The game of poker has come a long way since the card rooms of the Old West over a hundred years ago. Today, online poker is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, and the game’s top players are international celebrities. Few could imagine the game’s immense growth back in the 1970s and 80s, when the game wasn’t widely played even in Las Vegas.
The first online poker site was Planet Poker, which debuted in 1998. At the time, online gambling was completely new to the masses. Growth was slow in its first few months, but the site soon began to garner a loyal following. However, poorly executed software, flaky servers, and some embarrassing hacking incidents harmed the company’s reputation. Thankfully, more robust competition would come along. Within a few years, many of today’s big names were already in existence, and a vicious fight ensued to see who could get the largest slices of the ever-growing online poker pie.
From 2001 to 2005, online poker grew rapidly. Those years were known as the “Poker Boom”, a term used to describe the growth of the game online. Each year during this time, the number of online poker players nearly doubled with each consecutive year. It has been estimated that worldwide revenue from online poker grew from just under $90 million in 2001, to a whopping $2.5 billion in 2005. As of 2014, online gambling markets top $33 billion per year, with online poker making up a large part of that.
Depending on your location, online poker can be subject to varying degrees of legality. It can differ from country to country, and at state or province level. While most countries have decided to tax and regulate online poker markets, a number have not. Most surprisingly of all, the list of those yet to regulate the activity nationwide includes the United States, the country responsible for the most online poker revenue before the Federal crackdown of 2011 – also known as “Black Friday.”
Most Western European nations have had liberalized gambling for decades, and online gambling is no different in this regard. Online poker is taxed and regulated throughout much of Europe, providing a safer climate for players and companies alike.
However, the concept of ‘legality’ is a rather slippery one. Online poker may not be expressly legal in a particular jurisdiction, but that doesn’t necessarily make it illegal for an individual to play online poker there.
When it comes to online gambling, and more specifically, online poker, the majority of countries fall into a kind of “grey area”. Playing online poker may be effectively legal from a practical perspective, simply because of the absence of a law criminalizing that act. Technically, it may not be totally legal, but to all intents and purposes, it might as well be.
Even in areas where online poker is illegal from a player’s perspective, the laws are usually not enforced. For example, Washington State in the US has a law on the books that criminalizes online poker, making it a felony. Although this law is clearly draconian and a scary prospect for players, no one has ever been charged with a crime for any online gambling (including poker) in the state.
Of course, if you’re a resident of Washington and scared to play online poker because of this law, we can’t blame you. However, it’s worth noting that the law has never been enforced. There are many other laws similar to this on books across the globe. Very few are actively enforced. Online poker is hard to police, because most of the people will be playing in the privacy of their own homes. Perhaps more to the point, arresting online poker players isn’t generally a priority of law enforcement.
With all that said, it is still worth breezing through your state and/or country’s laws before depositing into an online poker room. Players will almost always be safe from a legal standpoint, (even in illegal markets), but it doesn’t hurt to know exactly where you stand.
Choosing an Online Poker Room Today
Once you are familiar with the local laws regarding online poker, it’s time to choose a site and get your career on the road. Depending on your location, your options will vary considerably. Those living in regulated markets, like much of Europe, will have a far larger list of choices than those residing in unregulated markets.
There are over 100 online poker rooms on the internet today, a far cry from the two or three sites that existed just over 15 years ago. The choices can be daunting for players these days, but with the increase in competition, the bonuses and deals have become rather more appetizing.
Trustworthy Factors of Successful Poker Sites
First and foremost, finding an operator that is trustworthy is vital. It’s hard enough to become a profitable player, but you don’t want to give yourself any additional worry by being uncertain about the integrity of your chosen poker room. You need to know that the room will let you withdraw your winnings, and that you’re getting the correct payouts.
Longevity in the industry is a key factor to look for when choosing an online poker room, but it’s not a deal breaker. Plenty of newer sites offer excellent options along with service and staff you can trust. A few minutes of research via Google will go a long way. Of course, the sites we recommend to players on this page will be of the highest quality, so that gives new players a good starting point.
Another big consideration is the deposit bonus, and any rewards programs that the site may offer. Deposit bonuses are an excellent way to jumpstart a player’s bankroll, especially for those who are just beginning their poker careers, or playing lower stakes. These bonuses can range anywhere from $50 or $100, and right up to several thousand. Players who are new to online poker will have the opportunity of clearing bonuses across many networks of sites, and can earn themselves thousands of dollars in bonuses.
A poker room’s VIP or rewards program is another way to add extra cash to your stack. Almost every site offers some form of reward system, but how lucrative these programs can be tends to fluctuate depending on the site. It’s worth finding a good rewards program, particularly if you drop significant amounts. If you’re a high volume player, your rewards could be worth thousands of dollars per month.
Becoming a Profitable Online Poker Player
As I mentioned above, winning at online poker isn’t easy. But, with a strong work ethic and the willingness to study your game and learn, it is achievable. Few poker players have a natural talent for the game. Early on in their careers, most successful players spend more time studying the game than they do at the tables.
Today’s online platforms offer so many options that almost anyone can find a game they can excel at. Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha are by far the most popular variants, but Seven Card Stud, Razz, and other games are available in just about every room online. Their player bases are smaller, but there is almost always action available, no matter what the time of day.
Tournament poker is also a whole different animal compared to cash game play. The rules may be the same for either format, but the style of play needed to become a winner at both games is very different.
The good news is that there are now plenty of resources around to improve your game. You can use data tracking software to analyze the play of you and your opponents, and provide suggestions on how to improve. If you need extra help, you can hire a poker coach for a more hands-on approach. Poker forums and portals like our site will also provide you with strategy and advice to improve your game, along with the most up-to-date information and bonuses.
Besides giving you the best in poker news, we here at 4Flush.com also aim to provide its visitors with the best set of tools to become a profitable player. That means room reviews, news, and information on pending legislation across the world. We aspire to be a noted authority on all things online poker.
Our authors and staff have decades of experience in online poker markets, and know the industry like the back of their hand. We will do our best to steer players in the right direction. Our content will be no-nonsense and based on fact and practical experience. We won’t mislead players into depositing with untrustworthy operators – something that our competitors have no issues doing.
Even though the rules of the game don’t change, the online poker landscape is being rapidly tweaked, twisted and remolded. Staying up to date with current news and bonus offers is a must, and is a service we take pride in providing to players. We are competing for your business just like every poker room on the web, and look forward to providing you with the best real money online poker content available. We hope to have you as a loyal reader as we move towards the future.