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Question
Hello. I was interested in playing some online poker. However, I know a lot of gaming websites that have viruses, and I really want to avoid that. My question to you is, do you know of any poker websites that I can visit with no viruses? The best ones (legit ones)? Thank you.

Answer
Susan,

Playing on-line poker within the U.S. is still a bit of a sticky situation.  Without going into all of the history over the past 6 years let’s just say that the Government is in the process of approving and regulating on-line poker for its U.S. players.  That said, any on-line poker sites you choose to play on today (as of 29 Nov 2012) are unregulated and your funds are not protected by the U.S. Government.

While the Government cannot stop you from playing on-line poker, they can make it illegal for banks to process electronic payments enabling you to move your money onto a poker site in order to start playing.  This hurdle hasn't stopped some players.

The largest on-line poker site in the world is PokerStars.  Earlier this summer they purchased the 2nd largest on-line poker site, FullTilt Poker.  PokerStars is in the process of applying for Government approval, but until that happens they do not allow U.S. players on their site.

There are several traditional brick and mortar casinos who have also applied for Government approval, such as Caesars Entertainment, but to date none of these sites are up and running.  And when they do they will be restricted to servicing poker players in their states only.  As Texas has no land-based casinos you would not be able to play on the sites that are in the pipeline for approval.  The first states to get approval look to be Nevada, D.C., California, New Jersey, and a few smaller states.

So, what are your options?  There are a dozen smaller on-line poker sites that are still servicing U.S. players.  The bigger sites are the most reputable.  These include: Sportsbook, Sports Betting, LockPoker, CarbonPoker, Bovada, 888Poker, Titan Poker, bwin Poker, and a smattering of many other tiny sites.  The first five in this list are the “most trusted” according to customer reviews.

Before you deposit a dime onto any on-line poker site I would suggest you take the following 3 steps:

Step 1 - Research the Site
Within the last 6 years many sites have sprung up and have since withered away, leaving players frustrated and in some cases cheated out of their money.  Research any potential on-line poker site.  Read player and industry reviews.  If they offer a “play money” account sign up for that first and see if you like the software (usually the play money sites are under the .net domain and the real money sites are under the .com domain).  Check out any on-line chat rooms to hear what other players are saying about the site.  The largest poker forum by far is 2+2 (http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com).

Step 2 – Take Advantage of Sign Up Bonuses and Rakeback
All sites offer these 2 enticements.  A sign up bonus is generally a one-time bonus where the site will match a percentage of your initial deposit.  For example, some sites will offer a 25% sign up bonus.  If you open your account for $400 they will give you an extra $100.  Other sites over larger sign up bonuses which are only paid after you play X amount of hands.  Rackback is a method for a poker site to have other websites advertise for them to bring new customers to their site.  In exchange for this the poker site will give the website and you, the player, a percentage of the rake on a monthly basis.  Rake is the money the poker site takes from each hand dealt (this is how poker sites make their money).  Both sign up bonuses and rackback are “free money” but are only available for new customers, so be sure to take advantage of each when you activate your account.

Step 3 – Practice and Patience
If you've played poker in a casino then the on-line experience will be something totally different.  On-line players are much more loose and aggressive than those you’ll run across in a casino.  While play money on-line sites do not replicate that experience, it still allows you to have fun playing poker from the comfort of your home.  That’s the practice part.  Patience is the second bit of advice, and I don’t mean being patient at the poker tables and wait for good cards.  I mean be patient and wait for the Government to approve and regulate on-line poker.  While the smaller on-line poker sites I've mentioned do have U.S. players on them today, it’s still a risky business.  You have no protection against potential problems such as: Am I being cheated at the tables?  I can no longer log into my account?  My balance is incorrect?  Why is there a fee whenever I deposit or withdraw funds?  What if the site goes bankrupt?  Will they close their doors to U.S. players unexpectedly?  These are just too many risky propositions in my book, so practice in the meantime and have some patience until the Government offers legal, regulated poker in your state.

Hope this helps Susan.

Vic

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Vic G

Expertise

I've been playing poker for over 39 years and have played professionally for the last 8 years. I can answer just about any poker related question you have from rules to strategy, from home games to poker rooms, and from tournaments to cash games. I can also recommend a number of poker books from the educational to non-fiction to autobiographies. I also have one of the largest collection of $1 casino chips in the world, so if you have questions about casino chip collecting or about specific casinos or poker rooms, I can assist you with those questions as well.

Experience

I've been playing poker for over 39 years and have played professionally for the last 8 years.

Publications
Ante Up magazine: October 2008

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers College of Engineering. MBA in Management Science from Wright State University.

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