Many online poker sites
provide players with an instant-play flash version of a selection of their poker games
that does not have to be downloaded and installed on a computer before one can start playing. For some online poker players
, a download-free flash poker option supplies accessibility when PC-oriented software downloads are not a viable option.
While all real money online poker
sites provide free poker client software that can be installed on any PC, there are some instances in which a player may not be able to - or willing to - download the software. With a modern browser and Adobe Flash Player installed, several online poker sites furnish the option for registered users to play online poker cash games immediately.
No download, flash poker is a convenient alternative to online poker players who want to play real money cash games, but are prohibited in some way from downloading the online poker software. Registration is still required for instant-play, real money online poker games (unless one already has an existing account). Once registration is completed, one simply needs to log into the online poker site's instant-play games from any computer with a recent version of Adobe Flash Player installed.
While a handful of online poker rooms
have developed poker client software that can be downloaded and installed on a Mac computer, most of the online poker sites have not yet achieved this goal. Mac users can, however, register and participate using an instant-play flash poker option, which is much more widely available than a Mac download version. Flash poker is also far easier, cheaper and more reliable than using Windows emulating software for Mac in order to install and run the PC version of an online poker client. A flash-enabled browser, such as Firefox or Safari, and Adobe Flash Player is all that is required.
Flash poker options are also important for Linux users, for whom there are no compatible online poker clients in development. Since Adobe Flash Player expanded to include support for Linux users, many Linux operating systems are capable of running the instant-play flash poker games in flash-enabled browsers such as Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome.
The instant-play flash poker games also offer greater flexibility and mobility, for instance, when accessing the online poker site from another computer, or from work. In such cases, a player can log into their account from any computer and play the instant flash poker version, whether or not the poker client is installed on their home computer. Also an older home computer with limited disk space may not meet the requirements of the online poker site's desktop software, in which case, as long as Adobe Flash Player is installed on the computer, a flash poker option would be the ideal method for accessing real money online poker games.
There are drawbacks to flash poker versions of online poker sites that make installing the poker client software onto one's home PC the more desirable option in most cases. Developers put a great deal more work into the online poker site's native software, including constant updates and bug fixes. The instant-play flash poker available at an online poker site will typically never measure up to the scope of the downloadable software.
Instant-play flash poker usually contains a fraction of the online poker site's game selection, and in many cases, only cash games are accessible. Tournaments are not usually supplied through a flash poker version, and multi-table play is generally unavailable. In addition, the graphics are often sub-par by comparison, and account information tends to be less secure when sent through a browser than over the online poker site's native client.
For 64-bit Linux users who have been unable to resolve issues with the most recent version of Adobe Flash Player, a free windows emulator or Wine may be required in order to resolve the issue. In fact, some of the online poker clients available for download and installation on PCs will run with minimal (even negligible) issues when using Wine to provide a layer of compatibility.
There are a number of free flash game sites that offer AI poker games in which players can compete against computer players for pretend money. These can provide entertainment for players who are not serious about improving their poker skills and never intend to play online poker for real money. However, the AI in these games is nothing like competing against real poker players, and the formats rarely bear any resemblance to online poker games.
Anyone who wishes to try playing poker for free in order to learn how, can do so at most online poker sites. The play money games allow players to compete against live people, and give a more accurate portrayal of real money online poker game structure. Play money games are available in the instant-play flash poker offerings at online poker sites, though the number of games is often limited in comparison to the games available through the downloaded and installed poker client. Registration is usually required, but no finacial information is asked for unless a player decides to make a deposit to play the real money games.
Since its very first release, the Merge Gaming Network
has utilized a flash-based poker client that can be downloaded and installed on a PC. Each skin download (ie. Carbon Poker
, Aced, etc.) of the Merge Gaming online poker software
is a 32-bit windows executable file, which means that the client is only compatible with Windows operating systems (or a viable workaround such as an emulator). However, the graphics use Adobe Flash, and run excellently in conjunction with the most recent Flash Player release.
Obviously, with the growth in popularity of Mac and other Apple products, the ultimate goal for all online poker providers is to eventually supply total software compatibility. While a handful of online poker sites have already released alpha versions of their poker clients for the Mac, many already have Mac versions in development, and with time more and more sites will follow suit.
Though these advances will certainly improve service for those who want to, but cannot, download the native client for their favorite online poker site, it will not eliminate the need for instant-play flash poker for those who cannot download the software to every computer with which they play poker online