Playing Home vs Playing Online

Most people who play poker start off by playing in a typical home environment first. The structure of these home games is usually pretty simple. Generally, everyone antes a certain amount (let’s say $0.25) and the betting is structured to have a minimum and maximum bet. After the ante of $0.25, for example, the bets and raises could range between $0.25 and $2 each round.

The usual structure of home poker games is bet and call, or perhaps bet, raise and call. Most hands go to a showdown and generally the person who has the hottest cards—not the one who’s made the best plays—wins the most money at the end of the day.

Internet poker is considerably different from home poker in three major ways: the ante structure, the betting structure and the competition. We think Internet poker is every bit as fun as home poker, if not MORE fun, but it does take some getting used to. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the three main differences as described below:

Ante structure

First, unless you are playing Seven Stud, there is no ante in online poker. The person to the left of the dealer must pay the small blind and the person after him must pay the big blind. These are forced bets. All other players are not forced to bet anything in order to receive cards (they don’t have to ante), but they must match the big blind or any raise to the big blind to see the flop.

Thus, in a typical game involving six people with a small blind of $0.50 and a big blind of $1, the action could unfold as follows, pre-flop:

Seat 1: Small blind, $0.50.
Seat 2: Big blind, $1.
Seat 3: Fold.
Seat 4: Calls big blind, $1.
Seat 5: Raises big blind, $2.
Seat 6 (dealer): Fold.

Seat 1: Fold.
Seat 2: Calls raise, $1.
Seat 3: Calls raise, $1.

The betting would then begin with the big blind, since the small blind folded, after the flop.

Betting structure

In addition to a different ante structure, the betting structure differs in online poker as well. The closest thing to the spread limit commonly used in home poker games is no-limit online poker. In no-limit games, there remains a minimum bet, but the maximum bet is the amount of chips you’ve got in front of you.

There’s a common myth in no-limit poker suggesting that you must fold if someone bets more chips than you have. We’re here to tell you THAT’S NOT TRUE. If Tom bets $30 and I only have $15, I only have to put in $15 to call. Tom, therefore, is essentially only wagering $15 if I’m the only person in the pot.

However, if the pot is between Tom, Jane and I, and both Tom and Jane have $50, Jane must match Tom’s bet of $30. My extra $15 bet would be placed in what’s known as a “side pot.” At the showdown, then, I would be in contention for $45 and Tom and Jane would be in contention for the $45 plus the extra $30. If I have the best hand and Jane has the second-best hand, I would win $45 and she would win $30. But if Jane’s hand is better than mine, she would win the entire $75.

Closely similar to no-limit poker is pot-limit poker, where you can bet any amount from the minimum bet to the size of the pot.

Finally, limit poker constitutes the most popular form of online poker. This game has fixed bets. For example, in a $2-$4 game, the size of the bets is $2 in the first two rounds and $4 in round three and after. Consider the following four-player, pre-flop example for a $2-$4 table:

Seat 1: Check.
Seat 2: Bet $2.
Seat 3: Raise $2 (to $4).
Seat 4: Call $4.

Seat 1: Fold.
Seat 2: Call $4.

The bets on the turn (four cards out) and the river (all cards out) now change the betting limit to the higher amount—$4. Now the action might unfold like this:

Seat 2: Bet $4.
Seat 3: Fold.
Seat 4: Raise $4 (to $8).
Seat 2: Call $4.


Finally, skill pays off more on the Internet than dumb luck does. People actually TRY to win on the Internet because the money exchanged if often more than just nickels and dimes. You shouldn’t just call to the river “to see what he has.” Bad idea. Instead, you should use as much strategy as possible if you hope to win in the long run. Playing your typical home game may work at first, but it’s unlikely to last for long against some of the talent you’ll find on the ’Net. Be sure to maximize your chances by doing your homework—learn as many strategic moves as you can.