Acquiring and  installing Internet poker software ranks right  up there with some of the  most painless “new” computer experiences you can ever  have.  The hardware and  Net connectivity required are minimal, and  the  whole  software operation essentially boils  down  to clicking  a download button on a poker site  to get a poker client that runs your  game.  A single  click of the  icon after you download and  you’re  off and  running.

Your biggest concern should be picking  a good  site.  There is in the internet a checklist of good sites of poker online, you can confidently put  any potential host under the  microscope of quality. But before you idnpoker get too  far along  and  jump  straight into the  downloading and  playing process, you should tweak  the  real-world room where your  computer sits  just  a tad.

It is importan for you to get some tips  on getting yourself comfortable — both physically and  with your  new poker site  — getting your  software situated, and  crafting your  identity for play.

Creating Your Virtual Poker Environment

The fight between online  gaming  sites for your  business is fierce, and  because of this  competition, poker providers make sure that the  hardware, software, and  connection environment you need is fairly minimal  and  user-friendly. Such service allows  you to focus on setting up your  poker environment to maximize your  gaming experience.

Figuring out hardware and software requirements

As it stands right  now, online  poker isn’t computationally (nor display) intensive. Essentially, your  computer acts as a glorified accountant and  rule keeper; it really doesn’t have  any heavy work to do. If you’re  still trying to get by with that wind-up  286 box from the  ’80s, this  could quite possibly be the  best news  you’ve heard all day.

Hardware

If you have  a machine capable of running a fairly modern version

of Windows — Windows 98 or later, for example — you have  all the hardware firepower you need. The audio and  video  involved with an online  poker game are extremely simple sounds and  animations (cards flipped over  on a table, a beep reminding you to bet  or fold, chips pushed from one area to another, and  so on). No site  currently offers  more sophisticated options, such as streaming audio and  video  from other players, although such perks seem fairly inevitable. (Start setting your  computer camera up — strip poker can’t  be far behind!)

It doesn’t matter if you want  to play on a laptop or a desktop. If you have  a choice of machines, pick the  one you feel most comfort- able  using  for long periods of time.

If your  screen is kind of fuzzy, and  you don’t  normally stare at it for excessive periods of time,  you may want  to consider upgrading to a new monitor. Gawking at fuzzy images for hours at a time is draining, and  when  you play online  poker, you have  enough happening in the  fatigue department without adding any grief.

System software

As far as Operating System (OS) versions go — as with everything else in the  computer world — the  more recent the  version, the better. You shouldn’t start up anything older than Windows 98 if you can avoid  it, although you can always try anything (especially if your  threshold for frustration is fairly high).

If you have  multiple Windows possibilities to choose from, we recommend Windows XP. Not only is XP a recent, currently supported version, but  it also  was most likely the  version of choice by the programmers who created your  poker site  software. If you run  into problems with your  site’s  software, the  support people are more likely to be able  to help  you on XP than with other versions of the Windows OS.

Poker in the palm of your hand

You can’t, as of now, find any hard currency-based handheld environments (such as Windows CE, Palm OS, or custom cell phone environments), but we keep hearing a ton of rumors about them. It seems that their existence in the not-too-distant future is a near certainty.

The big problem the handheld world has is unreliable connectivity; so when poker finally does  fall into your palm, expect  the interaction to be a bit different. It may  be something like head’s-up  play only, where you’re allowed five minutes per betting decision. This is pure guesswork on our part, just to give you a feeling of where the future may lead.

If you try an OS older than Windows 98, be certain to extensively test the  site  you’re  interested in with free chips first. You don’t want  any nasty surprises when  the  hard currency hits  the  table.

Connecting  your Internet necessities

One of the  most attractive features of online  poker is your  ability to play with the  barest of Internet connections. The only disadvantage of using  a slower dial-up  modem is the  amount of time it takes to download the  client (the poker program running on your  computer) from the  poker Web site; it takes about 20 minutes over  a modem versus just  a couple shakes of a mouse pad  with a broadband connection (such as DSL). After you download the  poker program from the  site  of your  choice), you’re  set  to go. If you have  to play from a world where your  Internet connection is slow, don’t  fret: Your opponents have  no strategic advantage, of any kind, in having  faster network connections.

In short, if you can reliably connect to the  Internet, easily  see  Web pages on your  computer, and  you use  an Operating System version no older than Windows 98, you can play poker online.

Although a slow network connection is perfectly fine for online poker, a flaky connection that goes down  often  isn’t (regardless of connection speed). If you lose your  network connection in the middle of a hand, you may be able  to reconnect in time before the site  folds  your  hand, but  not  always. And when you play for hard currency, losing  your  hand to a bad  connection can be costly if you’ve already invested money in the  pot.

Getting comfortable at the computer

Playing  poker online  isn’t only about computers and  software; after all, you don’t  play inside your  computer. Give some thought to the physical space you play in; the  more comfortable and  focused you can make your  playing  environment, the  more focused you can become at game time.

Go through the  following  steps to ensure a comfortable and focused poker experience:

Set up your screen in as glare-free a position as possible. You don’t  want  to misread your  hands — especially important in Seven-Card Stud, where you have  to view a greater number of cards in various positions around the  table.

Find a good spot for your drinks and food. You have  to sit for long periods of time,  so you need to plan  ahead of time for your  sustenance. Remember: Bad beats are made about

10 times worse if you spill a soda on your  keyboard as they happen.

Put a trash basket within arm’s reach. Respect the  final resting spot for your  waste and  you greatly reduce the  chance that you’ll fling an empty bottle when  you get outdrawn on the river.  (Mathematical note:  Having a trash basket at arm’s reach doesn’t reduce your  chances of being  outdrawn on the river.)

Minimize your distractions. Sure, every brick-and-mortar cardroom has  a television showing such superlative tidbits as the  Saharan Dune Bobsled Racing Championships, but  watching TV doesn’t help  you win; it can only hurt.

Play sober. Yes, it may be tempting to knock  down  a few icy cold ones as you play, but  it doesn’t help  you keep  a positive balance in your  poker site’s  account. Being drunk only lessens the  pain  as you hit yourself in the  financial head, but  it doesn’t make the  lump  any smaller the  next  day.

The problem with Macintosh

As of press time, no hard currency poker sites that cater to the Macintosh are of high enough  quality to discuss. This doesn’t mean that you Apple users are without options. You can:

Wait. With the online casinos competing so heavily, the various sites can’t afford to keep ignoring a base of potential customers. Keep an eye on the sites some good people hva listed in some website. You can also occasionally look at a version site, such as www.versiontracker.com, or a software  review site, like www.mygamblingdirectory.com, to check out various listings.

Play for free. Find a site where it doesn’t matter what computer you use. Many sites offer free poker  online.  For example,  the games section of Yahoo! (games.yahoo.com) has Hold ’Em. The problem is that free play isn’t a good reflection of money play. It doesn’t make your level of play any better, and it may well make  it worse.  But hey, you do get to play poker against other humans.

Find a money site with a Java client. We should emphasize that we don’t recommend playing with Java clients because the user experience is so abysmal (very slow and uneven). But it does  give you an option in a world where your choices are few.

Get a cheap Windows machine. Heresy, you say? Maybe, but you should con- sider this: We both worked for Apple, but we play online on Windows boxes. (And when we do, Chris wears  his super-nerdy-yet-sexy Apple belt buckle, and Red wears his ultra-cool Mac project T-shirts. It is true, however,  that those items burn our bodies as we play.)

 

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