How to play online poker safely and securely with your friends

Poker is more than just the world’s most popular card game. It’s practically an American institution. From friendly weekend games in garages and man caves across the nation to the unparalleled World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, poker is undeniably ingrained in the fabric of America. Whether you play poker to bond with your buddies, showcase your talents, win big, feel the glory, or all of the above, it’s obvious why the game is timeless.

Be a Great Host - Online Poker With Friends
Be a Great Host - Online Poker With Friends

Yet despite poker’s enduring popularity, the game has certainly evolved in lockstep with life itself. With so many facets of daily life-shifting online, it shouldn’t be surprising that everything from casual home games between friends to intense multi-day tournaments with seven-figure prize pools are moving online. What’s interesting is that online poker owes its success to more than just convenience or following trends. It’s actually a superior way to experience the game. Keep reading and discover how simple it is to enjoy poker online with your friends.

The benefits of playing online poker with friends

When you play online poker with friends, you won’t have to worry about supplying cards and chips nor will you have to lose sleep wondering how many people can fit comfortably around your makeshift poker table. You can count on online poker sites to give you a professional and seamless set up with a couple of mouse clicks. It’s never been easier to be a gracious host.

What’s even better is the free poker client takes care of the chip handling. That means you’ll never have to concern yourself with using the correct chip denominations when you bet, raise, or call. It’s not just automatic, it’s mistake-proof, which is particularly great for beginners and anyone who hates arguing about the rules.

Plus, online poker sites also deal with all the calculations. Even though math shouldn’t be hard for anyone who is half decent at poker, it’s nice to know you won’t have to keep tabs on side pots. You’ll never have to wonder exactly how many chips you and your friends have at a given time since all this information is prominently displayed on your screen. Not only can you keep track of wins and losses with ease too, but you can relive the glory with features like hand re-players.

No Dealear Complications - Online Poker With Friends
No Dealear Complications - Online Poker With Friends

While it’s nice to invite people into your home for a friendly card game, there’s always that one so-called friend who makes you question your generosity and hospitality. You know the guy. He might “accidentally” track dog shit into your house, spill beer all over your brand-new poker table, clog your toilet, and get his Doritos-stained fingers all over your favorite deck of cards, all before you play a single hand. Rather than sever your friendship, why not invite this guy to a virtual game instead? You won’t even have to supply the snacks or deal with the collateral damage.

Did you know online poker sites make it easy to compete with friends who live all over the country or even around the world? There’s never been a better excuse to rekindle some old friendships in the name of poker.

Finding a place to play

Now that the benefits of playing online poker with friends are apparent, there’s really only one question. Namely, where are you going to play? Of course, online poker gives you the power to play from your bathroom, passenger seat of your car, office, bedroom, yard, or anywhere else you can find a stable internet connection. Yet with dozens of sites offering online poker, how is anyone supposed to narrow down their choices?

Luckily, finding a reliable place to play poker with friends on the internet doesn’t take much luck at all when you know what to look for. When comparing poker rooms, it’s important to stick to reputable sites with a long track record. For example, WPN is a poker network that’s been dealing cards since 2001 and it is home to several US facing sites including Americas Cardroom.

Of course, a solid reputation is just part of the story. Look for an internet cardroom with robust software. Even when the stakes are small, you deserve to know that the site delivers an authentic experience that isn’t going to constantly crash in the middle of your virtual home game.

Also, pay attention to the available payment options. Make sure they’re convenient, fast, and safe. Before you choose a place to bring your bankroll, you’ll want to see who licenses or certifies the gameplay.

Seamless experience - Online Poker With Friends
Seamless experience - Online Poker With Friends

Playing it safe online

Without getting too technical, the odds of drawing a particular card in online poker should be identical to those in a live game with physical cards. To make this happen, programmers rely on Random Number Generators (RNGs) to shuffle the deck. What’s more, these RNGs need to be evaluated by an objective third party to ensure that they yield unpredictable results. It’s wise to make sure that the RNG is regularly inspected by an accredited testing agency. Trusted sites proudly display these credentials in a footer on their landing page and throughout the site.

RNGs are just one piece of the fair gameplay puzzle. You’ll also want to see what the poker site does to keep bots and cheaters off its platform. This is particularly important if you plan on playing anything other than private games among friends.

Reputable poker sites also take your security seriously at every stage of the game. From encrypted deposits and secure gameplay to fast and safe withdrawals, you want your experience to be hassle-free.

Creating your own tournaments

All the best online poker sites let you create your own private tournaments. It’s the best way to recreate the home experience with your friends. Sites like Americas Cardroom give you a great deal of control over the game. You can choose from slow, medium, or fast NLH, PLO, and PLO8 tournaments.

Initiating your tournament is as simple as choosing the structure, game type, and start time. Since your event is password protected, only you and the friends you invite can take part. It’s just like your private home game but online.

Online Poker’s Legal Standing

Is NOT Ilegal - Online Poker With Friends
Is NOT Ilegal - Online Poker With Friends

If you’re wondering if it’s legal to play poker with friends, you’re in good company. Even though friendly home games aren’t a problem in most jurisdictions, the laws surrounding playing online are a little more confusing and largely depend on where you live.

In the United States, the key piece of federal legislation that controls online poker is called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which first went into effect on January 12, 2009. Although the name might sound vicious, it doesn’t have much teeth.

Despite all the misconceptions out there, the UIGEA doesn’t make it illegal for US residents to play online poker. Its main power is that it prevents internet poker rooms and other gambling sites from accepting certain types of payments. It also essentially prevents banks and other financial firms from processing transactions in some situations. More importantly, not a single player has been charged or fined for playing poker online since the UIGEA went into effect well over a decade ago.

