How to play online poker for real money

real money online poker
Jon Sofen
Posted on: March 14, 2021 08:03 PDT

When you're ready to grab a seat in a friendly online poker game, we can help make your experience a pleasant one. You'll be glad to know that at most poker sites, the sign-up process is quick and painless, and you can hop into a game within minutes.

The first thing you need to do is to choose where you want to play. It's important that you pick a site that is reliable, safe and secure. But you should also seek an app with plenty of traffic so that you can get into a game when you're ready to play.

Can you legally play online poker in the U.S.?

You can legally play online poker in the U.S., but you have to be in certain states. New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Delaware all have state laws that make it legal to operate an online poker system. U.S. poker sites like and PokerStars let players in those states play legally.

How does real money poker work?

In real-money poker online, once a player has deposited money into their account, they have a few ways to spend that money. More often than not, players will use their money to play in either real-money cash games or poker tournaments.

Some cash games put a cap on the amount you can buy in for. Other cash games will let you buy in for as much as you want, as long as you have the money in your account.

You can also play real-money tournaments online. Just like with live tournaments, you’ll submit a one-time fee along with the buy-in amount for the tournament. Then you’ll play using tournament chips. So if a player starts with 5,000 chips in a tournament, that does not usually equate to $5,000. Chips are worth whatever the tournament organizers set them at.

What are the best sites for playing poker for real money?

For U.S. players, the best real-money poker sites are and PokerStars. The site is the only place where you can win a World Series of Poker online bracelet in America. PokerStars will often run special tournament series specific to the states where it operates. 

Americas Cardroom often runs online series and big tournaments such as the OSS and the Venom tournament. In these popular tourneys, the prize pools and top cash prizes and payouts can often rival the huge numbers formerly seen on Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars when they were legal nationwide. 

The best sites to play poker for real money outside of the U.S.

Outside of the U.S., PokerStars remains the top option for legal online poker, but a few websites are quickly gaining traction. GGpoker has signed several big-name players to represent it, including Daniel Negreanu and Dan Bilzerian.

GGpoker partnered with the WSOP in 2021 to run a few online bracelet events — a first outside of the site. 888poker is another popular poker website in Europe and Asia, running several big poker tournaments. You can play for real money online via several of these sites on your PC, iPhone, or Android device. 

Of course, all these poker web servers also run cash games — both high stakes and low stakes — as well as sit-n-go events and other options. 

The poker site sign-up process

Once you have a poker site in mind, it's time to download the software (if applicable). Most poker sites take just a couple minutes to download and are virus-free to use on your computer or, in most cases, mobile device.

After the download process is complete, open up the software and create an account. This is the point where you'll decide on a screen name. Make sure you like the moniker you've chosen because you won't be permitted to change it later on. And you can only create one account. Multi-accounting is prohibited in online poker and will lead to a permanent ban from the poker site.

During the sign-up process, you will be asked to provide personal information such as your full name, address, date of birth, and social security number. This is where we go back to the section above about choosing a safe and secure site. You're giving out some personal information, so it's important to choose a company you can trust.

Since IRS tax return fraud is such a prevalent crime, you may even want to look into getting an IRS IP PIN. That's not just a good idea for online poker, but for your life in general.

Some poker sites may require additional documentation to prove you are who you say you are. If this happens, it's perfectly normal and a pain-free process. Most likely, they'll ask you to scan your ID and possibly a utility bill in your name at the address they have on file for you. No big deal.

Making a deposit

Immediately after you've completed the sign-up process, you're one step away from playing real money online poker. Before you can get into a game, you need some money to play with.

One option is to win money in freeroll tournaments, but that can take some time and you're likely to win just a small amount. So, the best option is to make a deposit into your player account.

Most deposits are instant and the funds will be available for you to enter poker games within moments. To make a deposit, simply click on "Cashier" on the poker site software. That will take you to a separate tab that will walk you through the deposit process.

Each poker site is different in terms of deposit methods available. Bitcoin is becoming a popular way to fund an online poker account. But most sites also offer traditional methods such as credit card, debit card, ACH and bank transfer deposits.

Fees are attached to some, but not most, deposit methods. Bank transfers, for example, typically cost a few bucks, and your funds may not be available for play right away.

What poker games are available online?

Millions of players love online poker for a variety of reasons. The main appeals are the rapid pace of play compared to live poker and the vast variety of poker games spread on websites like PokerStars and

Online gambling sites offer a long list of stud games, from stud hi/lo to razz. Most sites also typically spread more obscure games like badugi, 2-7 triple draw and single-draw no-limit, with stakes for beginners as well as experts.

Hold’em and Omaha

All online poker sites will spread the cadillac of poker — no-limit Texas hold'em — and pot-limit Omaha. Pot-limit is often the mixed game of choice for no-limit hold'em players who want a bit more action in their poker games.

All of these games are spread in the cash game section, and several online sites will also run various mixed game tournaments and sit-n-gos in order to give players a variety of options to spend their money on. Some of these sites also let you hit the jackpot with online casino games like blackjack and slots. 

Joining an online game with real poker players

Now it's time to have some fun, and hopefully make some money. You have money in your account, so you're all set and ready to go. All you need to do now is to choose a game to play.

Most online poker sites offer a mixture of games at various stakes. And we aren't just talking about the specific poker game (no-limit hold'em, pot-limit Omaha, etc.). We're also referring to the different formats.

Understanding the different types of poker formats

The most popular format is cash game poker. And most poker sites offer cash games from the micro-stakes, as low as $0.01/$0.02 blinds, often all the way up to $400/$800 for those with unlimited bankrolls.

If you aren't into cash games, you may enjoy playing multi-table tournaments, heads-up matches, or sit n go's, which are similar to tournaments, but the game typically only has one table.

Game play is simple and the site will automatically let you know when it's your turn to act, so you don't have to make everyone at the table wait while you try to figure out how to play. That's one of the benefits to online poker compared to live poker. If you're playing live poker and you hold up the game, chances are that others at the table will yell at you.

Improving the odds

As much fun as it is to play poker, it can be quite expensive if you don't work on your game consistently. Make no mistake, poker is a game of skill over the long run. The top pros spend as much time studying the game as they do playing. It's a difficult game to beat, but if you put in the work by signing up for training sites such as Chip Leader Coaching or Upswing Poker, network with successful pros, and brutally analyze your play after every session, you can be among those who win big.

Making a withdrawal

There's nothing more exciting than picking up a big score at the poker tables. After you've hit your financial target, you can request a withdrawal of all or some of the money in your account.

In most cases, the money will be returned to you in the same manner it was deposited. Most online poker withdrawals nowadays are processed quickly. Back in the day, in the early 2000s, players often waited weeks and sometimes months to see the money, but not anymore.

When you request your first withdrawal, if you haven't sent in your documentation to verify your identity, you may be asked to do so prior to receiving the money.

One additional and very important final note on this section is that before you ever make a deposit, be certain that you have a bank statement or utility bill available showing the same address as shown on your ID or driver's license. If not, the withdrawal process could be an issue. It's best to be prepared beforehand so you don't run into any problems when you're ready to get paid.

Go have some fun

As you can tell from this article, playing poker online for real money is simple. The process from downloading the poker client to making a deposit and then entering a game happens in a matter of As you can tell from this article, playing real money poker games online is simple.

So, pick a poker site, make a deposit, and start stacking chips. And don't forget to study the game and work to improve throughout your online poker career.

Featured image source: Twitter