The speed with which online gambling has grown over recent years has caught a lot of observers by surprise. Not only have dyed in the wool sports gambling fans who were regular visitors to their local betting shop taken to the idea of doing their gambling online, but the convenience of online gambling has attracted a whole new set of fans. The first online gambling sites were of course set up by the big bookmakers, and initially concentrated solely on sports gambling. These sites were however able to offer a much bigger range of sports and sporting events than could be accommodated in their betting shops, with the result that sports fans who were not particularly interested in the traditional sports gambling activities such as horse racing were suddenly able to bet on their own favourite sports. The next phase in the expansion of online gambling was the introduction of some gambling games on these primarily sports gambling sites, which again proved successful and online casino gambling was born. Since then the casino gambling sections of the bookmakers’ internet sites have expanded rapidly and most of them now offer at least 200 different gambling games and sometimes many more. Most of these games are of course slots games in a variety of forms, and most observers believe that it is these simple games which have attracted the attention of most of the new casino gambling fans. Whilst this may be true in part there has also been a surge in interest in some of the more traditional casino games which are now widely available online, none more so than poker. There is no doubt that the introduction of online casino gambling has dramatically increased the number of people in Ireland who are regularly playing poker, and the same is probably true all over the world. The game of poker was of course the game of choice for professional gamblers and enthusiastic amateurs in the gold fields of America and the Mississippi river boats in the 18th century, but very few of our real casinos on this side of the Atlantic gave their customers the opportunity to play poker so its popularity waned. The current resurgence in the popularity of poker is not entirely down to online gambling however, and many believe it was the establishment of the World Series of Poker by a group of American casinos which provided the real catalyst to the expansion we are now seeing. Certainly it was the World Series which led to the introduction of new poker tournaments all over the world, including of course our own Irish Open. The popularity of poker is now so great that many of these poker tournaments are now oversubscribed and operate qualifying rounds for potential players.
Although it is obvious that there are now far more professional and semi-professional poker players than there were even ten years ago, there are also an even larger group of enthusiastic amateurs now regularly playing poker online. We must not forget that there are a number of different versions of poker some of which appeal more to the serious poker players, whereas others are more popular with less experienced players or those simply playing for fun.
The poker format which was the game we all remember from the westerns we used to watch on television or at our local cinema was of course 5-card Draw poker. This version of poker is still available at almost all the online casino sites, where it is usually played against the house for fixed odds. The players are usually required to place an ante bet, after which they are dealt five cards. When playing online against the house they then have the opportunity to exchange as many cards as they like to try to improve their final hand. When playing with other people there would be a betting round before any cards are exchanged. 5-card Draw poker is probably one of the simplest poker formats, but for the modern serious poker player there is only one version of poker and that is Texas Hold’em.
Texas Hold’em poker is now the poker format played in almost every poker tournament around the world, and has consequently become the most popular poker format online. Texas Hold’em poker involves the use of what are termed community cards. These are cards dealt face up in the middle of the table which can be used by all the players to improve their showdown hands. The game starts with each player being dealt two cards face down in front of them, followed by the first betting round. A betting round when playing any form of poker is always the same. The player seated immediately to the left of the dealer opens the betting or folds. The remaining players in turn clockwise around the table then have the option to fold, call the bet, or raise the bet. The betting round is complete when all the remaining players have matched the highest bet. When the first betting round has been completed the first of the community cards is dealt face up in the middle of the table and there is another betting round. This procedure is repeated until there are five community cards face up in the middle of the table. The final betting round is then followed by the showdown in which the remaining players show their hands and the highest ranking hand takes the pot. This form of poker is popular among serious poker players because the number of betting rounds usually leads to a much bigger pot, and the ability to make up a five card poker hand from seven cards would be expected to provide better hands. Texas Hold’em poker is also a game in which experienced players will usually have the upper hand, so it may not be the best option for beginners. The number of betting rounds also means that it can be costly to stay in a hand until the showdown.
There are a number of other versions of poker available at most online casino gambling sites, including 7-card Stud, Red Dog and Pai Gow, all of which are great fun and an excellent introduction to the game of poker.