Read through our poker guide to get the basics of how can help you and how to use the poker sites we recommend.

Welcome to our complete guide to online poker software. WE want to take you from downloading the software to joining in on the action and show you every step in between. Even if you're new to online poker, getting started is easier than you think.

Just follow our step-by-step guide below, and, no matter which site you choose, you'll be playing in no time! In this guide to playing online poker, you will learn how to:

  • Choose a Poker Site
  • Earn a Poker Hefty Bonus
  • Download Online Poker Software
  • Navigate The Poker Software to Find The Best Games
  • Make a Deposit and Cash Out Your Winnings
  • Play Your Favorite Poker Games Online
1 Choose Your Poker Site

How can help you choose the right site for you to play at including what to look out for at the top sites.

2 Get a Great Bonus

We guide you through how bonuses work and how you can get an exclusive bonus to boost your bankroll.

3 Download & Install software

Watch our video and get details of how easy it is to download and install the poker software you need to be able to play.

4 How to Use the Software

Once you've got the software we show you how to use is, how to navigate around and get playing.

5 Make a Deposit

If you want to play for real money you'll need to make a deposit, this is quick and simple if you follow our steps.

6 Play Your Favorite Games

Some sites have a bewildering array of games to play, we help you to work out which is the best one for you.

After reading this guide, you'll know everything you need to know in order to start playing but, if you need help, we're here for you. Start with a look at our strategy tips and then move on to our most highly recommended poker sites to protect yourself and make sure that you have the best experience possible. Signing up is free, so you have absolutely nothing to lose!

1 How To Choose Your Poker Site
Choosing a Poker Site makes it quick and easy to find a reliable poker site to play at.

  • How do I choose a poker site?

    Choosing a poker site is a serious decision that has the power to set you up for either success or failure. Having said that, though, choosing your first poker site can be an easy decision. Unless you are already an expert when it comes to online poker, you might as well turn to the wealth of information on the internet to quickly end up at the right poker site for you.

  • How does help me do that?

    Here at PokerSites, we want to make sure you have the best online poker experience possible and choosing site is a very important part of this process. That's why we had our reviewers go out and find only the poker sites that deserve our recommendation and your time. Then, we put them into categories and posted the reviews here to make it as easy as possible for you to find the best poker site for you. Just look over to the right side of your screen to see our top sites for any given category.

  • What are the differences between poker sites?

    There are a lot of factors that make each and every poker site unique. These include welcome bonuses, software quality, competition, lobby navigation, player traffic, features like resizable tables (for multi-tabling), and much more. Instead of focusing on the details, though, you should try to think of each site as a whole. A big bonus and flashy graphics will do little to help you if you find out that your poker site refuses to cash out your winnings! Features come and go, but the fundamentals of trust and reliability are what really separate the best sites from the rest.

    In the past, some seemingly trustworthy poker sites have directly scammed their players. In 2007, the Absolute Poker cheating scandal brought the online poker community together like never before after players identified an invisible "super user" that could see all of the cards being dealt to the players at any given table. One of the co-founders of the site was implicated in the scam and the site no longer exists, but the potential for cheating with online poker is ever present.

  • What you should look for in a site

    To make sure you end up playing with a site that will still be taking care of you years from now, you should take a look at who owns it. Companies that have been in the online poker business for years - with lots of happy players - are surely doing something right. Other sites are either risky or downright unreliable. This is a decision that has total influence over your success, safety, and enjoyment over the course of your entire online poker experience. Don't put yourself in the hands of an organization that you don't fully trust.

    Then, it comes time to further narrow down your options by including other fundamental factors like the availability of tournaments, software usability, and game variety. One of the most often overlooked (albeit extremely important) facets to consider is player traffic. On the one hand, you want a steady supply of games in your preferred hours. On the other, you want the weakest competition possible, to give yourself an automatic edge. The best sites in terms of player traffic volume often have some sharks, and the weakest sites might not have enough traffic to keep you busy. The key is to strike a balance so that neither one of these categories is neglected.

    Only after you narrow your list down to the consistent performers that are safe, busy, and easy should you even consider things like VIP programs, freerolls and bonuses. In fact, many of the most established brands have fewer flashy promotions because, frankly, they don't need them! Look at these rewards as window dressing. They may be enough to tip the balance between two great sites, but they will never be able to completely fix those unacceptable sites that you would never consider.

  • So where are these top sites?

