Online gambling has come a long way since the leading bookmakers decided that they needed to follow the big retailers and establish an online presence. The first online gambling sites were all focussed solely on providing sports gambling fans with the opportunity to place their bets online rather than through a betting shop, but it was not long before the site operators started to add a few gambling games and created what we now refer to as the online casino gambling sector. From the point of view of the average sports gambling fan, the introduction of online sports gambling sites obviously provided them with a far more convenient way to place their bets, but it also gave them a very much wider choice of sports and sporting events than they could ever access through their local betting shop. Similarly when the sports gambling site operators realised that their decision to also add some gambling games had created a whole new customer base among existing casino members and regular bingo players amongst others, they rapidly began to increase the number of games they featured so that the casino gambling sections of their sites also quickly offered more choice than anyone could have imagined. There is no doubt in our minds here at gambling.ie that it is this massive variety of gambling options on both the main online sports gambling sites and their casino gambling sections which has driven the huge success of online gambling. It is also true that the bookmakers who set up and operated those first online gambling sites were quite clever in the choice of gambling games they initially added to their sites. Traditional casino gambling games such as roulette, blackjack and craps were almost guaranteed to appeal to an existing group of games enthusiasts, as were the numbers games based on the ever popular game of bingo. What was perhaps a surprise though was the dramatic rise in the popularity of the game of poker. Clearly poker is not a new gambling game having been around for many years certainly in America, but here in Ireland very few of us regularly played poker even amongst our own circle of friends. Some of our casinos did organise the occasional poker tournament for their members, and there were of course big international poker tournaments such as the Irish Open, but these tended to be the preserve of the relatively few professional poker players rather than enthusiastic amateurs. Some would argue that the increasing popularity of poker really started when poker tournaments began to be shown on satellite television, but there is little doubt that the widespread availability of online poker had the biggest effect on the numbers of people in Ireland playing the game. All the online casino gambling sites offer a full range of poker formats which can be played against the house, and for the serious poker players there are now also a number of specialist online poker platforms which provide them with the opportunity to test their skills against players from all over the world. This has created a whole new group of enthusiastic amateur poker players who also want to play in the big tournaments, so much so that many of those poker tournaments are now regularly oversubscribed.
The version of poker most of us will be aware of through the western films of our childhood is 5-card draw poker, in which each player is initially dealt five cards one at a time face down in front of them. There is then a full betting round after which all the players still in the game are allowed to change as many of their cards as they like, in the hope of course of improving their hand. There is then a further betting round after which the best showdown hand wins the pot. A betting round is exactly the same in all forms of poker, and usually starts with the opening bet of at least the minimum table stake from the player immediately to the left of the dealer. Each player in turn clockwise around the table can then match the bet ie. call, raise the bet or fold. Each betting round is only complete when all the remaining players have staked the same amount of money on their hand. As we have already explained 5-card draw poker has just two betting rounds during each hand, but nowadays the most popular poker format is Texas Hold’em, which uses five so called community cards and therefore entails far more betting rounds before the showdown. The Texas Hold’em format of poker has become the game of choice for all serious poker players, and is also played in almost every poker tournament around the world. The reason is of course very simple, because the multiple betting rounds associated with the use of community cards lead to bigger pots and potentially better hands. We have detailed the rules of Texas Hold’em on our individual gambling games pages, but here is a brief introduction. Each player is dealt two hole cards face down in front of them, 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 a further betting round after each card is dealt. Any of the community cards can be used by every player to form their best 5-card showdown hand at the end of the game. The most important thing for any new Texas Hold’em players to be aware of is that although the winning pots are undoubtedly bigger, so is the necessary investment required to reach the showdown hand. When playing Texas Hold’em poker the minimum table stake is usually almost irrelevant compared to the stakes necessary to get to the final betting round. All the online casino gambling sites offer us the chance to learn to play Texas Hold’em poker for small stakes against the house, and there are also several other versions of poker available on most online casino gambling sites for us to enjoy.