by James Langley on 02.08.2022

Online Poker

To the uninitiated, poker can be daunting to begin with. Although it’s true many players spend years mastering their strategies and perfecting their gameplay, the basics of poker are actually pretty easy to grasp. 

In this guide, we’ll be giving you a crash course in online poker, running you through the rules of a few different variants. We’ll also cover the glut of poker bonuses up for grabs — they’re a great way to kick off your time at a site.

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Poker Explained

At its core, poker is a card game where players compete to make the best hand possible, betting at various points throughout the round — usually based on the strength of their cards — until it’s time to show their hands. The winner is determined by the highest ranking hand, taking the pot for themselves.

There are countless variants of this classic card game, several of which are offered at the best poker sites. You can find the basics of each below.

Texas Hold’em

One of the most popular variants played around the world is Texas hold’em. It’s usually what you’ll see the pros playing in poker tournaments, and is offered in brick-and-mortar casinos too. A community card game, Texas hold’em involves five ‘community’ cards dealt face up — players use these in combination with their own two ‘hole’ cards to make the best five-card hand they can.

Omaha

Omaha plays out just like Texas hold’em, except players are dealt four hole cards each instead of two. Their hands must be made up of precisely two of their hole cards and three of the five community cards. 

There’s also Omaha Hi-Lo, where the pot is shared between the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand.

Draw Poker

Draw poker refers to any type of poker where players are dealt a complete hand before betting begins. They can then swap cards and ‘draw’ new ones, trying to create the best hand in time for the showdown. Five-card draw is the most popular type of draw poker, but there are many different variants to play, each with their own nuances.

Stud Poker

The main thing that differentiates stud poker from other types is players are dealt a mix of face-up and face-down cards over a number of rounds, with betting following each. As with all variants, the goal is to hold the best hand at the end. A few stud poker games include five-, six-, and seven-card stud, Razz, and Caribbean stud, which is played against the house.

How to Play Poker

Make no mistake — there’s a large element of skill involved in poker, in stark contrast to the majority of casino games that depend mostly or even entirely on chance. Of course, that’s why poker is so alluring to many players, but if you don’t know how to play, you’re not going to last long once the betting begins!

Before we run through a round, here are the different actions you can take:

  • Check – the default option if you don’t want to raise or call a bet.
  • Bet or raise – if all players before you have checked, you have the option to place a bet. If someone has bet before you, you can raise this bet by an additional amount.
  • Call – what you do if you want to match another player’s bet.
  • Fold – if you don’t want to call a bet, you fold and are out of the round. 

Each round of poker plays out in a certain sequence. As an example, let’s walk through a single round of Texas hold’em poker, which begins with the cards being shuffled. Two compulsory bets, the big blind and small blind, are placed by the two players to the left of the dealer button. The big blind is equal to the table’s minimum bet and the big blind is half of this. 

Here’s what happens next:

  1. Players are dealt two hole cards each, face down, which they may then look at. 
  2. A betting round occurs. Players must call the big blind or any players who raise, or fold and discard their hand. 
  3. Three community cards called the flop are dealt face up. 
  4. Another betting round occurs.
  5. One community card called the turn is dealt face up.
  6. Another betting round occurs.
  7. One community card called the river is dealt face up.
  8. Remaining players compare their hands in the showdown, and the highest ranking hand takes the pot. 
  9. The dealer button moves one step clockwise before the next hand begins.

While each variant of poker will have its own nuances and rules, the idea is broadly the same, with the game alternating between betting rounds and the dealing of cards, allowing players to make decisions based on the strength of their hand. Bluffing is a big part of poker too — many players have won enormous pots with nothing but a high card!

