Here in Ireland gambling has been a popular pastime for many years, if not for ever. We have always loved gambling on horse racing or greyhound racing, to the extent that gambling on horse racing in particular has almost become our national sport in many people’s eyes. When the bookmakers decided to provide their customers with the option to do their gambling online there were some observers who thought that we would not only stop going to the betting shops, we would also stop going to the tracks. Thankfully that did not happen and both our horse race and greyhound race meetings continue to be well supported. What online gambling did do however was to spread the popularity of gambling as a leisure pursuit across a wider section of the population, mainly as a result of the introduction of online gambling games on the sports gambling sites. Soon after the leading bookmakers first established their online sports gambling sites, they started to look for ways to maximise the returns on their investment in the technology and software necessary to operate those sites, which led them to the idea of adding a few gambling games to encourage their customers to spend more time on the sites. We now know of course that the introduction of gambling games onto the sports gambling sites was a huge success, and created a whole new online gambling sector which we now call online casino gambling. As with every other online operation there are no obvious space restrictions associated with operating an online casino site which meant that the operators could rapidly expand the range of gambling games they offered on their sites, which in turn enabled them to appeal to a broader range of people. A range of numbers games based on bingo for example was always going to prove popular amongst the many bingo fans in Ireland, as was the ever increasing choice of slots games based on a variety of different themes which were also designed to appeal to as many people as possible. One of the biggest effects of the introduction of gambling games online was however the resurgence in popularity of the game of poker. Although poker is a very well-established traditional gambling game, its popularity had undoubtedly waned over the years in Ireland and elsewhere in the world. Most people playing poker were professional or semi- professional gamblers and there were very few of the poker schools enjoyed by groups of friends which used to be part of the social scene. Part of the reason for that was of course that our casinos simply did not have the space to promote poker as a casino gambling game. The online gambling sites however had no such restrictions and poker enthusiasts were quickly able to play a whole range of different poker formats online, both against the house or latterly against each other. The opportunity to play poker online has led to a huge increase in the number of people in Ireland regularly playing poker, and not only are the online poker platforms increasingly popular but more and more of us are getting involved in major poker tournaments. International poker tournaments such as the Irish Open are now almost always oversubscribed and gaining entry is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more amateur players want to have a go.
For many of us our first introduction to the game of poker was through the old film westerns in which almost every saloon scene featured a game of five card draw poker. This was the most popular poker format in America and played a huge part in the lives of the gold prospectors of the time, and of course on the Mississippi river boats where many a professional hustler earned a living through playing poker. Nowadays the version of poker played by both professional players and enthusiastic amateurs tends to be Texas Hold’em poker. In fact Texas Hold’em is now the poker format played at almost every poker tournament in the world, which is another reason why it is the game of choice for most serious poker players. Texas Hold’em is popular because it uses community cards and entails multiple betting rounds before reaching the showdown stage, therefore resulting in much larger pots than most other versions of poker. In the case of Texas Hold’em, each player is dealt two hole cards face down followed by the first betting round. Five community cards are then dealt face up, and one at a time into the middle of the table with a further betting round after each community card is dealt. Each player remaining in the game after the fifth community card is dealt then forms the best five card poker hand they can achieve using their hole cards and the community cards, and the best hand takes the pot. Players can raise, call or fold when it is their turn during every betting round, but each betting round is not over until every remaining player has staked the same amount of money. As we have pointed out, the main reason why the Texas Hold’em format of pker is so popular among serious poker players is the size of the final pot, but less experienced players should also be aware that to achieve a big pot requires a bigger investment from the individual players. Remember the minimum table stake will probably bear little relationship to the stakes necessary to reach the showdown stage of the game.
All the online casino gambling sites offer a wide range of different poker formats, all of which can usually be played against the house for fixed odds. New poker players would be well advised to spend some time playing poker in this sort of format before getting involved in playing on the poker forums against other players who may be far more experienced. There is no doubt that versions of poker such as Texas Hold’em tend to favour experienced players over the less experienced in the long run.