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Overview

Poker is a complex and interesting game with a broad spread of subject matter. Currently most of our material covers Texas Holdem due to the overwhelming popularity of that variant. For specialised information on less widely played variants, poker supplies, books and so forth, we have provided links to various poker websites in our Links Section.


Favourite Online Poker Rooms
Links to some online poker rooms that are both reputable and large, so you will be able to get the game you want fairly quickly.

Poker as a comparative gambling activity

Poker is one of the most skillful and fascinating gambling games ever devised and one of the few which Smartgambler recommends for the person who wishes to be a winning gambler.

Home games

Social poker is generally a good game to play because there is no house percentage, known as rake, and the standard is more likely to be low. On the other hand, you tend to either already be friends, or become friendly, with people you play against regularly and it may be ethically uncomfortable to consistently take money off them. If that is a consideration then commercial poker tournaments where the prizemoney comes from entry fees and sponsorship are more appropriate to your needs. For information about such events contact your national or state poker association or nearest land based casino. In Australia social poker is legal as long as there is no house rake.

There are hundreds of different variations of poker, but the similarities allow some people to become experts at many different types. One of the most important things to appreciate about poker is that it is not a game of luck, it is a game of skill that involves some luck in the short term. Whilst individual hands and indeed tournaments can be decided by luck, good poker players turn the percentages in their favour and the longer the game is played the more certain it is that money will migrate from the lesser players to the stronger.

Smartgambler has a very simple philosophy on poker, study, study and study the game! Become the most knowledgeable player you possibly can and continually try and improve. This involves knowing the table of probabilities for the variations you play off by heart, knowing how to perform the necessary mental arithmetic when calculations have to be made and finally learning the strategies and psychology that elevate the truly great players above those with mere mathematical flair.

There are thousands of books on poker and also a huge collection of internet sites devoted to the game. You will find it relatively easy to find study material so only your own level of motivation stands in the way of becoming a skilled player who can win consistently at the game.

Casino poker

We are slightly more ambivalent about casino poker in comparison to home games for several reasons. Most obvious is the house rake which typically will be something like 5% of each winning pot up to a prescribed maximum. This makes it difficult to win consistently unless you are a better player than most of the opposition. The trouble is that often many of the players on the table at casinos are skilled regulars and professionals just waiting for a nice plump Wood-duck to waddle up to the table. Taking money off these hardened regulars is hard work and there are easier gambling targets to attack. There seems to be a body of opinion though that the standard in most casino games is generally lower than the equivalent stakes game online, which we shall come to.

Another drawback with casino poker is the possibility of collusion. This is cheating of course, but it's tricky to prove and hard for the casinos to prevent. Since the cartels win money off other players and the casino still gets its cut, the casinos may not be quite as motivated as usual to stamp out this form of cheating, though they certainly claim to watch out for it.

One simple method used by such cheats is as follows. A signal is used by cartel members to determine who is holding the best hand. When a non cartel player is showing strength the weaker cartel hands are automatically folded, leaving only their best hand playing. If the non cartel player wins, the pot it is reduced in value from what it might have been if the cartel players had not known each others hands. Over time this disadvantage would wipe out the non colluding players.

There are many other tricks. Suffice to say that a skilled team of players can very easily take money off non colluding individuals. This form of cheating at casinos is not currently regarded as a major problem in Australia or most other well regulated environments, but it pays to be aware of the possibility and to quit any game where you feel there is any suspicious pattern to the play.

Online poker

Hundreds of online poker rooms have sprung up on the web and despite the potential for cheating it is definitely possible to win good money on these sites. One piece of advice I've heard is to play the lower stakes games as the cheats are more likely to target the richer games. Big sites like Party Poker and Pokerstars are probably the best places to play as they have built up a lucrative enough business to make it worthwhile for them to try very hard to keep their games clean and they are also unlikely to suddenly disappear with the balance of your account! There are also so many players there at any given time you can always find a weak table somewhere. There is a link to a listing of all our favourite poker sites at the top of this page.

Collusion
There is probably more collusion online than in all the casino and home games put together, but a lot of online collusion is poorly planned and executed and it's doubtful whether the colluders are actually gaining an edge over any reasonably skilled player. The card rooms are on the lookout for it and there are so many games available online that it's easy to move around if you have any suspicion at all that other players are cheating.

Bots
A lot has been written about the use of automated poker programs, known as bots, for cheating purposes. Whilst there are definitely some of these bots around, it's not clear that they are worth worrying much about. For a start the poker rooms take anti bot measures which limit their prevalence, and more importantly it's not yet evident that the bots can play better than skilled players... and if you're not a skilled player you will lose whether you are playing a bot or simply playing against superior human opposition. Your best defence against bots is to become a good player, which you have to do anyway to win long term at poker. One of the first things a good player learns is that if the game on a particular table seems too tough you should leave it and play elsewhere. Apart from being common sense if your aim is to win money, this reduces your exposure to cheating by any form.

 


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