In a time of side hustles, work-from-home projects, and online gigs, it’s not uncommon for people today to look for ways to make money in gaming. It means seeking out various gaming apps (Long Game, Bananatic App, and more) to pay users different ways to play games on the simpler end of the spectrum. That said, others look to take what we might refer to as a more professional approach to profitable gaming — streaming to subscribers through online platforms or making their way into eSports (where the top-earning gamers now make as much as pro athletes!).
Before any of these trendy, modern options became available to gamers, many sought income through online poker. For years, this was essentially the way to play games for real money, and many people had success with it — from the casual online players banking $100 or so in a month to the amateurs-turned-professionals who found themselves netting millions. Thus, one could just about argue that the early online poker scene more or less set the scene for the spectator gaming and eSports we see today.
But is it still possible to make real money in online poker today? In a word, yes. It is possible to make money fast in lots of different kinds of gaming. But the picture of modern online poker is pretty complex, and whether or not you have the potential to profit (again, not a guarantee) depends on many different factors.
Find a Legal Platform
It’s important to note first of all that one of the reasons online poker gave way to other real-money gaming options — at least in the U.S. — is that most states made it illegal to deposit gains from poker sites. As a result, online poker with actual cash at stake remains functionally forbidden in several states. With that said, there are options.
A growing number of states have legal online poker, and it’s perfectly legal to play in those states whether or not you live there. It’s not entirely common, for instance, for people to cross into Nevada or New Jersey specifically to play at online casinos.
There are also some cases in which American Indian reservations offer online poker platforms that are not subject to U.S. restrictions. And finally, there is some potential for online poker platforms that operate via cryptocurrency rather than ordinary money to be used legally — though as of this writing, it’s an issue that has yet to be sorted out with total clarity.
Bottom line: If you want to play poker for real money, check the local laws, assess your options, and make sure you’re playing legally.
Ensuring the Platform is Reputable
Legal and reputable platforms are not the same. For example, some sites host real-money poker games within legal boundaries but may not operate with adequate security or appropriate measures to ensure fairness. It’s not a particularly common issue with well-known sites, but it is something to be aware of.
Typically, when playing online poker for real money, you’ll find a sign-up process that will clue you into the platform practices’ degree of professionalism and security.
You’ll need to provide some personal information (including sometimes a social security number), create a screen name and profile for the site. Then, you’ll be asked to make an initial deposit, usually via any of a range of card processing options, such as a credit card with a smart chip.
If the process is any simpler than this, you’ll at least want to read the fine print and make sure you aren’t setting yourself up on a site that won’t protect your money or identity by using a stolen credit card. Ultimately you’ll also want to read reviews of any sites you’re considering to confirm legitimacy further.
Practicing with Low Stakes
If you decide to play cash poker games, you’ll first want to practice either at free tables or with very low stakes. Most reputable online poker sites will offer one or both of these options. Though the competition will usually be worse, you’ll still be able to work on your strategic approach for beginners.
You’ll get the hang of how the site works, figure out some of your tendencies, and generally refine your poker game. In addition, you’ll learn what kind of player you are, which will help develop yourself as a player who will maximize profit potential when high-stakes games are at hand.
Embracing an Analytical Approach
While developing yourself as a player, it’s also wise to adopt an analytical approach or tap into advanced game statistics to better inform yourself. Among the many interesting discussion points relating to artificial intelligence in poker is that AI has clarified how players react to different situations. In addition, pro players have noted that what they once learned through trial and error can now be provided via data. For example, players can memorize probabilities and know the likelihood of different resulting hands.
It’s not to make the game sound simple. No two games of poker are alike, and analytics are not a foolproof hack to winning games. Instead, bluffing, betting, and competition makes poker a game of skill more than one of pure chance or pure probabilities.
Nevertheless, diligent players who are in it for profits will often consume massive amounts of statistical analysis. They can at least learn to understand what should happen with different cards and different situations. It’s at the very least a strong foundation for competitive play.
The best online poker players — or those who earn the most — also tend to thrive by diversifying their strategies. It means spreading out bets across several different games and/or tournaments rather than putting too much into any one digital table.
It’s a stock principle that translates to poker. Stock market investors know that putting all of their money into one asset increases the likelihood that it can all be lost at once. Instead, they spread money across unrelated assets, decreasing the likelihood of significant losses and increasing the potential for net gain across the board.
A lot of online poker players basically practice the same method. The more games they play, the less potential there is for a major bust. It also increases the odds of a positive total return. It’s how you build wealth to six figures and even seven-figure money.
Playing with Familiar Crowds
Players who embrace analytical strategy also tend to make a habit of playing with familiar crowds when possible. Mind you; you won’t always have control over which opponents you see online. But there is potential to play within unofficial communities. If you do this with an eye for detail and keep player notes, you can start to notice tendencies in your opponents.
The habits can be surface-level observations, such as knowing which players are more or less aggressive. But ultimately, the more you know about your opponents over time, the better equipped you’ll be to beat them.
Can You Make Real Money in Online Poker Summary
Poker is ultimately not a reliable way to make money online. There’s chance and variability in the game, and every time you approach a virtual table, there’s the possibility that you’ll lose your buy-in. Thus, poker should not necessarily be compared to other modern options for making money in gaming; it’s definitely not an income-producing asset.
With that said, the points above do illustrate that players can take specific steps to increase the likelihood of profitable play. It’s still a game of chance, but it can become one with better odds of generating a positive return with the right approach over time.