Widespread access to the internet has totally changed the way many of us live our lives, not just in our workplaces but also in managing much of our daily lives at home. We can shop online, pay our bills online and even manage our bank accounts online, and we can now do all of this through a variety of mobile devices if we choose to. The influence of the internet does not stop there however, even the way we use our leisure time has changed significantly as a result of this technology, including of course how and when we enjoy our gambling. When the leading bookmakers decided that they would have to follow the example of many of the big high street retailers and offer their customers the option of gambling online, many observers were a little dubious about whether it would be successful. In truth it could not have been more successful and all the big bookmakers are reporting increasing online gambling turnover year on year. The first online gambling sites were of course targeted solely at their sports gambling customers, but the biggest boost to their online gambling receipts was undoubtedly when they decided to offer a few gambling games on their sports gambling sites. The idea was to maximise their returns on their investment in creating their online gambling sites, but in reality they created a whole new gambling sector which we now tend to call online casino gambling. Whether that terminology adequately describes the range of gambling games we can now play online is open for debate of course. Clearly all the online casino gambling sites feature most of the traditional gambling games we associate with our real casinos, but these games form a very small part of the range of games featured on these sites. Most of the gambling games offered by the online casino gambling sites are slots games in a variety of forms, but there are a few other well-known gambling games which have played at least as big a part in the success of online gambling and its increasing popularity. The game of bingo for example is widely featured on almost all the major online gambling sites, and there are even specialist online bingo sites which enable bingo fans to play 24 hours a day if they want to. Another of the important gambling games which have contributed to the success of online gambling is of course the game of poker. In fact it would be easy to argue that poker has benefitted from the introduction of online gambling more than any other game. Although our bingo clubs were struggling the game of bingo had lost very little of its popularity, whereas the number of people regularly playing poker had fallen to very small numbers. Most of our casinos only offered their customers rare opportunities to play poker, and almost all the poker tournaments around the world tended to be solely for professional gamblers. Since the introduction of online casino gambling however interest in playing poker has surged all over the world, including here in Ireland. There are now specialist poker sites which enable poker enthusiasts to play against other like-minded players, and most of the poker tournaments are now oversubscribed as keen amateur poker fans try to get involved.
There are of course a number of different versions of the game of poker, all of which are commonly available to play online, but nowadays the favourite poker format for serious poker players is undoubtedly the Texas Hold’em format of the game. This is the version of poker played at almost every poker tournament in the world and is also the game featured on most specialist online poker forums. The reason the Texas Hold’em format of poker has become so popular is because it uses community cards which leads to many more betting rounds which in turn increases the pot on each hand. There are other poker formats which use community cards, including a game called Omaha poker, but the Texas Hold’em format uses five of these community cards. Each player is dealt two hole cards face down, and then the first community is dealt face up in the middle of the table. The first betting round then takes place and continues until all the remaining players have staked the same money. The second community card is then dealt and again followed by a betting round. When all five community cards have been dealt every player remaining in the game will then form their best poker hand from their two hole cards plus the community cards in the middle of the table which are of course available for every player. The best hand will take the pot. Inexperienced poker players should remember when starting to play a game of poker which uses community cards that they are likely to need to stake far more than the opening minimum table stake to stay in the game until the showdown. Most experts also agree that the more experienced poker players are likely to come out on top in the end, particularly when it comes to playing poker formats such as Texas Hold’em.
Fortunately Texas Hold’em is not the only version of poker that is available to play online, there are a number of other poker formats offered by almost all the online casinos which can be played against the house for fixed odds. One of the easiest of these is of course 5-card draw poker, which is also probably the oldest version of poker. This version of poker became popular in the North American gold fields and the Mississippi river boats, and of course seemed to feature in almost every western film ever released. Each player is dealt five cards face down, followed by a betting round. Each remaining player then has the option to swap some or all of their cards in the hope of getting a better hand, and the second and last betting round then takes place, followed of course by the showdown.