    In an effort to make it as easy as possible for you to narrow your options down to just these fair and reputable sites, we've handpicked the cream of the crop and posted reviews here on our site. Our expert reviewers only picked the sites that excelled in every category (gameplay, banking, site navigation, player traffic, bonuses, etc.) and protect you at the same time. Stick with this list and take any of these sites for a test run with a free account.

    See our range of Poker Site reviews
2 Get Your First Deposit Bonus
Poker sites give out large bonuses that can boost your bankroll by $100s, but make sure you understand how they work

The first deposit bonuses offered by online poker sites are the bonuses that you see in all of the advertisements. It's a big, one-time opportunity to build your bankroll and its value is almost always based upon the size of your first deposit(s). It's true that you shouldn't choose an online poker sire based solely on the value of its welcome bonus but these's no reason not to take advantage of these huge offers! After all, they may very well help you become one of those top players that manage to actually make money in long term.

Even if you end up losing a lot of your bonus money, it does buy you time to learn the ropes and improve as a player before you start dipping into your own pockets to deal with your mistakes. Even experienced players follow a learning curve when making the switch to online poker sites because the price of the game changes radically and they may lose the ability to read the players sitting across from them. Let your bonus soften your landing and smooth the transition into your new poker site!

  • How Poker bonuses work

    While the details may vary widely, there are two main types of bonuses. The first is a straight cash bonus - the poker site just gives you money and you can take it without ever playing if you really want. These are nice because of their no-strings-attached position, but they are usually very small (think, $10 or less) and they are less common than ever. Most poker sites simply do not offer these sorts of bonuses anymore.

    Most first deposit bonuses, though, fall into the other category. Their value is exactly equal to the size of your first deposit, up to a set limit. For example, a poker site might say that they have a welcome bonus worth 100% up to $500. So, if you deposit $500 or more, you'll get the full $500 worth of bonus money. If you deposit less, say $300 for example, your bonus will be worth $300 as well. These bonuses are very common, and relatively large, but they come with a notable limitation - you need to "clear" them.

  • Clearing welcome bonuses

    Bonus money is generally worthless until you clear it, which is to say that you have to play before your bonus can be withdrawn. Every poker site handles this differently but the concept is the same. As you play, you will accumulate points. After contributing a certain amount of money via rake and/or tournament fees, you will be able cash out some of (or all of) your bonus.

    Since this is the key to unlocking (potentially) hundreds of dollars' worth of bonus money, make sure you read the fine print! Some sites may say that you have to reach a certain limit (for example, 50 points) to unlock your bonus in chunks. Others pay out on a real time basis and yet others may require you to clear the whole thing at once (or risk losing it). Since all bonuses come with an expiration date, knowing exactly how you can clear your bonus account, or at least most of it, before time runs out is absolutely vital!

  • VIP Points

    Finally, beyond simply helping you clear your online poker bonuses, VIP points give poker sites a great way to reward players that play on a regular basis. Every time you play for real money, you get rewards based on the amount of rake and/or tournament fees that you contribute. Let these build up and you can redeem them for cash, tournament entry, and other prizes! After you've finished off your welcome bonus, these points are the primary way that you can keep the bonus cash rolling in. Note that, with most poker sites, bigger players earn their points more quickly by moving up the VIP ladder.

  • Don't let poker bonuses blind you

    All poker sites use bonuses to get new players to join. That is exactly why they exist and they are very effective. Just make sure that you don't get blinded by big bonus offers from the untrustworthy poker sites that are the most likely to offer the really big deals. If any online poker bonus seems too good to be true, take a step back and gain some perspective. Take a look at the poker site's background and decide if it's really an organization that you can trust to treat you fairly. Unrealistic clearing requirements, for example, let poker sites offer huge bonuses because they know they will practically never have to pay them out. Do your research, read the fine print, and keep yourself out of a potentially bad situation.

See our range of exclusive bonus offers
3 How to Download Poker Software

There are poker sites out there that let you play without downloading anything. They are easy to use but, for the best experience possible, you really owe it to yourself to download the software package. It only takes minutes to do, and now even Mac players should have absolutely no problem finding downloadable poker software. So, without further ado, here's how it's done.

  • How to Download and Install Online Poker Software

    This is one of the easiest steps for online poker players. Go to the poker site of your choice and look for a button called, "Getting Started" or "Download" or "Play Now" to go to the download page. When you land on this page, the website will detect if you're a Mac/PC player, what your preferred language is, and a whole host of other factors in the blink of an eye to make sure you get the right version of the software. From here, the download will almost certainly start automatically and, even if it doesn't, the site's step by step instructions will show you where to click and take you through the process.

