Although gambling has been a popular pastime in Ireland for many years, we are increasingly reading reports that even more of us are now gambling regularly following the introduction of online gambling. There are of course conflicting opinions about whether it is the availability online gambling sites which has caused this increase, or whether it is simply that we have more expendable income than our parents and grandparents. It is also true to say that online gambling sites, particularly the casino gambling elements of those sites have attracted customers from a number of different but existing gambling sectors. The Irish have of course always been a nation of sports gambling fans, particularly gambling on horse racing, football or greyhound racing, but there is very little evidence to suggest that the introduction of large online sports gambling websites has significantly increased the number of us gambling on sport even though we now have far more options than ever before. All the evidence suggests that it is primarily the introduction of a wide range of gambling games onto these sites which is most likely to have contributed to any increase in the number of people gambling. Even then we have to recognise that many of the people playing these online gambling games were already doing so before they became available online. First of all there are the people who were already regular visitors to a real casino and who now playing their casino gambling games online. Then there are the thousands of bingo fans who used to play at least once a week at their local bingo club, but now enjoy playing one of the many bingo games that are available online and from the comfort of their own homes. Then, last but not least there are the people who have always enjoyed playing slot machines in our pubs, clubs and arcades. All of these people are likely to have visited at least one of the online casino gambling sites and tried playing their favourite gambling games online, and because they come from so many different gambling communities it is obviously very difficult to assess accurately whether the reported overall increase in the number of people gambling is actually true. There is however one gambling game which has seen a huge surge in interest, and that is the game of poker. The game of poker is not new of course, but the number of people playing poker in Ireland was fairly small and mostly consisted of groups of friends playing at someone’s house. Poker was also rarely available at any of our casinos, which again contributed to making gambling on poker a relatively minor leisure activity even among gamblers. The resurgence in interest in poker was started when some satellite television channels broadcasting poker tournaments, but it was the introduction of online gambling sites which really accelerated interest and participation in poker gambling. There are now several online poker gambling platforms which allow serious poker players to play against each other 24 hours a day and from all over the world, and the number of people using these sites is reportedly growing all the time. Even the big poker tournaments are rapidly becoming oversubscribed as new players want to test their skills against the best.
There are of course a number of different variations of the game of poker, ranging from 5-card draw version of poker which was the game which was always being played in the saloons of almost every western we ever saw, through to Texas Hold’em poker which is currently the game of choice for almost every serious poker player. The 5-card draw format of poker is probably the oldest version of the modern game of poker, and it was played all over America from the Mississippi river boats to the gold fields of the west. It is also the simplest version of the game with normally just two betting rounds including the showdown. Texas Hold’em poker on the other hand has six betting rounds in total because it is played with what are called community cards, and it has therefore become the poker format used in almost every poker tournament around the world. We have included the rules of almost every version of poker which is available online in our gambling games pages here at gambling.ie, but because Texas Hold’em has become so popular we should perhaps offer a brief summary. Each player is dealt two cards face down in front of them, followed by the first betting round. Five community cards are then dealt one at a time and face up into the middle of the table, each card being followed by a further betting round. The community cards can be used by every player to make up their best 5 card poker hand for the showdown, and the best hand takes the pot. The use of community cards not only improves the potential quality of the hands, but the number of betting rounds associated with each hand significantly increases the pot for those players left in the game at the showdown. That does however mean that the potential investment of each player is also much bigger for them to stay in the game. Although Texas Hold’em has become the game of choice for serious poker players it is not the only version of poker available at the online casino gambling sites. There are a number of different poker gambling games at almost every casino gambling site, all of which can be played against the house for fixed odds and often for very low stakes. Gambling on poker online need not be expensive, and even if you have ambitions to play at a more serious level it is advisable to thoroughly learn the game before playing for higher stakes against other players who may be far more experienced than you. There is even another version of poker using community cards available at some online casino gambling sites, so if you want to try without risking big money have a look at the game of Omaha poker and play against the house.