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Online Poker Basics
From seniors to college students, people are flooding into poker rooms, both online and offline, like never before. The recent poker craze owes a lot to the success of televised high-stakes tournaments like the World Series of Poker, and it has made Texas Hold 'Em one of the hottest games on the Internet.

The most popular online rooms offer play only against other people, there are no computer opponents or casino-style dealers. The sites make money by taking a small percentage, or rake, from each pot. You can usually play at free tables where there is no real money involved if you prefer.

Is It Legal?

Governments have been slow to react to this growing business, so in many cases, the technology is ahead of the legislation.

The U.S. government has taken a stand against online poker and other forms of online gambling, based on an interpretation of the frequently cited "Wire Act" of 1961. This statute prohibits gambling over the telephone, and in the case of Jay Cohen, the Courts ruled that it does apply to online sports betting. Whether the Act applies to betting on a poker game, particularly when that game is operated from a foreign country, is still a matter of debate.

While online poker firms aren't likely to risk setting up operations in the U.S. any time soon, at this stage no person has been convicted, brought to trial, or even charged for playing poker online. Nor has the government made any effort to pursue the owners of offshore poker Web sites.

A couple years ago, however, the Justice Department did send out a letter to media trade groups warning them that accepting ads from online poker sites could be construed as "aiding and abetting" an illegal activity. Many prominent media sites, including Yahoo and Google, no longer accept ads from poker sites where betting is allowed. Most big payments companies and U.S. credit-card issuers followed suit; PayPal, Western Union, and American Express, for example, will not do business with gambling sites.

In the U.K. they have taken a different approach. The British Parliament passed the "Gambling Bill" not long ago, which created a commission to monitor the U.K. domestic online gaming industry rather than attempting to ban it completely. The agency will regulate the advertising of gambling sites to U.K. consumers, as well as prosecute those who operate fraudulent games.

Obviously, a lot depends on where you live. About the only way to find out for sure if you are breaking any laws by playing online poker is to consult a lawyer in your area. Although we have several "bricks and mortar" casinos in town, I'll admit I have no idea what the legal status of online gambling is where I live in Canada.

Is It Secure?

As I mentioned above, certain commonly used U.S. payment options are not available on poker sites, but other companies have stepped in to fill their shoes. One such company is NETeller, which acts as a middle-man between American bank accounts and foreign gambling sites. It should come as no shock that NETeller is based offshore, on the Isle of Man. So far, Americans have not been deterred from playing online poker by the extra steps in the payment process.

Still, it should be noted that anything involving this much offshore activity has inherent risks. People will have little recourse if there are problems or laws suddenly change. Furthermore, the lack of regulation makes it an easy industry for dishonest operators to get into. Audited by independent firms like the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, the current market leaders have actually proven to be quite trustworthy.

Are There Cheaters?

In virtually every game played online there will be those that try to cheat the system. Poker and games at online casinos are no exception, and efforts have been made to play multiple hands at the same table and use computer programs to improve odds. The more reputable poker sites have a number of reasonably effective ways to fight back. If you read the user agreement, you will usually discover that they have the right to grab screenshots from your system, find out what programs you have running the background, and so on.

Other Concerns

A low-limit table can offer some affordable casual entertainment, but high-stakes and no-limit games are also available online. I shouldn't have to tell you that some people find poker very habit forming. I strongly recommend spending a few months in a free room, and keeping track of how much you lose there, before you start playing for money. It may give you an entirely new perspective on how much Texas Hold 'Em your budget can handle.

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Sports - Sportsbetting

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Sports - Bookmaker

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USA Players Accepted: Bingo and Casino

Since there are few choices for USA players, we recommend Bingo and Casino sites that contain all or most within the same account:

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