Online Poker is a game of chance where players wager real money against other individuals over the internet. The game has grown to become one of the most popular forms of gambling in the world, with an estimated gross win of over $10 billion annually (Online Poker Traffic Reports). The popularity of the game is fueled by large television coverage of high stakes tournaments and by a growing number of people who play on their smartphones or tablets.
Although there are a few stand-alone poker rooms, most online poker activity takes place on networks operated by major poker sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. These network sites offer players a range of options from which to choose, including cash games and multi-table tournaments. Many players self-select into stake levels on the basis of their perception of their skill level, with better players more likely to play in higher stakes. However, as is the case with many games of chance, it can take a long time for true skill differences to become apparent.
Despite the large amount of money that can be won in a single hand, online poker is not without its share of cheating scandals. Rogue employees at Full Tilt Poker and other online operators have been accused of rigging poker hands to benefit themselves or their employer. These types of scandals are difficult to prevent, but they can be made much less likely when players stick with licensed and regulated online poker sites.
The legality of online poker depends on state jurisdiction, and many states have passed laws to make it legal within their borders. New Jersey has been the largest market to date for regulated online poker, and it is expected that Pennsylvania and Michigan will soon join the fold as well.
In order to play for real money in a regulated online poker site, players must be physically located within the state in which they are playing. Many online poker sites use a variety of methods to verify that players are in a legal state, such as looking at an IP address and triangulation via cell phone towers. Some even require that a player submit a government-issued photo ID before they can deposit.
The majority of online poker sites accept payments in a wide variety of currencies, but most convert those funds to U.S. dollars at a premium of up to 10%. This allows them to attract a global customer base while still being profitable in the United States. It also helps to mitigate fluctuations in the currency markets that would otherwise affect poker room revenues. Many online poker sites also offer bonus programs for new players, such as a free $100 in bonus money after playing just one hand. This can be a great way to try out the software and experience before investing your own money. However, it is important to read the fine print on these offers before you decide whether or not they are a good fit for your situation.