The Poker UK Guide: Understanding the Online World

When it comes to online poker games, UK players have a fantastic selection of ways to up the ante. UK operators currently attract millions of players. Indeed, when you look at the very best online poker rooms, UK players consistently make up a large portion of the table on a daily basis. PokerStars, for example, sees upwards of 100,000 players on an average day, while platforms such as Betfair and Paddy Power regularly welcome 5,000 cash game players.

With so many players logging into online poker rooms, UK operators have had to create a wide variety of games. This means you can play cash games with blinds as low as $0.01/$0.02 or real money poker tournaments from $0.01. If that wasn’t enough, freerolls and bonus offers give UK players a chance to win something for nothing. Additionally, satellite technology allows you to play live poker at some of the top poker casinos in the world (for a small fee).

Essentially, if you’re looking for action, money-making opportunities and an affordable way to play, our guide to the most popular poker sites has got you covered.

Recommended Online Poker Rooms

These are some of the most recommended Online Poker Rooms on the market:

Online Poker Sites: UK Players Have Got It Good

The UK has long been regarded as one of the best places to play poker online. It has become even more so since the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) took control of the industry.

Unlike other countries that have introduced market regulation in recent years, UK poker websites don’t ring-fence players. This means that UK players aren’t restricted to playing in online poker rooms against opponents in their local area. In contrast, real-money online poker sites in countries like the US keep players locked within their own borders.

From a liquidity standpoint, UK poker sites have got a perfect balance. Although the UKGC insists on national regulation, it doesn’t limit bettors to playing online poker games with national player pools. This dynamic allows both old and new poker sites in 2022 to offer plenty of variety to players of all skill levels. Indeed, the key to running a successful real money poker site is safety, security and liquidity. Thanks to the UKGC’s effective oversight, the most popular poker sites in the UK are able to offer these benefits in abundance.

The History of Online Poker

It has taken over almost three decades for online poker to evolve into its current state. However, in order for there to be online poker games, there first had to be poker itself. Though some believe a distant version of poker was played in 10th-century China, the origins of the game we know today can be found in 19th-century New Orleans.

Poque

The game of poker was an Anglicized version of the European game “Poque”, which French colonists brought to US settlements in the 1800s. After updating “Poque” with modern features (such as a 52-card deck and five cards per player), poker spread throughout the US via the Mississippi River.

Riverboat Casinos

The Mississippi River was the lifeblood of commerce and trading in America and proved a perfect spot for grey-area gambling. Poker quickly became the preferred pastime of the riverboat crews, who would gamble for real money to alleviate boredom during the long and tedious boat voyages.

Before long, riverboats became a popular destination for dancing, singing and gambling, even among those who weren’t sailors. In 1094, the first legal and commercial riverboat casino emerged, and by the 1980s, state governments regulated riverboat gambling. Today, riverboat gambling is legal in six US states: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri.

Back to Europe

Before the regulation of riverboat gambling, poker was introduced to Europe in 1871 when the US minister to Great Britain taught the game to members of Queen Victoria’s court. Awareness of the game was further increased during WWI when American soldiers played it in their downtime. Though its popularity took a sharp decline throughout the 20th century, late-night 1990s TV shows saw celebrities competing with regular poker players and its reputation was restored.

The Rise of Online Poker

While poker was becoming more and more prominent in land-based casinos throughout the 90s, some players began to look to the internet. The first real-money online poker game was hosted by Planet Poker, and the renowned PokerStars launched in 2001.

In 2003, full-time accountant and amateur poker player Chris Moneymaker (yes, that’s his real name) launched online poker rooms into the mainstream when he won the WSOP Main Event. Though this in itself doesn’t seem like a particularly revolutionary act, it was historic because he entered the competition from a $39 online satellite tournament win. And the main event prize? A modest $2.5 million.

Moneymaker epitomised the American dream in a digital age, and online poker rooms exploded onto the scene throughout the early 2000s. That is until the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) put a stop to US-facing poker operations. However, online poker continued to grow in the UK and the rest of the world. Online poker games eventually returned to the US in 2012, when the first state-regulated games went live in Delaware and Nevada.

By 2014, PokerStars had become the online poker industry’s largest and most successful publicly traded company with a takeover bid of $4.9 billion. In the past five years, mobile poker apps have become the order of the day, with more and more players making the move from desktop to mobile poker games.

Online Poker Variations

Poker has undergone major changes since its first appearance in those early riverboat days. The rising popularity of online poker rooms has inspired several unique variations, many of which combine two different types of poker into a single game. Online poker also allows for multiple ways to play, whether that’s video poker, online poker Texas Hold’em, live dealer, RNG games, or low/high limit games.

Stud, Draw and Community Poker

Nonetheless, almost every variation of online poker can be organised into three main categories: stud, draw and community. The latter is perhaps the most recognisable and involves players forming their hands with a combination of exposed community cards and their own hidden cards. Texas Hold’em and Omaha, two of the most popular online poker games, fall into the community poker category.

In stud poker, players are dealt a mixture of hidden and exposed cards. Your opponent is able to see part of your hand in these types of poker games. On the other hand (excuse the pun), draw poker involves trying to improve your hidden hand by replacing some of your cards. In draw poker, your opponent can’t see any of your hand.

