Poker is one of the world's most popular card games, and online poker allows you to play it from the comfort of your own home. There are lots of online poker sites in New Zealand, so in this article, we'll provide a crash course in the game for those of you who want to start playing. As well as explaining how to play the game itself, we'll also tell you how to sign up with an online poker site and how to maximize your chances of winning.
Best Online Poker Sites in New Zealand
Online Poker: Winning Hands
Online poker games come in several different varieties, but in most of them, the aim is to make the best possible hand of five cards. Poker uses regular playing cards, of which there are 52 to a standard deck. In most cases, the cards numbered 2 through 10 have their face value, while the picture cards are ranked, J (Jack), Q (Queen), and K (King), in order of increasing value. The A (Ace) is even more valuable than a K, although it can also count as a 1 when you want it to.
The chart below shows the various five-card poker hands that can be made, from the most valuable Royal Flush to the least valuable High Card:
For those of you who haven't yet encountered these hands, here is how they are made:
Royal Flush: This hand comprises each of the five most valuable cards (10-J-Q-K-A) and all of those cards must be of the same suit: spades, clubs, diamonds or hearts.
Straight Flush: Five cards, all of the same suit and consecutively ranked. For example, the chart above shows a Straight Flush of 7-8-9-10-J of clubs.
Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same value, plus any other card.
Full House: This is a five-card hand that comprises a Three of a Kind and a Pair, as defined further down this list.
Flush: Five cards of the same suit, no matter what their values.
Straight: Five cards of consecutive rank, of different suits. This is a hand where an A can count as either a 1 (as in A-2-3-4-5) or the highest card in the deck (as in 10-J-Q-K-A).
Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank, plus any other two cards.
Two Pair: This hand comprises one Pair of one rank and another Pair of another rank, plus any other card.
One Pair: A hand with one Pair and any three other cards.
High Card: If a hand doesn't have any of the above, it is ranked by the value of its most valuable card.
You should note that, when two hands of the same type compete, the one with the most valuable cards will win. For example, a Three of a Kind of Kings would be more valuable than - and therefore beat - a Three of a Kind of Queens.
How to Play Online Poker
We have already said that online poker comes in several different varieties. Fortunately, if you understand the most popular variety, which is Texas Hold'em, you'll be in great shape to pick up the others in no time. It's for that reason that we'll teach you how to play online poker with Texas Hold'em.
In Texas Hold'em, each player will receive two cards (known as 'hole cards') and the table will receive up to five community cards. The aim is for you to make the best five-card hand that you can by using any five of those seven cards, and the game itself goes through several stages, as explained below.
Blinds are Posted
In poker, the more information you have, the better. That gives a player who is last to act a big advantage over everyone else. To try and balance things out, each hand of poker will be started by a different player, and every player will therefore also get to act last at some point.
The player who acts last in a hand is given a button marker to signify their position and the two players to the left of the button get the betting pot started by "posting the blinds". The Big Blind is equal to the minimum bet, and the Small Blind is equal to half the minimum bet. The player in the Small Blind position will need to add another half of the minimum bet if he or she actually wants to participate in the hand.
Hole Cards are Dealt
Now that the blinds have got the betting pot started, the dealer deals two cards face-down to every play. These are the hole cards, and the only people who get to see them for most of the game are their respective owners. You will therefore be able to see your hole cards on screen throughout the game, but you won't see the cards of other players. Similarly, they won't see yours.
At this point, all players at the table have received two cards. On the basis of those cards, each player can decide whether or not they want to participate in the current hand. The player to the left of the blind decides whether to Call, Raise or Fold, and other players follow suit, with betting moving clockwise around the table.
- Call means to make a bet equal to the previous bet. You need to at least Call to stay in the hand, and failing to do so means that you are essentially deciding to Fold.
- Raise means to make a bet that is bigger than the previous bet. This will force other plays to Call the higher amount, Raise again or Fold.
- Fold means to pull out of the current hand. You won't have to bet anything to fold, but you will lose your chance to win and any money that has already been bet by you will remain in the pot for the eventual victor.
Here's how an online poker table with four participants might look at this stage of the game. Note that in this image you are player 2 and that you can see your hole cards but not the hole cards of players 1, 3, or 4.
Flop and Betting
The first three community cards, known as the flop, will be dealt to the middle of the table. Because these are cards that all players can make use of, they are dealt face-up.
Another round of betting now takes place, and this time you will know whether or not you have already managed to make a decent five-card hand. You can use that knowledge - and your assessment of how strong a chance of winning you might have - when deciding to Call, Raise or Fold.