    As the download is beginning, a dialogue box will appear asking you what to do with the download. Click the button that says "Save File" to initiate the download and then sit back to let things get started. Depending upon the poker site and your internet connection, the whole download may only take a few seconds.

    When the poker site download is complete, double click on it in your browser's downloads window, which should pop up automatically. This opens the install file and gets the ball rolling on your computer. From here on out, you can just follow along as the installer takes you through every step of the installation process for your particular online poker site. If you have ever installed any kind of software, this will look totally familiar. If not, don't worry, it's a very intuitive process.

  • Creating a Poker User Name

    The install process was easy, but there is still one important thing left to do. You have the poker site's software installed on your computer, so you just simply need to create your player account. You'll need to give your poker site some basic information personal like your name, nationality, and date of birth - nothing too private - but you also have to decide upon a poker user name. When you get to this step, go for something neutral that either includes your name or something personal to you so that it's easy to remember. Whatever it is, make sure it's something you'll be comfortable with for a long time!

    Many players also look at this as a strategic opportunity. Online, no one can see your face or sense your personality, so your user name communicates a lot about you. If you intentionally avoid any kind of poker slang, keep the name weak, and spring for a soft looking avatar, you may be able to lower your opponents' defenses and get a slight edge.

    If the user name you want is unavailable for whatever reasons, try adding some numbers to the end to make it more unique. Most modern online poker sites will actually offer these options automatically if you have trouble with the name you really want.

  • What Poker Software Really Does

    Poker software has to perform a few essential tasks. It has to help you find other players, it has to handle the financial aspect of winning and losing money, and it has to give you a fair gaming environment. In a brick and mortar casino or poker hall, the random shuffling of cards keeps everything fair, but the digital deck of a poker site simply doesn't work like that - that cards do not exist! Instead, poker sites depend on random number generators (RNG's) to keep things totally random.

    These are basically programs that decide which card will be dealt next and they are vital to the success and fairness of a poker room. When a third party auditing firm inspects an online casino, this is one of the most important aspects that they check. If a random number generator creates predictable results (or if it can be artificially controlled) no game can be truly fair. To make sure your poker site's RNG has passed through testing, look for the seal of approval from a major auditing firm. This will usually be displayed at the very bottom of their website and the biggest names in the business, by far, are Technical Systems Testing (TST) and eCOGRA.

5 Making a deposit

So you have the software on your computer and you've created your account. There's just one thing left to do - load up your bankroll! Go to the cashier tab in your software and select that you want to make a deposit. Here, you can select your deposit option, look at the different restrictions and find out exactly what you have to do in order to make a deposit.

  • What deposit method should I use?

    Only you can answer this because it depends heavily on your nationality. US players, for example, are pretty much limited to bank wires and credit/debit card deposits. Internationally, though, online poker players have many digital options, known as eWallets. These services include Neteller, PayPal, Skrill, Ukash, and many others.

    Each option has its own minimums, maximums, and processing times and each online poker site chooses which banking options it will accept. If you can use a digital eWallet option, that's probably the right way to go. These services provide a buffer between you and your poker site to further ensure privacy and safety. They are also much cheaper for the poker sites, so there's a good chance that you'll get a small bonus for making the switch to an eWallet option.

  • Depositing at a Poker Site

    Once you decide how to load up your account, though, it's just a matter of authorizing the transaction and giving your poker site the personal/account information that they need in order to complete your transaction. This is the page where you share information like credit card numbers, expiration dates, and your mailing address. Therefore, and for good reason, these pages should always use a secure connection. Secure connections use powerful digital encryption to keep unauthorized people like hackers from catching a glimpse of your personal information. Look for the small padlock logo in your browser next to the URL of the website to make sure you're protected!

  • Cashing Out

    Cashing out is vital for anyone that actually wins and, if you're reading this article, hopefully that includes you too! Go back to the cashier where you made the deposit and use any of the available withdrawal methods to get your cash! This process should be fast and easy as long as you stick with the trusted online poker sites that we recommend. Remember, some of the less trustworthy sites out there may hassle you when it comes time to cash out. If you find yourself in this situation, there is little you can do to get your money out.

  • Do US players have to pay taxes on poker winnings?

    Your local and state legislation may vary significantly, but federal US law is quite clear - your poker winnings are considered taxable income, and you must report them on your 1040. In fact, if you're really winning a lot, you may be required to pay estimated taxes every quarter in order to meet the requirements. Most US players probably don't do this until they reach a relatively high level of success, but it's good to be aware of this legal requirement nonetheless.