Perhaps the biggest UIGEA’s biggest consequence is that it forced several sites to withdraw from the US market. Fortunately, there are still lots of reputable poker rooms that welcome American players, including Americas Cardroom, which is based outside the USA and isn’t constrained by US laws. The site also relies on alternate payment methods like electronic wallets and cryptocurrencies. Yet even if you choose to deposit with a credit card or bank transfer, the laws pertain to the poker room and bank, not you, the player.

While the UIGEA won’t really matter to you unless you plan on starting your own online poker room or financial institution, it’s 100% irrelevant if you want to enjoy poker with friends for free.

Types of games available online

Texas Hold’em is easily the most popular poker variant in the USA, but it’s hardly the only game in town. If you’re like most people, you probably like to mix things up a little when you play with your buddies.

Fortunately, poker sites give you plenty of options like Texas Hold’em Omaha Hi/Lo, Omaha, Draw Poker, Seven Card Stud, and many more. Enjoy No Limit and Pot Limit games at a wide range of stakes. You can even experiment with a variety of tournament structures or enjoy the convenience of cash games. For an intimately intense experience, play heads up poker against your friend.

Several Games - Online Poker With Friends
Several Games - Online Poker With Friends

A few words of warning

If your search for a place to play poker online with your buddies begins with a trip to the Apple App Store or Google Play, you’ll need to exercise some caution. While these digital distribution platforms are generally great places to download trustworthy software, they’re also home to a disturbing trend in online poker. Unfortunately, many of the so-called play for fun apps that you’ll find in online stores no longer operate as advertised.

Despite their growing popularity, apps such as Pokerrrrr, Pokermaster, and PPpoker have all become gateways to the poker underworld. Over the past couple years, these unregulated apps have become rife with club games.

Even if you’re the kind of person who makes a habit of throwing caution to the wind or gets off on high risk behavior, you should know that these apps are fraught with issues. What starts out as harmless fun could quickly turn you into a victim of fraud or put you on the losing end of what is basically a Ponzi scheme.

If you’re a poker fan who browses reddit, Instagram and other social media outlets, you’re likely to encounter posts from agents recruiting players to play real money club games through these widely available apps. You should know that these agents get paid to bring players aboard. They often advertise soft games, low rakes, rebates and other incentives that look appealing at first glance. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with referral programs, the truth here isn’t kind. These agents are likely getting a cut of the cash you bring to the table, knowing full well that you may never get paid if you win.

Ponzi Scheme Fraud - Online Poker With Friends
Ponzi Scheme Fraud - Online Poker With Friends

In fact, these agents are the people who are responsible for handling your deposits and withdrawals. What’s worse is there is absolutely no security or recourse. You’re effectively forced to take a stranger at his word on the internet.

Just check out any of the popular poker forums and you’ll find a litany of complaints. Whether it’s a player who never received the tens of thousands of dollars he rightfully won or a victim whose deposit was mysteriously lost in transit, it’s just not worth it to play poker in an unregulated environment with people you’ve never met who are entirely unaccountable. It’s a case study in how not to play poker online with friends.

Keep in mind that apps like Pokerrrrr, Pokermaster, and PPpoker also have PC, Mac, and web versions. In other words, the problems stemming from this troubling trend aren’t unique to mobile players.

Whether or not these formerly fun apps have been highjacked by enterprising swindlers, or that was the plan all along, is a matter for debate. Regardless what the motivation is, you should avoid these club games at all costs, especially since the actual cost could prove to be rather high. Not to mention that safe and trusted alternatives are just a click away.

Frequently Asked Questions About Playing Poker Online with Friends

Is there a way to play online poker with your friends?

There are lots of ways to play poker online with your friends. Many of the best poker sites let you create home games with one or more friends. Even if you’ve never played cards on the internet before, you can start playing in mere minutes.

What type of software and hardware do I need to play online poker?

The exact system requirements vary depending on where you play, but typically you’ll need a Mac or PC with a stable internet connection. Some cardrooms do support iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks, Android tablets and smartphones. When creating your account and downloading the software, be sure to check if your configuration is compatible.

What should I look for in an online poker room?

Whether you are playing with friends or alone, it’s wise to choose a site with a proven track record. You’ll want to make sure the site is certified by an independent and reputable third party, so that you’ll have confidence that the cards are random and the games are fair. It’s also worth considering the assortment of games, promotions, software, traffic, and welcome bonus offers.

When playing poker for real money, how do I bring my cash to the table?

Reputable cardrooms welcome a wide variety of familiar payments. You can usually deposit funds using credit cards, debit cards, electronic wallets, and bank transfers. Some sites now accept cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

Is it legal to play poker online with friends?

Gambling regulations vary widely from country to country and state to state. If you live in the USA, you can find legal real money options in many parts of the country. There are also several trusted offshore cardrooms that welcome players from the USA, as long as they are of legal age. Of course, if you are playing strictly for fun, gambling laws don’t apply.

Can I just play poker with one friend online?

All the best poker sites let you enjoy heads up poker as well as larger tournaments and cash games, but why limit yourself to just one friend?

Do I have to pay online poker sites to host my private games?

Just like brick and mortar poker rooms, online sites collect a rake or small fee as compensation for hosting games. In cash games the rake is typically a percentage of the prize pool. When playing tournaments, the rake is a fixed fee paid upon registering for an event.

What type of poker can I play online with friends?

While most sites let you enjoy popular variants including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Omaha Hi/Lo, it’s often possible to play Seven Card Stud and Draw Poker as well. The leading cardrooms give you a choice of hosting cash games as well as tournaments with a variety of structures.