When people learn about casino poker (the kind of poker offered by online casinos rather than the kind of poker offered by dedicated poker rooms), they often asked what is the point, as you can play poker at dedicated poker sites with real people? The answer to that question is obvious – poker is a game of both skill and chance, and the best poker players are the best poker players for a reason. What’s the point of playing poker when there are countless sharks out there waiting to gobble up your bankroll in a matter of minutes?
Online casino poker offers an excellent alternative to shark-filled poker tables as it is just you against the dealer. Learn all you need to know about casino poker with our gaming guide right here.
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History of Casino Poker
The game that we recognise today as poker most definitely originated in the United States in the early 1800s – however the elements of poker are drawn from other similar games. For example, there was a Persian game called As-Nas, a French game called Brelan and an English game called Brag. The name ‘poker’ probably comes from the Irish word ‘poca’ (pocket) or the French word ‘poque’ (to brag or bluff).
In the earliest versions of poker players were dealt five cards and could draw no more. In other versions, poker was played with a reduced deck of 20 cards. A version of poker was created in which some of the cards we’re dealt face-up to make the game more exciting – this became known as ‘stud poker’.
Original poker hands were just pairs, two pairs, trips (three of a kind), a full house and four of a kind. Eventually, flushes, straights and straight flushes were added too. In around 1850 ‘draw’ poker was created. This allowed players to change any or all of the cards in their hands, one time only during a round of play. Draw and stud poker was the most popular forms of poker until …
Texas Hold’em Poker
… the creation of the game that is by far the most popular version of poker played today. The game was invented (in Texas of course!) in the 1900s but did not really catch on until the 1960s, but it remained the ‘poor cousin’ of poker because of the popularity of stud and draw poker.
In Texas Hold’em Poker each player only receives two cards face down. Over the rounds of play, five more cards are dealt face up in the centre of the table. A player’s hand is the best hand of five cards that can be made from the seven cards available – the two cards the player has and the five ‘community cards’.
Because of the shared visual element of Texas Hold’em (having five cards face up for all players) the game was perfect for internet play, and online poker boomed in the early 2000s. Most leading poker players in the world are those who play Texas Hold’em poker.
How to Play Casino Poker at Online Casinos
There are many forms of online casino poker, but they all centre around one common dynamic – the value of a player’s hand. The possible poker hands are as follows, ranked from least valuable to most valuable.
- High Card – (a hand of five unmatched cards).
- Pair – (a hand with two identical cards in value).
- Two Pair – (a hand with two sets of pairs).
- Three of a Kind or Trip or Set – (a hand with three identical cards in value).
- Straight – :6s (a hand with five cards in sequence in value).
- Flush – :4:c (a hand with five cards of the same suit).
- Full House – (a hand with a pair and three of a kind).
- Four of a kind – :4: (a hand with four identical cards in value).
- Straight Flush – (a hand with five cards of the same suit in sequence in value).
There is also five of a kind, but that can only be found in uncommon versions of poker played with a joker.
Each possible hand has an individual rank. For example, if two players show a hand with a pair of aces, they have not tied. The person with the highest non-paired card – known as a kicker – is the winner. If these cards are the same, then the next highest card is the decider and so on. A hand beats a hand of , for example.
Suits in poker have no rank. If two players show a flush with identical cards but, say, one with all hearts and one with all spades, then the hand is tied.
Online Casino Poker
Most people think that casino poker is purely an online creation, but that’s not true at all. The game was invented by a poker player called Stephen Au-Yeung, purely as a training aid. The game caught on and began to be offered at real-world casinos. It then moved online.
Casino poker (which is also known as ‘casino hold’em’) is played with a standard deck of 52 cards. Play begins with the player making a bet known as an ‘Ante bet’. In some versions of online casino poker, a player may also make an ‘AA’ side bet. This is a bet that wins and pays out if the player plays a pair of aces.
The dealer deals two cards to the player and two cards to themselves, face down. They also deal three cards face up in the centre of the table.
The player must decide whether to play or fold. If they fold, then the hand ends, and they lose their Ante bet. If they play, they must double the value of their Ante bet to keep playing. This is the Call bet.
After the player has made their decision, the dealer will deal two more cards face up to the centre of the table. The player and the dealer’s best possible hands are created from the seven cards that each has available.
The dealer must have at least a pair of fours (this rule might differ in some forms of online casino poker). If this is not the case, the player is paid for his Ante Bet but has his Call Bet returned to him.
