Most current poker players did not start their careers playing online poker for real money. Like me, they got a grounding in the rules of poker and a familiarity with poker software by playing for play chips or competing in freeroll tournaments.
Like me, they learned that there is a substantial difference between playing online poker for real money and playing for play chips or competing in freeroll tournaments. Fewer players get involved in each hand, players take longer to make their betting decisions, and the pace of play tends to be much slower.
However, with the opportunity to win substantial amounts (or at least more than can usually be won in a freeroll tournament), there is an added level of excitement to playing online poker for real money. There is also the motivation to become a better player and take your game to the highest possible level.
Is Playing Online Poker for Real Money Safe?
It depends what you mean by “safe”. Most online operators have secure servers to process financial transactions, employ security teams to ensure that the games are played fairly and – in many jurisdictions – are required to keep players´ funds separate from their own operational expenses.
I would suggest that you do your homework before depositing your hard-earned cash at any site. There are plenty of poker forums and poker news sources that will warn you of any “untoward practices” or poker sites that are failing to process players´ cashout requests in a timely manner.
The reason that I questioned the interpretation of “safe” is because not everybody has the self-control to gamble responsibly. Although most problem gamblers develop their bad habits away from the poker tables, if you feel that by playing online poker for real money you may lose more than you can comfortably afford – then don´t do it.
A Few Words of Advice
Success in online poker for real money usually comes over years – not weeks or months. This is because poker is a game of skill, and your level of skill will develop as you become more experienced. Although there are a handful of rookies that have quickly become world-beaters, it is better that you enjoy your poker, learn from your mistakes and develop your bankroll over a period of time.
In order to help you along the path to successful and profitable poker, here are three tips that I share frequently throughout this site:
The cards that you are dealt are the least most important thing to consider in a hand of poker. Controversial I know, but true. The betting tendencies of the players seated around you and your position in the order of betting are far more important. For example, if you had a small pocket pair, and knew that the player to your right only bet on premium hands, would you get involved in a pot if he had already raised?
Get Caught Bluffing
Using the previous scenario, what if the betting tendencies of the player to your right could not be identified because his (or her) play was so varied? Then you might have limped into the pot with your small pocket pair and run into a monster. Getting caught bluffing is one way of hiding your betting tendencies from other players, and making the pots more valuable when you have a monster starting hand.
Mention bankroll management and most players´ eyes will glaze over. Playing within certain limits is probably the least exciting aspect of online poker for real money, but it is an important one – and one that could save a new player an awful lot of money. If you would like some guidance about how much money you should bring to the tables when you are playing online poker for real money, take a look at my guide to bankroll management. You don´t have to, but you might thank me later!
Real Money Poker Sites
I guess that if you have ever played online poker for play chips, it was at the “world´s largest poker site”. PokerStars has around-the-clock action on its play money site, with hundreds of thousands using the site as a recreational vehicle every day of the week. Is it the best place to start playing online poker for real money though? Possibly not.
Best Poker Websites for Real Money
Despite its decent first deposit bonus and loyalty program, PokerStars is packed full of experienced online players – even at microstakes level. If you are taking your first steps into playing real money poker online, these are probably not the best players to come against. Far better for you (and your bankroll) if you find an alternative site that provides a higher level of protection for new players.
Therefore I would suggest you investigate poker sites that have “Beginner Only” tables, that release their bonuses in weighted stages and that recognise that you may not have fifteen hours available each day to meet the qualifying criteria to participate in promotions. These poker websites will more likely give you the opportunities to take your game to the highest possible level and give you the rewards for doing so!