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Dickens' Poker Blog

I was the Group Media Manager for BLUFF Magazine South Africa and I'm a bit of a poker fiend, but I don't take it too seriously. I also worked at Fortune Lounge in the marketing retention department, so I've been quite involved in the poker industry in general.

I started playing poker about 5 years ago and I'm not exactly a shark, but I can hold my own. I'll be posting poker-related content here, in terms of advice, how to get started etc. etc.

If you're keen to get involved with poker then I suggest playing at FullTilt Poker. This is my preferred choice for international poker site and locally I play on Silversands.

May the flops be with you!



A simple guide to playing poker online

When it comes to online poker, for the novice, it often seems too overwhelming to even start. The plethora of poker rooms, software variations and different protocols seem to be daunting to say the least. If you are a novice and you are just getting started at online poker, or you are a seasoned player, you still need to find the poker room that is best for you. I have put together a short list of what to look for when choosing your online poker site.

As we all know, the internet is a crazy and potentially dangerous place. So the first thing to look for is a site that is reputable and trustworthy with excellent security in place. When you play online, you want to have the peace of mind that you, as a player, are protected by the site that you have chosen. Most sites have great security and anti-collusion software.

In general, the safest poker rooms are the sites that have the most players, or have been established for a long time, like Full Tilt. Both of these factors speak volumes about a poker room’s credibility. Simply Google for the most secure sites and poker networks, but make sure the review is from a subjective site (see below).

Check for affiliation to any (or all) of these:
  • Kahnawake Gaming Commission
  • IGASA (Internet Gambling Advertising Standards Authority)
  • IGC (Interactive Gaming Commission)
  • GPWA (Gambling Portal Webmasters Association)
  • eCogra ((eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance)  

Deposit Bonuses and Rake Back

If you are starting out with a new poker room, always be on the lookout for deposit bonuses and rake back opportunities. Some sites will offer you a deposit bonus. This means that they will often match your first deposit up to a certain amount. The deposit bonus is usually released to you as you play a certain number of hands. If you are planning on playing anyway, this really is free money and can make a difference in keeping you afloat when you get started.

Rake-back is another key aspect to look out for. Some sites offer up to 50% rake back. As you know, each hand you play is raked. This means that the house takes a small percentage of the pot as a fee for giving you the platform to play poker. This is standard practice across every live or online poker room worldwide. But if you can get a percentage of all the money that was raked on your hands back, this can make a huge difference to your bottom line at the end of each month. So always try finding a rake back deal.

Speaking of rake, you need to do some research on the sites you are considering before jumping in the deep end. Not all sites rake the same amount and obviously, the more they rake, the less you make. So you also need to take into account which sites have the lowest rake. Normally the bigger the site is the lower the rake will be. The reason being that with more turn over, they can charge you less to pay.
Loyalty Programs

Many sites offer great rewards and/or loyalty programs. Most sites will have some kind of loyalty program where you accumulate points for the amount of hands you play. You get more points when playing in bigger games. The more you play, and the bigger you play, the more points you get. You can then spend these points on a variety of things such as clothing, electronics, even a car if you get enough points on some sites. Other sites will give you cash back for your loyalty points or let you use them as tournament buy-ins. It is up to you to make sure that you are getting a loyalty program with the site you choose and then you must decide what you would like to get for those points. This could affect which site you ultimately choose.
Free Play

If you are just starting out, you want to make sure that the site you join has free play tables. This will give you the opportunity to not only work on your game as a novice, but it will also give you the ability to become familiar with the software and how everything works in the poker room. Even though the free play tables aren't a true reflection of real money poker, you can still use this feature very effectively in getting your game ready for the real money tables. Some sites also have great beginner programs where you can learn from the pros, get tips and even play with the pros. This is an option worth considering if you are just starting out.

Tournaments and Cash Tables

Even though most poker is played at the cash tables, tournaments are fast becoming as popular or even more so. The appeal of tournaments is that you have limited risk and for a small buy in, you can win a large amount of money. If you are keen on tourneys, you must look for a site that has not only satellites into their bigger tournaments, but also freerolls, where players can play for nothing and win a small sum if they get into the money. Some players have started out this way where they have never ever made a deposit into a site. They would just play in the free rolls and if they won money they would then take that to the cash tables and build a bankroll just from that. Chris Ferguson did this on Full Tilt as an experiment. He turned $0 into $20,000.
Show Me the Money!

The next thing you have to consider is how easy it is to get money in and out of this potential site. Sites have different rules about deposits and withdrawals. Some sites won't let you withdraw for a few days after you have deposited, others won't deposit back into your credit card, others only send you a cheque in the mail. Some inquiring is required to make sure that you can get your money in and out in a way that is feasible and efficient for you. Remember there are also some laws about how much money you can bring in and take out of any country, so keep this in mind when choosing your site and its location.


The next item on the list is the number of players. Are you looking to play on a small site where you will run into the same players at the same levels all the time? Alternatively perhaps you prefer anonymity, where you will hardly ever see the same players? The number of players varies dramatically. Up to 100,000 players are seen playing simultaneously on some of the bigger sites. The good thing about high numbers is that there is always availability of games at your preferred stakes or even at your preferred game. Bigger numbers also means bigger tournaments with bigger prize pools, but on the flip side, it also means that it is much more competitive and harder to win. So, you have to decide which suits you best and then proceed from there.

Range of Games

Not all poker players are Texas Hold'em players. Again, the site you are looking at should have a wide variety of games on offer. If you only want to play holdem, then any site will have that available, but if you prefer, Razz, Omaha or 7 card stud, you might have to look around to find a site that regularly has those games going. It doesn't help to just have the tables available, so you need to see if there are regular players playing your favourite game on that site. While you are checking out those tables, you need to also check to see if there are players and games available at the stakes you want to play. You might want to play a 1 cent/2 cent game or a 500/1000 game, but not all sites will have players playing on the extremes of the stakes spectrum.
Look and Feel

Now that you have all the technicalities out of the way, you need to find a site that fits your eye. By this, I mean do you like the software? Is it user friendly? Does it have a variety of options such as; resizing tables for multi-tabling, or changing backgrounds to better fit your eye or does it have the ability to change those annoying sounds that are driving you crazy? These may not seem that important, but if you are going to spend many hours playing on this site, it needs to be easy for you to use and easy to adjust to your preferences. So look for a site that makes sense to you and one that you feel comfortable with. Hopefully you can find one that allows you to make some of your own choices. For example, if you click on the below banner, you will see that Full Tilt offers poker for Mac.
Bankroll Management

The internet allows for many more players to play simultaneously. This creates a dynamic pool of skill. You may feel tempted to move above your bankroll level faster than normal, just because you ran into a bunch of fish. Keep to disciplined bankroll management to reap the most reward. 

  Lastly, try out their support before signing up. Sure, they'll be on the ball to try and get you to sign up and thus will provide the best service, but you'll need to make sure that there's 24/7 support via all of these channels: telephonic, e-mail and live chat (our preferred method).

It's your choice

Ultimately you will have to make the final decision on which poker site you want to spend your time and your money. Many players have accounts on more than one site and will use each site for its best characteristics. They might play cash games on one site and tourneys on another, or they may play holdem on one site and 7 card stud on another. There are many sites to choose from, but before you just jump in and start playing take the time to find out the relevant information that will make your poker experience as good as it can be….online that is.

I recommend FULL TILT

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