It is hard to believe that it is less than twenty years since we first had the opportunity to gamble on our favourite sports online rather than through our local high street betting shops. It is difficult to say whether those first online sports gambling sites increased the number of people gambling on sports such as horse racing or football, or whether they simply made it easier for those existing fans with access to the internet. The next development in online gambling however did have a significant effect on the number of people playing gambling games. When the online sports gambling site operators started to add a few gambling games to their sports gambling sites, they opened up a whole new gambling sector which we now call online casino gambling. Before that playing gambling games was mostly confined to those people who were able to visit our real casinos, or of course the ever popular bingo clubs in our towns and cities. Most of us did of course have the opportunity to play a slot machine occasionally, but that was about it in terms of access to gambling games. The rapid development of online casino gambling has clearly vastly increased the range of gambling games we can now play, but there is one gambling game which has benefitted from the introduction of online gambling more than any other. The game of poker has of course been a popular gambling game for a very long time, and those of us who remember the old westerns will know 5-card draw poker for instance because almost every saloon scene at the time featured men playing poker. From the gold fields to the Mississippi river boats poker was the most popular gambling game in North America and then it spread across the world including of course to Ireland. Over recent years however the popularity of playing poker had declined quite dramatically on this side of the Atlantic, being played mainly among friends and neighbours on social poker nights. In the 1970’s the introduction of the ‘World Series of Poker’ by the big American casinos did reignite interest in poker, and several major poker tournaments were held around the world including the Irish Open. At the time though our own casinos rarely offered poker as a gambling option, so few people were able to play regularly and the big tournaments were usually the preserve of professional poker players only. The introduction of online casino gambling has however changed that situation completely, and poker has become so popular that there are now even specialist online poker platforms which enable players of all standards to compete with other players across the world. Even the big poker tournaments are now generally oversubscribed and need to stage qualifying rounds to gain entry to the main event. The development of online poker has also changed the game itself over the years, so that 5-card draw poker is no longer the game of choice for serious poker players and is never played at any of the big tournaments. Nowadays it is the Texas Hold’em version of poker which has become the most popular, and this is also the poker format used in almost all the big tournaments and on most of the online poker platforms.
5-card draw poker is however still a good starting point for anyone interested in learning how to play poker and is available to be played against the house on most of the online casino gambling sites accessible in Ireland. It is certainly the simplest form of poker and therefore an easy way to learn how poker hands rank against each other. Each player is dealt 5 cards face down, followed by the first betting round. Those who decide to stay in the hand then have the opportunity to change some or all of their cards to try to improve their hands before the second and final betting round and the showdown. Whatever version of poker you are playing, every betting round is exactly the same. The player immediately to the left of the dealer places a bet of at least the minimum table stake, after which each player clockwise around the table can either match the bet (call), raise the bet or fold. The betting round continues until every player still in the hand has committed the same total stake. Even in 5-card draw poker with just two betting rounds the size of the stake necessary to reach the showdown stage of the hand can be considerably more than the minimum table stake, but when you graduate to playing Texas Hold’em poker the effect is even more dramatic because there are many more betting rounds. The Texas Hold’em version of poker involves the use of what are known as community cards, which are available to every player in forming their showdown hand. Each player is initially dealt two cards face down, and this is followed by the first betting round. Five community cards are then dealt one at a time face up into the middle of the table, with each one being followed by another betting round. When all five community cards have been dealt the players remaining in the hand will form their best five card poker hand from their two hole cards and any of the community cards. It is easy to see why this form of poker is so popular among serious poker players, because the size of the winning pot is usually far bigger than in most other forms of the game due to the number of betting rounds. It is also worth pointing out for new players that the amount of money required to stay in the game is also much bigger in Texas Hold’em for the same reason. Most online casino gambling sites offer a wide range of different versions of poker, all of which can be played against the house for small stakes, and most experts agree that to be successful playing poker formats such as Texas Hold’em, experience is essential. Poker is great fun but learn to walk before you run.