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.
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.
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.)