Online Poker FAQ

We’re looking to help take the learning curve out of online poker with this guide to questions new players frequently ask about the game.  Covering topics from security to game fairness to banking, this extensive list of questions and answers about online poker, this essential guide will prepare you with everything you need to grasp the fundamentals of playing poker for real money online.

In this section we’ll be covering a few of the simple questions players raise when they’re just getting started with online poker.

The Basics of Playing Online

Transitioning From Live Poker to Online Poker

Online Poker Game Fairness

Answers to Online Poker Security

Online Poker Banking Questions

The Basics of Online Poker

In this section we’ll be covering a few of the simple questions players raise when they’re just getting started with online poker.

Am I Playing Against the House?

No.  Just like any poker game, when you play online poker you are playing against the other opponents at the table.  The poker site simply hosts the games.

So how do online poker sites make money then?  Simple – they take a small fee from players for hosting the game.  When players are in a tournament, the fee is an extra charge added to the price of the tournament.  When players are in a cash game, the fee is a small percentage taken from the pot.  It’s a pretty miniscule amount in both cases, but across hundreds of tables running all year round, the money can easily add up fast for an online poker site.

Can Other Players See My Cards?

No.  Your cards are delivered over a secure connection and are only shared with you over that connection.  You can’t see other players cards, nor can they see yours.  At the end of the hand, cards of several players may be shown and also be available in hand histories, but that is a separate condition.  At reputable online poker rooms, you should have little fear of your cards somehow being exposed to the other players at the table (or anyone, for that matter).

Note that no amount of poker room security can protect you if your machine is compromised, infected with a virus or tainted by malware.  Any sort of online security necessarily involves efforts from not only the merchant, but the customer as well.

Is it Legal to Play Online Poker?

In general, laws concerning gambling (especially online gambling) are aimed at the businesses conducting the games, not the players.  Also, poker is frequently treated differently than other forms of gambling like sports betting or casino games.  Finally, there are very few instances of individual poker players facing some sort of criminal penalty for playing real money games online.

Transitioning From Live Poker to Online Poker

Not everyone who is new to online poker is new to the game itself.  Each day there are people with experience playing poker in live settings that decide to make the transition to playing poker online.  Here are a few of the questions that often arise during that move.

Are the Games Harder Online Than Live?

It’s probably more accurate to think of them as different.  You’ll find different player types, and you’ll have to develop new approaches to handle those different player types.  As long as you keep an open mind and focus on the fundamentals of good play, however, you shouldn’t experience significant difficulty continuing your winning ways online.  Some things don’t change when you move from live to online: Being disciplined, focused and paying close attention to the patterns your opponents exhibit are traits that will all pay off for you just as much when applied at an online poker room.

Are My Online Poker Winnings Taxable?

The correct answer to this question varies depending on where you live.  Your most prudent course of action is to ask a tax professional about gambling winnings and the proper way to handle them in terms of tax filings.  While it may seem like an annoying task (surely you’d rather be playing poker), you’re likely to be out only a few hours and a small bit of money – both absolutely reasonable prices to pay for quality information that could help you to avoid serious problems down the line.

Is it Tough to Adjust to Online Poker?

Just like any new experience, there is a learning curve involved with online poker.  However, if you’re willing to follow a few simple guidelines, it’s possible to dramatically lower that curve.  The first thing we suggest is easy – in fact, you’re doing it right now.  Research using sites like ours is an excellent shortcut that can bring you up to speed on the basics of online poker and increase your comfort level in the online poker environment.  Both free up your time and your energy for more productive focuses, like improving your game.

The second step players should take is to explore and exploit the bounty of third-party software that allows you to analyze your play (and your opponents’ play).  Tools such as these are accelerants that provide you with insights in a day or a week that might take you months to acquire on your own.

A final step involves some good old fashioned common sense:  Take it slow when you’re starting.  Everyone wants to be the next Phil Ivey or Tom Dwan, but it took both of them years to get to where they are today.  It only looks quick and easy from the outside.  While the novelty of online poker may put you in a frame of mind where all you want to do is “play, play, play”, but if you’re serious about profiting from online poker you’ll resist that urge and pace yourself at the outset.

Online Poker: Game Fairness Questions

Like any unknown entity, online poker causes new players to ask questions about what goes on behind the scenes.  In this section we’ll address typical concerns players have about the fairness of games at online poker sites.

Aren’t People Just Cheating Online?

