There appears to be little doubt that the introduction of online gambling has led to an increase in the number of people in Ireland regularly gambling. That increase also appears to be across the board, with both sports gambling and online casino gambling enjoying a rising customer base. When it comes to online sports gambling, apart from the obvious convenience of being able to place bets online rather than having to visit a high street betting shop, much of the increased popularity probably stems from the much bigger range of sports and sporting events we can now access online. Most betting shops tended to focus on the most popular sports in terms of gambling, with horse racing, greyhound racing and football leading the way, but the big online sports gambling sites not only cover a much bigger range of alternative sports and sporting events they also allow us to access events from all over the world. The effect of the massive increase in gambling options that online gambling has provided is probably even more apparent in the online casino gambling sector. Ever since the big bookmakers began to add a few gambling games to their sports gambling sites we have seen the range of games continue to grow and grow so that most online casino gambling sites now offer in excess of two hundred different games for their customers to enjoy. The majority of those new online gambling games are of course slots games in a variety of forms, but there has also been a massive surge in interest in some of the more traditional gambling games, none more so than the game of poker. All the online casino gambling site operators offer several versions of traditional casino games such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat in both download and instant mode as well as a live casino mode, all of which have attracted new fans. The same is true of the range of numbers games based on another of our favourite gambling games, namely bingo, but it is the rise in popularity of the game of poker which been the biggest effect we have seen since the introduction of online casino gambling. Before the availability of online poker the number of people playing poker regularly had fallen to very low levels mainly because few if any of our real casinos were able to offer their customers the opportunity to play poker. Most people actively playing poker were either part of a regular card game made up of friends and neighbours, or they were professional gamblers playing in the major poker tournaments around the world. The opportunity to play poker online however has changed that situation dramatically, and poker is now probably one of the most popular online gambling games there is. Most online casino gambling sites now offer a full range of poker games which can be played against the house for fixed odds and very small stakes, but there are also a number of specialist online poker sites which enable serious poker enthusiasts to test their skill and luck against other players from all over the world. The increasing popularity of poker has also led many more players wanting to enter the many big poker tournaments around the world, to such an extent that some of them now need to run qualifying rounds for players to win a seat at the main event. Professional poker players have now been joined by large numbers of enthusiastic amateurs at these tournaments, many of whom would probably now describe themselves as more semi-professional than amateur.
The poker format of choice for most of these new poker fans is Texas Hold’em, mainly because this is the version of poker now played in almost every serious poker tournament around the world. Texas Hold’em poker is a version of poker which uses five community cards any of which can be used by every player along with their hole cards to form their final showdown hand. Each player is first dealt two hole cards face down in front of them, and this is followed by the first betting round. A betting round is exactly the same for every version of poker, and usually starts with the player immediately to the left of the dealer placing a bet of at least the minimum table stake. Each player in turn can then match that bet, raise the bet or fold their cards and quit the hand. A betting round is only complete when every remaining player has staked the same amount of money. If we return to the Texas Hold’em poker format, when the first betting round has been completed the first community card is then dealt face up into the middle of the table and that is followed by another betting round. The procedure is then repeated until all five community cards are available in the centre of the table, after which the remaining players form their best five card poker hand from their own hole cards and the open community cards with the best hand taking the pot. The popularity of this form of poker among serious poker players clearly stems from the potential for better hands as a result of choosing five cards from seven, but mainly the much bigger pots which come from so many betting rounds. Whilst the winner of each hand of Texas Hold’em poker undoubtedly benefits from much bigger pots than most other form of poker, potential players should also be aware that the size of stake required to stay in the hand until the showdown is also much bigger and usually bears no relation to the quoted minimum table stake. New poker players would be well advised to first learn about the game by playing poker at one of the many online casinos for fixed odds against the house before venturing onto the online poker forums. Playing poker on one of the serious online poker sites can mean that you are competing with much more experienced players, and Texas Hold’em in particular tends to favour experience in the long run.