracking software?

Poker tracking software are programs that you can install to your computer and use to record each hand that you play. You configure everything in such a way that the poker site sends you your hand history to a file on your computer, and that the poker tracking software grabs the hands as they come in and then spits out data. This data includes all kinds of things like how often people raise, call, what hands they play and when, how often they c-bet and more. You can then choose what stats you want to see, and have they displayed in a heads up display (HUD) on your table/screen. You use these stats to help make decisions, especially when you play more than a couple of tables at the same time. The most popular poker tracking solutions come from Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker, and will set you back $50-$100.

Is it legal to play poker in my state?

Not sure. That depends on what state you live in. Do you live in Nevada? Poker is legal there, in all forms, so long as it’s regulated. In Washington State, however, it’s hit or miss. Casino poker is ok, as are home poker games. Online poker is illegal, though, and could land you in jail with penalties and a record.

My point?

You need to read up on the laws in your particular state, city and county. You can also contact local authorities or your lawyer. You should be able to find a more accurate response there.

What online poker sites are actually located within the United States?

Right now the only poker site that we’re aware of, that is located and operating in the United States, is Ultimate Poker. This is the Nevada based poker site that launched earlier in 2013. However, more sites are expected to launch in the near future, including 1-2 from 888 Poker.

How can I stop myself from playing online poker?

If you feel as if you’re having a hard time controlling how much poker you’re playing, or you’re having a hard time stopping yourself from playing, no matter how much money you’ve lost or have, you might have a problem. And in that case you might want to stop yourself from playing.

The best way to do that is to do a self-exclusion. Most (if not all) poker sites offer this option in their help menu. Just click on that, choose how long you want to exclude yourself for and hit submit. Under no circumstance will you be able to play until that time frame is up, even if you email support.

If you don’t see a self exclusion option you might also contact support. They should be able to help.

How do I become a more successful poker player?

Success means different things to different people. Do you just want to become a better player, be able to beat your current stakes or become a professional? Maybe breaking even is your goal? Everyone wants different things. That said, your goals and desired outcome will greatly dictate what you need to do to become successful.

Here are some ideas to get you started. These are things I did to become a more successful poker player:

  • Read poker books.
  • Joined forums. Posted hands to be critiqued.
  • Hired a coach.
  • Had sweat sessions and hand history reviews with coaches and peers.
  • Purchased software.
  • Joined poker training sites.

Most (if not all) options will cost you money. But it’s money worth spent if your end goal is to become a profitable player. Other than money your success will come down to how bad you want to be successful, and the amount of time you’re willing to invest to get there.

How come it’s harder to play online poker in the USA?

The difficulty comes from being an unregulated market. Poker sites aren’t supposed to operate in the United States without licensing. Most poker sites that have licensing aren’t live yet, and even when they are it’ll be on a state-by-state (intrastate) basis.

The other problem comes from the UIGEA, which keeps banks from processing transactions. So it’s harder to make deposits and withdrawals.

When you combine these elements with things like scam poker sites, events like Black Friday and traffic for US poker sites being so low that games hardly run, you have a situation that no one wants to be apart of. In fact, lots of players moved to other countries or switched to live poker post-Black Friday to avoid dealing with these sort of issues.

How do I collect my poker winnings?

Americans can cash out of poker sites using methods like money transfers, echecks, bank/wire transfers and paper checks. Time frames will vary from instant to 3+ weeks, and fees will range from $0-$100 on average. It will depend on the method and poker site.

Why do poker sites ask me for my personal information?

Poker sites ask for your information (like address, name, age, email, etc) because they need to know where to send your winnings to, verify that you’re old enough to play and that you’re in a state that (seemingly) allows online poker. Essentially it’s no different than wanting your information whenever you buy something from their site.