Poker Hand Ranks

An essential aspect of poker to learn is the different hand ranks. Here they are in order, from highest to lowest:

HandDescriptionExample
Royal flushA straight flush from 10 to AA, K, Q, J, 10, all clubs
Straight flushFive consecutive cards of the same suit7, 6, 5, 4, 3, all hearts
Four of a kindFour of the same card7, 7, 7, 7, 4
Full houseThree of a kind and two pairJ, J, J, 7, 7
FlushFive cards of the same suitK, Q, 7, 6, 2, all diamonds
StraightFive consecutive cards of any suitJ, 10, 9, 8, 7
Three of a kindThree of the same card9, 9, 9, A, 10
Two pairTwo different pairsA, A, 4, 4, J
PairTwo of the same cardK, K, Q, 8, 3
High cardA single cardQ, J, 9, 6, 5

Online Poker Bonus Offers

A poker bonus is a great way to get started at a casino site, especially if you’re new to the game. You’ll be able to familiarise yourself with the rules and practise without risking real money — playing in demo mode is another great way to do this.

Here’s a round-up of some different bonuses you’ll find at poker sites.

Matched Deposits

When you make your first deposit, many poker sites will match the amount by a certain percentage, often 100% but sometimes more or less. An example offer could be a 100% match up to £100 — when you deposit £100, you’ll get an extra £100 for a total of £200 to play with.

Bet X Get Y

Sometimes you’ll have to bet or spend a certain amount to receive your bonus, for example an offer of £30 in free credit when you bet £10. That credit can then be used to make bets at the site’s poker tables.

Cashback

Available to both new and existing players, cashback gives you back a percentage of either the total money you spend on poker, the amount you lose, or your net spend. The percentages can vary — it could be under 1% or as high as 10% or more. If we say it’s 1% and applies to all of your wagers, that means for every £100 spent on poker at the site, you’ll get £1 returned.

No Deposit Bonus

With a no deposit bonus, you can claim rewards without having to make a qualifying deposit. It could be a small amount of free play credit, or perhaps a handful of free spins if the site also hosts slot games. In any case, it’s a great way to try out the site without making a cash commitment beforehand.

Terms and Conditions Relating to Your Poker Bonus

Any time you claim a poker bonus, there are going to be a few strings attached. It’s essential you read through the full terms and conditions before claiming to be sure it’s an appropriate offer for you. Here are some of the key stipulations to be aware of.

Wagering Requirements

These particular terms often stand in the way of making a return from a bonus. You’ll need to meet the wagering requirements if you want to withdraw any resulting winnings. Put simply, you must wager a certain amount of your own money before the bonus becomes withdrawable — it could be anywhere from around 5x the bonus to 50x or more. Lower wagering requirements are easier to fulfil and therefore more player friendly.

Payment Exclusions

Make sure you make your qualifying deposit with an eligible payment method. e-Wallets often find themselves on the list of exclusions, and prepaid cards occasionally end up here as well. Debit cards are nearly always accepted when claiming a poker bonus. 

Time Limits

You’ll have to use your bonus within the allotted time frame, or it’ll be forfeited. The friendliest bonuses allow players at least 30 days to play through the entire value and meet the wagering requirements, while some stiffer deals may give you just 24–48 hours once you claim.

Minimum Deposit

To trigger the bonus, your qualifying deposit needs to meet the minimum requirement. This depends on the bonus but is usually in the realm of £10–£20. You can also find no deposit bonuses that don’t require you to stump up any cash at all.

The Best Poker Sites

With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start — here are just a few of our favourite poker sites to give you some inspiration.

NameBonusClaim BonusReviewTerms and conditionsInformation

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One of the premier names in the business, the 888 brand is well-known among UK players thanks to its fantastic sportsbook and casino offerings. There are over 10 million registered users at 888poker, so you’ll have no shortage of opponents! Sign up and you can take advantage of a £20 no deposit bonus, perfect if you’re new to the game and looking to get your feet wet.

