The finest online poker sites offer exceptional liquidity, a large player base, a wide range of buy-in options and generous guaranteed prize pools. They also offer a host of bonuses and promotions. Choosing the right site can be daunting but our guide will point you in the direction of the best sites.

The first thing you need to do is decide which type of online poker you want to play for real money. Most reputable sites have a free play option for players who just want to try out the game. This is usually offered through a web browser but downloadable software can also be used. Once you have decided to play poker for real cash you will need to create a user account with the site and choose one of several deposit methods. Once the funds appear in your account you can then select a table to join.

Once you have joined a table the dealer will deal each player five cards. You then have the choice to call or fold. If you call your opponents must act in the same way. It’s easy to forget that there is a real person on the other end of the line but most sites use video cameras to monitor players at the tables. This is to prevent any cheating and ensure that the rules are being followed.

Another factor to consider is how much the online poker site charges in rake. The house typically takes between 3 and 4.25% of each pot. This is significantly less than brick and mortar casinos but it does add up over time. There are several ways to reduce this charge, including playing less hands and increasing the size of your bets.

Almost all online poker rooms offer a wide variety of games and tournaments but you should always play within your bankroll as this will limit your losses. It’s also wise to take advantage of any welcome bonus offers that the poker site may be running as these can greatly increase your winnings.

If you’re a beginner there are plenty of resources available on how to play poker and many of the top sites will have guides for each game. In addition to these there are many books on poker strategy which can help you improve your game. Harrington on Hold’em, Theory of Poker and Super/System are just a few of the most popular.

Until recently most people who played poker in the US did so in smoky bars or at their local casino but that all changed with the advent of online poker. Originally the industry was run by private companies which ran poker rooms from their own websites but when the Multi-State Gaming Compact was established New Jersey and Pennsylvania joined the market. This brought a significant amount of additional revenue to the industry and has increased the number of players in the common pool. The upcoming launch of legal online poker in Michigan and Pennsylvania will further boost the market.