Of course, some variants don’t fit into the typical mould. High-low split games divide the prize pot between the highest and lowest hands, and lowball games award the lowest hand the entire prize pool. These games have more complex rules and regulations, so they’re not recommended for new players.

Texas Hold’em Dominance

Although there are multiple variations of online poker, the most popular variant in both offline and online poker is Texas Hold’em. The game was officially born in Robstown, Texas in the early 1900s and gained popularity with bettors throughout the state. Texas Hold’em Poker then debuted in Las Vegas’s California Club in 1963 and quickly found its way into the city’s iconic gambling establishments such as Golden Nugget, Stardust and Dunes.

Being a global betting phenomenon, some would write and pronounce the game as Texas Hold em, not realising the southern slang behind the term. No-Limit Texas Hold’em is the biggest real-money online poker game, with over 80% of the online poker share. The No-Limit version of online poker Texas Hold’em simply means that there is no fixed cap on the number of chips you can bet or how often you can raise.

Omaha

In distant second place is Omaha poker. There are a few key differences between online poker Texas Hold’em and Omaha poker, one being the number of cards you are dealt. Much like Texas Hold’em, however, Omaha was first introduced to the US gambling scene in Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget Casino. It was originally dubbed “Nugget Hold’em”, though, surprisingly, this name hasn’t stuck.

Other Variations

Clearly, community poker games are the fan favourites of online poker rooms. There are plenty of other niche poker variations that you’ll find are staples of every online casino, including Pai Gow Poker, Mississippi Stud and Three Card Poker. But without a doubt, and with many more young people now learning poker and joining the Hold’em tables, online poker Texas Hold’em will retain its rule for the foreseeable future and beyond.

The State of UK Online Poker: Real Money Games and More

It’s fair to say that both old and new poker sites in 2022, whether in the UK or elsewhere, aren’t as buoyant as they once were. However, that doesn’t mean things are bad when you play poker online. In fact, several of the UK’s most popular poker sites are achieving high levels of success in several departments.

Tournaments

The ongoing convergence between poker, casino and sports betting has led to new opportunities and gaming innovations. For example, poker casino crossovers such as Jackpot Tournaments combine lottery-style prize pools (i.e. the amount you can win is never set in stone) with high-octane action. Similarly, poker slots take features of multi-player online poker Texas Hold’em and put them into a traditional one-on-one casino game format.

As well as ushering in new gaming options, these multi-platform crossovers have allowed casino and sports bettors to cross the betting divide. Those looking to bet on the Premier League can now pull up a seat at an online poker table with a single click. This movement of players has led to more traffic in poker tournaments and low-stakes cash games.

What’s more, as well as helping to boost liquidity and increase the prize pool totals, these crossover players are usually not as skilled as seasoned poker grinders. This means the level of competition is still fairly weak at the low levels. Before checking out our list of new poker sites 2022, visit our poker academy section and pick up some tips and tricks to beat these crossover players (apologies to all our sports fans – it’s nothing personal).

Types of Tournaments

One of the main benefits of online poker rooms is the variety of tournaments on offer. Some of the most popular types in the UK include:

  • Sit and Go (SNGs): SNG tournaments only begin when a predetermined number of players sign up. SNGs are hugely popular because they eliminate the issue of waiting for a scheduled tournament to start.
  • Freeroll: These tournaments don’t have an entry fee but still offer a real-money prize pot.
  • Freezeout: Players must pay a buy-in fee and play until the chips run out. Freezout tournaments don’t let you re-enter the game after you have been eliminated.
  • Re-entry/Re-buy: As the name suggests, these tournaments let eliminated players return to the game, essentially starting from scratch with the same beginning stack. The difference between re-buy and re-entry is whether you continue the tournament in the same seat or if you have to move to a new table.
  • Multi-buy: Bettors can play in the same tournament with multiple stacks. While it increases your chances of winning, there is also more risk and higher real-money costs involved.
  • Satellite: Satellite tournaments are what launched online poker into the mainstream. They allow players with a smaller bankroll to qualify for larger, high-cost buy-in tournaments such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

Cash Games

Unlike many of the tournament types listed above, cash games allow you to leave or enter online poker games whenever you want. You can play with as little or as much money as the table allows, and you can also add more money to your stack if you run out.

Cash games are great for players with time constraints since you can come and go as you please. The flexibility of cash games also means they are considerably less volatile than tournaments. Beginner bettors are better off starting with cash games than tournaments, though freeroll tournaments are the safest option of all.

Use Playright to Find the Best Poker Sites UK Players Can Join

To see what the most popular poker sites for UK players have to offer, all you have to do is click through our site. Thanks to our team of experts, you’ll not only get in-depth insights into the leading platforms, but tips on how to play poker online like a pro. Indeed, by following the steps below, you’ll be able to enjoy UK online poker at its best:

  • Click through our expert online poker UK reviews to find the sites that sound most appealing.
  • Follow our secure sign-up links to the top UK poker sites and create your first account.
  • Come back to Playright and visit our academy section where you can learn more about poker online and the skills you need to thrive.
  • Make some deposits at the best and most popular poker sites UK players can find and have some fun today.