If the dealer does have a pair of fours or better, but the player has the better hand, then the Ante Bet is paid (see below), and the Call Bet paid at odds of evens.
If the dealer does have a pair of fours or better and the hand is tied, then the player’s bets are returned.
If the dealer does have a pair of fours or better and beats the player’s hand, then the player loses both his Ante and Call bets.
The Ante bet (if won) is paid via an Ante bet paytable. This may vary from version to version, but below is a typical Ante bet paytable:
- Anything below a flush – 1:1
- Flush – 2:1
- Full house – 3:1
- Four of a kind – 10:1
- Straight flush – 20:1
- Royal flush – 100:1
Casino Poker Variants
There are a few different versions of casino poker, the most popular versions of which are discussed below.
Pai Gow Poker
This is a straightforward game that can be very entertaining, although do not expect to win huge amounts if you play this game as the house edge does favour the casino a little too much.
In this game, both player and dealer are dealt seven cards, which they then split into two poker hands – once containing five cards and one containing two cards. Both player and dealer must set their cards so that five-card hand is worth more than the two-card hand. For example, a player cannot have a pair of kings in the five-card hand and a pair of aces in the two-card hand.
A player is paid 1:1 if both hands beat both the dealer’s hands. If the player beats only one of the dealer’s hands, then this is a push, and the player’s bet is returned. If the player loses both hands, then he loses his stake entirely.
Caribbean Stud Poker
The rules of this game are identical to casino hold’em poker except in the way that cards are dealt. The player and the dealer receive five cards, one of which is dealt face up. To ‘qualify’ (as with a hand of two fours in casino hold’em poker), the dealer must have at least AK-high.
3-Card poker is based on the popular card in the UK called brag. As you might suspect, both the player and dealer are only dealt with three cards. The ranking of the hands is the same as poker except for that full houses, and four of a kind are not possible, and three of a kind now ranks above a straight and flush but still below a straight flush.
Payouts are the same with casino forms of poker, except that the dealer must have at least a queen to ‘qualify’.
Successful Casino Poker Strategy at Online Casinos
Optimum casino poker strategy at online casinos is a lot harder to define than optimum blackjack strategy because – as a poker hand consists of five cards and a blackjack hand only consists of two – there are many more possible poker hands than blackjack hands. In total, there are 3,125 possible poker hands, although this includes poker hands that are tied. When you consider the player’s possible 3,125 poker hands and the dealer’s possible 3,125 poker hands, that’s well over 9 million possible scenarios. There is also the added complication of there being seven cards in play rather than five, although this does actually slightly reduce the number of possible deals.
You may think that you can apply normal poker strategy to casino poker, but that’s not possible. For a start, in normal poker, you are typically playing against more than one person. Your returns are not set in normal poker as they are in casino poker – for example in normal poker you could win $1 million with a pair of deuces, or you could win $1 with a royal flush. It depends upon what the players you are playing will bet, and how they play. With casino poker, what you win with your hand is largely fixed.
With casino poker, it is perhaps advisable to play many more hands than you fold, which is a complete flip of what you should do in normal poker. Your odds of winning at casino poker are better than when you play normal poker, as you are only playing against the dealer, and not a table full of players.
The key to successful casino poker strategy is to compare your hole cards (the two cards you are dealt face down to the dealer) against the flop (the three cards dealt face up). If the cards in the flop are generally higher than the cards in the hole, then you should fold as there’s more chance than the dealer will make a better pair than you. For example, if you have J9 and the flop has 7QK, then it’s likely that the dealer with either make a pair or have a better pair than any you make.
The only exceptions to this rule are when you are one card short of a flush or a straight. If you have suited cards and there are two cards with matching suits in the flop, or if you have (for example) J9 and the flop is 7TQ then you should call.
If you already have a pair or a better hand with your hole cards and the flop, then it goes without saying that you should call.
If you enjoy poker and (a), you don’t like getting eaten alive at poker tables by poker sharks and (b) you find video poker a bit too quaint and old-fashioned then casino poker might be the solution to your poker woes that you are looking for. Casino poker is ‘not quite’ poker, but it can still be a very entertaining game.
As with any online casino game, make sure that you use proper bankroll management techniques and never gamble with money you’ve put aside for non-frivolous purposes.
Does casino poker have a house edge?
Are there any casino poker games with a progressive jackpot?
I really enjoy playing casino poker. Should I try poker at online poker sites?
I can never remember if a flush beats a straight? Can you help?
What is the AA side bet, and is it worth taking?
Can I play casino poker at live online casinos?