Online poker can be overwhelming for someone just getting into it, but over the last five years the biggest poker sites have made some huge improvements aimed at helping newcomers to the game.
Most recently, Party Poker introduced Casual Cash Game Tables for example. Players are only allowed to play one table at a time, which the site hopes will encourage new players to splash around chips without fear of running into serious grinders.
The hardest part for online poker sites is to protect new players without hurting the hard-core grinders.
It remains a tight-rope walk but here are five of the best features online poker sites have introduced over the last five years to help new players (feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments).
Take one look at online poker lobbies from over five years ago and you’ll wonder how anybody ever found anything.
These days most online poker sites utilize a pared-down quick-seat option, which let players instantly get into a game and start playing their preferred stakes.
Advanced poker players can still access the complete lobby when looking for a specific game but quick seat is a boon for both new players and mobile players who don’t want to scroll through hundreds of games.
Rewards-Based Daily Achievements
This is a really new feature that attempts to bring the Xbox-style achievements to online poker.
Known by many names, including Party Poker Missions or PokerStars Daily Challenges, these have actually been around for years but it’s only in the last while that poker sites have gotten serious about incentivizing with actual cash rewards.
The premise is simple: complete unique daily achievements such as playing 10 hands of PLO or playing a mobile tournament and receive bonus cash.
It’s a great way to encourage new players to move beyond standard No-Limit Hold’em and try PLO or Stud. New players might even learn they actually enjoy 2-7 Triple Draw more than standard Hold’em.
It was controversial when Bodog introduced anonymous tables a few years ago but there is one shining endorsement for the feature: Games are soft.
That’s the buzz in the poker community and it makes sense considering it’s very difficult to utilize HUDs or advanced stat trackers when you have a new identity every time you sit down. It also makes it harder for the sharks to track down the weaker players.
It’s a comfort for new players, who don’t utilize any software add-ons, to be able to sit down without worrying what everyone else might have installed.
It’s not completely without problems, however. Purists hate the fact you can never develop long-term notes on players because they’ll always have a different name.
Surprisingly Bodog and Bovada are really the only poker sites that have experimented with anonymous tables.
Online Poker Schools
Nearly every online poker site provides some sort of training tool.
Whether it’s PokerStars or Party Poker, you’ll learn the basics from the operators themselves and you’ll often receive tips from the pros about how to improve your game.
Some of the training tools are better than others but there are very few players who get into the game these days with zero knowledge.
Of course the information you’re getting is also available to everyone else so it’s not like you gaining the huge advantage you might have had back in the early 2000s.
While training tools definitely help even the playing field it’s worth continuing your education beyond the site-provided info (like perhaps PokerListings strategy).
Session Stats and Hand-Replayers
Hand histories and session stats are better than they’ve ever been on the major online poker sites and it’s fantastic for plugging your leaks.
It used to be that when you were learning poker and you lost a hand you might not necessarily understand why. These days it’s easy to pull up the hand replayer and see exactly what happened.
Beyond the hand replayer most sites also have advanced session stats so you can see the number of pots where you’ve been to the river, the number of flops seen and winning percentage.
While not as advanced as anything like Hold’em Manager or Poker Tracker, you’ll probably be able to tell if you’re playing too many hands.