Online Poker vs. Online Gambling:
Poker is a game of skill, and every decision you make is about maximizing your Expected Value or EV for short. The term “EV” will be used throughout this article and will be seen in two ways. A player can have +EV, which is positive Expected Value or – EV, which is negative Expected Value. Poker is not gambling and the following explains why.
Most gambling games have a negative EV for you, and a positive EV (5.49% in this case) for the casino. In the short run you could win, but in the long run, if you played typical gambling games 1000 times, the casino would always end up winning by about 5.49%. As you can see these types of Poker online are in favor of the house. Poker pits you against other players and not the house. In a full ring game (9 players) or shorthanded game (6 players), the goal is to make the best EV decisions against the many other players playing worse (making -EV decisions) than you.
A simple example would be if you were dealt KK before the flop came (preflop), which everyone knows is a good hand preflop. This hand has a high chance to win against all other hands preflop. If you played and raised “all in” with this hand against a player who played and called every all in, you would have a huge advantage as you will be a favorite every time, making it a +EV decision. This is an exaggerated example and playing one hand would not be the smartest idea. What you would do is play say the top 20% of hands because against a person who plays maybe 70% of their hands, you again, will be making a +EV decision every time you play with him. It’s likely that your starting hands will have a lot higher probability to win. This is just scraping the surface, and there is an EV attached to every decision and every situation. Many online poker sites provide starting hand charts for beginners to use, which would be the simplest way to improve your EV.
In addition, there is always variance and in the short term weaker players might get lucky, but that’s also what attracts them to come back and keep playing. In the long run, a good player who always makes +EV decisions will always end up a winner. This is why poker is not gambling but a game of skill and understanding how to exploit your opponent’s mistakes.
Is it safe to play online poker?
Absolutely, some sites have over 50,000 people playing at one time. Major sites like Full Tilt Poker run advertisements on the TV and the web and are even listed on the stock market. They allow you to play poker online for free or real money. Any negative publicity would affect their business so these sites often provide the best customer service. Keeping your password secure is your responsibility and if you do this, your money will be safe. Online poker sites have no incentive to cheat when dealing hands since they want to be extremely fair so you continue to play, which allows them to earn their income in the form of “rake.” This is a very small percent of the pot (usually less than 1%). In poker, you are playing against the other players, and not the house.