The following are the terms and conditions of the "The first deposit offer-100% up to £888+88 free spins " (the "Offer") for 888casino.com (the “Site”). The Offer is organized by the company defined in the User Agreement applicable to you. This offer is valid until 31.12.2023; 23:59 GMT. This promotion is applicable for new players only (you may not participate in the Offer if you have previously 888casino.com or 777.com) and is limited to one (1) person per household. 18+ Please Gamble Responsibly. Click 'Claim Bonus' to view the full terms and conditions.

plus What we like

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Unibet is a trusted household name in the UK, with over two decades of experience behind it. It’s not as well known for its poker offering, but it pulls no punches here. New players can bag a £20 bonus consisting of tournament tickets and game credit, plus a £500 progressive bonus which is slowly unlocked as you play at the site.

18+ to register. New Customers Only. www.begambleaware.org. Minimum deposit £10. Max Bonus £200. * 10 free spins on registration *Free spins on first deposit as follows :Deposit £10 or more and receive 40 free spins * Deposit £50 or more and receive 90 free spins * Deposit £75 or more and receive 140 free spins *Deposit £100 or more and receive 190 free spins *Free Spins (50x wagering) *Deposit Bonus (50x wagering). Further T&Cs apply. Skrill & Neteller deposits excluded.

plus What we like

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minus What we don't like

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Poker Site Payment Methods

To play poker online, you’ll need some funds in your account. You’ll find a range of payment methods available at our top poker sites, and there’s something to suit everyone. Check out some of the options below.

Debit Cards

Deposit speed: Instant

Withdrawal speed: 3–5 business days

Availability: All sites

You can always rely on debit cards for your poker deposits and withdrawals. They’re supported at virtually every site and let you instantly transfer funds to your casino wallet. There are no fees, and your details are protected by the latest encryption standards. Furthermore, they’re nearly always eligible for claiming a poker bonus. 

The main drawback is the slower withdrawal speed, usually taking 3–5 working days for funds to reach your account. If you’re a Visa customer, look out for sites that support Fast Funds, as this is much faster — sometimes as quick as half an hour.

e-Wallets

Deposit speed: Instant

Withdrawal speed: Instant – 24 hours

Availability: Most sites

e-Wallets act much like a bank account but are entirely digital, letting you hold a balance and link all your cards and bank accounts in one place. PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller are some of the most popular choices. You won’t need to share any banking info with the poker site, making these methods highly secure as well as convenient. Withdrawals are some of the fastest and can be processed within an hour or two.

The main drawback to e-wallets is they’re often excluded from claiming a poker bonus. And while deposits and withdrawals at the poker site are generally fee free, some services will charge you to withdraw your e-wallet balance to your bank account.

Prepaid Cards

Deposit speed: Instant

Withdrawal speed: Not supported

Availability: Many sites

Prepaid cards are a great choice for those who’d rather not share any financial details with the poker site, or are simply looking for a tool to help them manage their budget. Paysafecard is one option found at many online casinos. The vouchers can be bought at retailers in denominations from £10 to £100, and the 16-digit PIN code is used to transfer the funds to your casino wallet. While deposits are instant, you won’t be able to withdraw to a prepaid card unless you’re using a service with additional functionality such as AstroPay.

Get Started With the Best Online Poker Sites

If you’ve made it this far, there’s a good chance you’re ready to start playing online poker. Why not browse some of our expert reviews? We’ve selected the cream of the crop to help you find the site that suits your needs! Once you’re ready, click through to sign up and claim your poker welcome bonus.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the goal in poker?

    In poker, players attempt to make the highest ranking hand in order to win the pot. Each variant has different rules, but most games require five cards to make up a full hand. 

  • It depends on the bonus. A matched deposit is proportional to your deposit amount, while a ‘Bet X Get Y’ bonus requires spending a certain amount at the poker site to receive betting credit.

  • A poker deposit bonus is any offer that is unlocked by making a qualifying deposit, such as a matched deposit bonus, that can then be used on the site’s poker tables.

The people behind this page

Online gambling content experts helped write, edit and check this page:

James is a contributor at Gambling Deals focused on delivering his gambling industry expertise to our users in easy to understand and digestible copy. As well as writing guides, reviews, and recommendations, James supports the team with fine-tuning across the site to make sure we offer as much value as possible.

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