Know Where to Hold ’Em 

If you want to play poker online, here are your best bets.

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As Utah law enforcement threatens to crack down on no-limit Texas Hold ’Em games and the new poker gambling craze is condemned by LDS Church leadership, wannabe Doyle Brunsons can still find a game if they turn to cyberspace.

If you already know that Brunson is a legendary poker champion, you’re probably already playing online. Others who watch the events on cable television networks have probably been intrigued or gotten an itch to try their luck outside of home games. The explosion of shows like Travel Channel’s The World Poker Tour and ESPN’s World Series of Poker has made the game more popular than ever. It’s no longer a game played in smoky basements or in the back of nightclubs; more people are playing at home, in casinos and on the Internet.

According to, there are about 120 Websites offering a variety of games 24 hours a day. The sites vary in both style and content. Some are run by casinos, some by sites strictly in the online poker business. There’s even one——financed by actor James Woods. Regardless of where you decide to invest your time and money, however, there are a few things you need to know. I’ve played poker for more than 15 years, and played Texas Hold ’Em long before it hit television. Out of the many Websites, I’ve found the best places to play and discovered a way to play without risking your own money.

When looking for a card room, you want a site with a trusted reputation for quick payouts and a true random card generator. Going to online poker forums like is a good way to get a sampling of opinions. You want a site that offers a plethora of “freerolls” that pay out cash and prizes. A freeroll is the site’s way to get you into playing by offering a small financial award or entry into a paying tournament if you win or place in a free tourney. Freerolls are a hard way to make it into money games, but playing steady, tight poker can lead you to some of the spoils. The other crucial facet of a good card site is one that allows you to accrue points for free play. Those points can then be used toward real money games.

My site of choice is I turned my bonus points into a hefty tournament payout, and have been playing ever since without risking a dime of my own cash. UB is home to several poker pros who host seminars as well as some of the most generous freerolls on the net. I’ve found it to be a fair site with good competition. similarly offers frequent, generous freerolls. is the new players’ friend. Royal Vegas offers a perk that many sites don’t—$10 in real money just for signing up. Unfortunately, I received my $10 when I was starting out with online play, and lost it in a matter of hours.

Because of the poker explosion, there are many players who want to play, but have no idea what they’re doing. Those types of players are the experienced player’s worst enemies. If you do decide to play for real money, you need to play in the site’s free or play money games for at least a month to get a feel for the type of play you will see. Because so many hands are played, you see more premium hands than you would at a live game, turning what would normally be a winning hand into a loser.

To be successful online there are two very important things you need. The first is patience—if you play too wild, your short-term success will eventually be met with incredible failures. The second is the most important: You have to know when enough is enough. Simply playing these games will not turn you into a degenerate gambling addict, but you have to be aware that you are gambling, and the money you’re playing with is real. While winning may be the ultimate objective in gambling, knowing when to stop is the best trait of any good player.

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