    If you are going to play by the rules, though, there is one big thing you can do to make them work in your favor - keep detailed records! Keep a spreadsheet or notebook with a complete breakdown of your wins and losses. As long as you have records to back everything up, you can write off your gambling losses against your winnings on a 1040 Schedule A (itemized deductions). Beyond keeping your tax liability to a minimum and keeping you out of legal hot water, this habit will force you to examine how successful you really are in a totally objective way.

  • Are these cashier transactions safe?

    That depends. Again, do you really trust your poker site? There are all kinds of stories about gambling sites (and other kinds of online vendors) that take advantage of their customers. The biggest risk for online poker players would be signing up and playing with a rogue poker site that exists purely to rip off players. They might not steal your personal information, but don't expect them to cash out your winnings any time soon.

    Also, ask yourself if your poker site is using a secure connection to protect your identity. Even if they aren't actively trying to rip you off, they may still be leaving you vulnerable to less scrupulous third parties by failing to secure your transactions. We take often take our internet privacy for granted but using non-secure connections for sensitive banking information is just asking for trouble. The best way to avoid pitfalls like this is to simply stick with the well-known poker sites listed here at PokerSites.

6 Playing your favourite games

Unbeatable game variety is one of the single biggest benefits that you'll receive when playing online. Every poker site has different gaming options but rest assured that, if you look hard enough, you can find just about any kind of poker that you want online! There are games running around the clock and they range from standard options like Hold 'em and 7-Card Stud to less common games like Omaha Hi-Lo and Razz. The only question, really, is "Which game do YOU want to play?"

  • Finding the Right Games for You

    Every poker site offers a different selection - some offer every option under the sun, while others focus all of their attention on a few popular varieties. If you are specifically interested in less popular games, you should stick with the biggest poker rooms for two reasons. First, they are the most likely to have (and keep) the variety that you expect. Second, they actually have the player traffic to support less popular games, even in those slow, off-peak hours. If you still aren't exactly sure which poker game is right for you, start off at one of these big sites and try different lots of different variations out for yourself!

  • The Most Common Types of Tournament

    Online poker sites can put together all kinds of tournaments but the most common options include SNG's, guaranteed prize pools, bounty tournaments, and satellite tourneys to get you into big live events around the world. Online, you may even find yourself sitting across from one of the site's pros! Although there is tournament action seven days per week, Sundays are when the big action happens.

    One cool opportunity that you have as an online poker player is that you can play multiple tournaments at the same time by multi-tabling, which is perfect for those busy Sundays in which you have lots of tournament options at the same time. The best poker sites give you the opportunity to resize and stack your tables so you can seamlessly switch between games without having to make hasty moves. Some little features, specifically four-colored decks, can make it that much easier for you to multi-table without sacrificing anything strategically.

  • Do I have to pay to play poker online?

    It's free to play online poker; there aren't any sign up costs or membership fees. However, poker sites need to make money so they take a piece of each wager in order to make a profit - this is called "rake". So, basically, this means that you still pay to play, but only when you win a hand. Also, this is rarely an issue since rake is usually very small and every time you pay rake, you'll earn VIP points to unlock bonuses and special prizes. Also, when you lose a hand, it's the winner who has to deal with the rake!

    Since rake only applies to ring games, poker sites use a simple method to receive money from tournament players: buy-ins. Buy-ins are the fees collected by poker rooms that all players must pay in order to enter tournaments. These are collected instead of rake in a tournament setting and they serve two purposes. A portion of the money goes to the poker site keep it in business. The other (larger) portion of the buy-ins goes towards the prize pool. There's really no way to get around buy-ins with poker tournaments, online or off, but many online poker sites offer special freeroll events for new players. You also may be able to use your VIP points to earn seats at paid tournaments.

  • Winning at Online Poker

    Regardless of which games you end up playing, winning isn't something that just happens. Chips will not fall into your lap and sharks won't turn a blind eye to the opportunities you give them. If you want to be a winner, you have to learn how to play and pour your energy into putting your new skills to use. Start by reading about basic strategies online - learn the rules, get an introduction to hand selection, and learn about reading tells online. Then comes the most important part: applying yourself.

    No amount of strategies and theories will ever be able to turn you into a consistent winner until you add some effort to the mix. If you want to take your game further with strategies, you need to dive headfirst into everything that you learn and make it work for you! That means playing on a regular basis and having the discipline to do what you know is right, no matter what your gut is telling you. This combination of effort and discipline will help you bring any poker game to life and push your success to the next level.