What To Know If You’re Playing Online Poker In The U.S.

For two years now, there have been reports of online poker being on the rise as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We know of course that the pandemic forced people to spend far more time at home and in isolation, and as a result many turned to the internet for both connection and entertainment. This led to spikes in a variety of internet-based activities, and poker platforms did indeed see a surge. In April of 2020, Global Poker reported that online gaming activity had increased by 43% since the start of “lockdowns.” More recently, there have been estimations to the tune of some 60 million Americans being active in online poker (as opposed to 40 million early in 2020).

The only reasonable conclusion to draw from all of this is that online poker is trendy in the U.S. again. For this reason, we’ve put together a little bit of a starter guide concerning what you need to know if you’re getting into this hobby.

It’s basically Texas Hold’em
What we mean here is that if you’re playing online poker in 2022, chances are it will be of the Texas Hold’em variety. While you can seek out and find other forms of poker, Hold’em has become far and away the most popular form of the game, and generates the most activity online by a wide margin.

For those who aren’t as familiar with this style of poker, The Spruce Crafts’ Hold’em breakdown serves as a nice refresher. To summarize, the game begins with each player being dealt two “hole cards” face down. This is followed by “the flop,” wherein three community cards are laid out face-up. Next comes “the turn” (a fourth community card) and “the river” (a fifth and final one). Betting takes place in between these dealing steps, and at the end the remaining players present the best hands they can using their hole cards and any three of the community cards.

There are lots of popular platforms

When you set out to play online poker in the U.S., you have a massive selection of apps and platforms at your disposal. In the app department, some of the top options include WSOP Poker: Texas Holdem; Zynga Poker – Texas Holdem; Offline Poker – Texas Holdem; Poker Heat: Texas Holdem; and even Apple’s native “Texas Hold’em” app, exclusive to iOS users. Through your browser, meanwhile, you can access games at sites like Americas Cardroom; GGPoker; Pokerstars; 888poker, and more.

It’s worth noting that while all have similar game offerings, these platforms vary somewhat in focus and presentation. Zynga, for instance, is best known for its social components; Poker Heat for its dramatic, graphics-heavy visuals.

Poker with real betting is only legal in some places

Some of the platforms just mentioned, such as Americas Cardroom and 888poker, support real-cash betting on poker games, in addition to free-play options. When you’re playing in the U.S. however, it’s important to remember that those real betting options aren’t legal everywhere.

Poker.org’s updated look at poker legalization states that only seven states currently support legal, regulated poker with real money involved. These states are Nevada, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. You can still play for fun at most popular platforms in other states, but you won’t be able to bet real money.

You can also play free games via Steam

Beyond app- and browser-based platforms, you can also play just-for-fun online poker via some downloadable games at Steam. If you’re not familiar, Steam is the leading service for PC game downloads, featuring everything from retro arcade offerings to the latest console titles. Within its virtually limitless library though, there are several excellent poker games that allow you to play against other live players.

Poker Legends, Governor Of Poker 3, and Poker Championship are among the popular games you can download for free. HD Poker is another, and is particularly well known for its beautiful graphics. And if you’d like a slightly more ambitious poker simulation, you can pay a small fee to download Poker Club.

VR poker is on the rise

Finally, we’ll also note that VR poker is slowly but steadily on the rise. There have actually been virtual reality poker games essentially since the advent of modern VR. A few titles in particular, however –– Poker VR and PokerStars VR –– have elevated the category. Per VRTruths.com’s review of VR Poker, it was this game that added features like facial expressions and body language to character avatars, helping to simulate the part of real-life poker that involves “reading” opponents. PokerStars VR, meanwhile, simply brings the quality of a deeply experienced poker platform into virtual reality, resulting in the sharpest and most professional experience in the medium.

With all of this information on hand, you will be well equipped to figure out where and how to join in on the modern internet poker phenomenon in the U.S. Have fun at the tables, and come back for more gaming content at Phase Radar soon!