Cheating is a potential (and unfortunate) part of any type of poker game.  Online poker is no different.  However, reputable online poker sites have specialized teams in place devoted to analyzing the mountains of data available in an effort to identify and put a halt to cheating.  Players are an important part of the equation as well.  By communicating any concerns you have to security at a room, you can provide their team with a potentially valuable lead that will further their goal of eliminating dishonest players from the site.

This combination of advanced security tactics and a vigilant player base ensure that cheating remains at a minimum level at online poker sites.

I Heard Rooms Stack the Deck to Generate More Action.  Is This True?

No.  That’s a persistent myth with no basis in fact.  It also has no basis in logic, and overlooks some key facts about how online poker rooms (and the online poker industry) operate.  Such a scheme would be easily uncovered through even casual observation at the room.

The myth arises simply because players don’t fully understand just how many extra hands they see online versus live play.  Even playing a single table, you will see two to three times more hands online.  That means you’ll also see more suckouts, more bad beats – more of everything, a phenomenon that has led some to erroneously conclude that online poker rooms must be “juicing” the deck.  There has never been one iota of evidence to support this theory, and players should be skeptical of any source that espouses it.

I Read About Rooms That Let People Cheat Players.  Did This Happen?

There is a historical example of a room (no longer in operation) where some key figures allegedly exploited the software to cheat players.  As a testament to the ability of the poker community to force such behavior into the light, the scandal was uncovered and full restitution was made to the impacted players.

Ultimately, concerns about game fairness come down to a simple calculation of risk versus reward.  It’s the same math you use to determine if you’d like to see a certain movie or shop online at a certain store.  There is some small risk of cheating involved in online poker, but 99% of players have decided that small risk simply doesn’t outweigh the rewards of playing poker for real money online.

Facts About Online Poker Account Security

There’s good reason to be wary of financial transactions conducted online, but there’s no reason why people should regard online poker as a unique risk.  More on the basics of online poker account security in this section of our online poker FAQ.

Why Do Rooms Ask for My Personal Information?

Generally, online poker rooms ask for your personal information for two reasons.  The first is that they are required by regulations to be able to identify their customers (also referred to as Know Your Customer or KYC regulations).  These regulations are absolutely standard in any developed online poker market.  The second is that this personal information is necessary to handle financial transactions, especially if you’re using a credit card to deposit or a bank wire to cash out.

How Do I Know My Poker Account Won’t Be Hacked?

The best way to protect your online poker account from hacking is to practice good personal computer safety.  A vast majority of poker account hacks take place because the user chose a weak password, allowed their machine to become infected with a virus, and so on.  While players are tempted to blame the room for these issues, in something very close to 99% of cases the problem can be traced back to the player, and not a failing on the part of the online poker site.

A Room Emailed Asking for My Password.  Should I Reply?

Not under any circumstances.  Reputable online poker sites will never ask you to provide sensitive account information like your password over email.  You are likely viewing spam or something even more malicious, and you should contact the room immediately to let them know about it.

This is just one example of how players need to accept some of the responsibility for protecting their online poker accounts.  By putting some thought behind any action related to the security of your online poker account, you can avoid the trouble (and potential financial loss) that can result from a compromised account.

Online Poker: Banking Questions

Moving money to and from an online poker site might seem like a challenge, but it is actually as simple as any financial transaction you complete online.  Here are answers to a few simple questions we hear asked about online poker banking.

How Can I Get My Winnings From the Site?

The typical selection of options for withdrawing from an online poker site include methods like check, PayPal, Neteller, MoneyBookers, uKash, bank wire and several others.  Additionally, rooms support region-specific payment options for both deposits and cashouts.  Generally the time frame for receiving a cashout varies (based on size and method) from a few minutes to several days.

Can I Deposit With A Credit Card?

Nearly every single poker room in the world accepts credit card deposits.  With that said, it is easier to deposit using credit cards in regions where gambling is heavily regulated.  It is also easier to deposit with certain cards; for example, it is much simpler to make a deposit at an online poker site using a Visa or MasterCard than it is using an American Express.

Once you make your first online poker deposit you’ll see just how simple and hassle-free it is, whether you’re using credit cards, bank transfers or any of the two dozen other methods commonly offered by online poker rooms.

What is the Smallest Deposit I Can Make at a Poker Site?

The specific answer to this question varies by site, but the general answer is simple:  You can make pretty small deposits (think a few dollars or so) at nearly every poker site online.  The range for minimum deposit amounts goes from $1 to about $10, although some rooms and some methods may have higher minimums.  The answer to the same question for withdrawals is more or less the same, although deposit minimums tend to be a tad bit lower that minimums for cashing out.