Another option that you could have from this point on is to Check. This simply means to Call when no previous bet has been made, in which case Calling won't cost you a cent.
Turn and Betting
A fourth card will be dealt face-up to the middle of the table. This is the turn card, which may or may not increase your chances of winning. The dealing of the turn will be followed by another round of betting.
River and Betting
The final community card to be dealt face-up to the middle of the table is called the river. By now you have all the information you need to see what your best possible hand is, so in a final round of betting you can fold, call, raise or check, as you see fit.
After the final round of betting, all players who haven't folded will show their hole cards and the strongest hand will win the betting pot in its entirety. Should two or more hands be tied in strength for the win, the pot will be divided equally between them.
This is assuming, of course, that there are two or more players remaining after the final round of betting. If all players but one fold at any time leading up to this stage, the pot will go to the lone active player, who will win by default no matter what hand he has. Should a player win because all other players fold, he doesn't have to reveal his hole cards unless he wants to.
How to Play at New Zealand Poker Sites
Playing online poker for real money at New Zealand poker sites is a simple matter of finding a suitable venue, opening an account and making your first deposit. Here's how to do all of that in a matter of minutes.
Step 1 - Select a Suitable Venue
All of the poker sites that we recommend are as safe, solid and well-featured as they get, so simply pick one that you like the look of for the time being. You can also join one or two others later when you have some real-world experience under your belt.
Step 2 - Open an Account
Visit your chosen venue and click the Sign-Up button to open its online registration form. Enter your details into that form, double-check for accuracy and then press the Register or Submit button. Your new account will be opened automatically.
Step 3 - Install Software (If Required)
Some venues will require you to download and install their poker software to your computer or mobile device before you can play. If that's the case, you should do so. All relevant instructions will be provided. If your venue doesn't require you to download software, you will play games in your web browser.
Step 4 - Make Your First Deposit
Before you can play with real money you first need to deposit some. The good news is that most online poker sites will reward you for making a first deposit by giving you a bonus. Check the promotions page at your chosen venue so that you can enter any bonus codes required to take advantage of such offers.
Step 5 - Play Poker!
At this point, your only task is to choose a poker game and start playing. In the beginning, we would advise you to stick to Texas Hold'em and to play at the lowest stakes possible. You can then advance to higher stakes - should you want to - when you feel confident enough to do so.
When you are comfortable with Texas Hold'em, you might want to consider playing other online poker variations. There are plenty of them out there, but the most popular ones in New Zealand are as follows:
This variation is a lot like Texas Hold’em, but here players are dealt four hole cards and not just two. The aim is to make the best five-card hand using exactly two of those hole cards and three of five community cards.
7 Card Stud
Two big differences that you’ll notice between Texas Hold’em and 7 Card Stud is that no community cards are dealt and each player receives seven cards unless they fold before the end of the hand. The aim is to make the best five-card hand from those seven.
H.O.R.S.E. is actually five different variations that are played one after the other. The variations involved are Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, 7 Card Stud, and 7 Card Stud 8s or Better. For obvious reasons, you probably shouldn’t play this game until you have experience playing all of the variations involved.
Cash Games and Tournaments
Online poker games of all types can be played in a number of formats. The main ones are cash or ring games, single-table tournaments (STTs) and multi-table tournaments (MTTs). The main features of each are as follows:
Cash Games (aka Ring Games)
These are games that are played for real money. They have no start or end time, so you can get involved by taking a seat and playing. You can also get up to leave whenever you want, taking your profit with you or leaving your losses behind you, as appropriate.
Single-Table Tournaments (STTs)
These are mini-tournaments that usually involve up to nine players seated at a single table. STTs start as soon as all seats are occupied, and they continue until just one player remains, which often takes no more than an hour or so. You pay a tournament fee to get involved and if you win you’ll win the biggest share of the prize pool. Those who come close also win smaller shares in most cases.
Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs)
As you’ve probably guessed, these are larger tournaments than STTs with more players and more tables employed to accommodate them. With more players involved, the prize pools are bigger, but the tournaments take longer to run. Expect to be playing for several hours at a time or even, in some cases for several days (with breaks for sleep, of course).
Online Poker - Pros and Cons
Playing poker online is hugely exciting and can recreate the excitement of being in a land-based casino, even if you're playing at home or on mobile. But, like everything in life, there are also some drawbacks. Here are the main pros and cons for playing online poker.