How To Play Online Poker

How To Play Online Poker


Google searches for ‘how to play poker’ are up 200% since lockdown began. To ensure SLMan readers aren’t going in blind to their new hobby, we spoke to Patrick Leonard, a pro who has made millions playing online. This is what he had to say…

Let’s start with how you got into online poker…
When I was around the age of 16, my friends and I found ourselves getting mixed up in the wrong kind of hobbies. We decided we should transition to underage gambling instead. It seemed like a mature decision at the time. Initially it was just for fun but, as the intrigue grew, I realised that to improve quickly I would need to move to online poker, where hands are dealt and played much faster.

At what point did it become your full-time job?
I had a pretty good job between the ages of 20 and 23, which earned me a comfortable living. Poker was netting me around the same amount on the side just as a hobby, so I decided to give it a shot full time.

How has online poker changed since its early days?
Most governments got very greedy and wanted a bigger piece of the pie. When I first started playing, I would play against people from all around the world. Now the Italian, French, Spanish, American and many more governments won't let their players play against the ‘rest of the world’ because they want a higher percentage of the rake. You mainly play against people in your home country now.

And how does online poker now differ from live poker?
You can play from anywhere in the world. You can also play multiple tables at once. Plus you get a five-minute break every 60 minutes, rather than a 15-minute break every two hours, so it’s much more accessible.

Why do you think it’s so popular right now?
A lot of people love to gamble, whether that’s betting on sports teams, going to bingo night, visiting a casino or simply playing the lottery. Most of these have been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, but people’s appetite for gambling and excitement remains. Websites that normally make money from sports have switched their attention and marketing to online poker, meaning players from other game types have started to get involved. Online poker is fun and thrilling, plus a good distraction. You feel like you’re part of something, a community, while still abiding by lockdown rules.


"Online poker is fun and thrilling, plus a good distraction. You feel like you’re part of something, a community, while still abiding by lockdown rules."

What game should you start with if you’re a beginner?
Most educational material is on Texas Hold ‘Em, as it’s the most popular game. It’s very easy to learn and simple to understand and play, both live and online. Most people already know some of the basic rules.

How long can you expect a game to last?
You can enter games based on how much time you want to commit. You can opt for games that will last literally for two minutes, or you can register for marathon tournaments that can last for 12 hours or more. My longest sessions are usually on Sundays: I start around 3pm and keep playing 10-20 tables until around 5-6am.

What equipment do you need to play online poker?
All you need is a good internet connection. You can play from a smartphone or a computer.

And how much money do you need to start off with?
You can start with ‘play’ money if you just want to understand the rules, but after that you can play for literally anything you want.

Do you need to pay to use online poker sites?
No, there are no subscription fees for sites. They make money when you play by taking a small piece of the prize pool.

"You can compete against the best players in the world if you wish to and you have a chance of winning."

How do you know who you’re playing against?
Most online poker sites ask players to use an alias. I’m an ambassador for Partypoker, which is currently the only site that does ‘real name’ games, where you can play against people and see their real name. But if you prefer to use an alias, that's fine too.

What’s the best way to play online poker with your mates?
Organise yourselves! You can all sit in the same game at the same time. It’s very easy to coordinate. Some sites let you create a ‘club’ that your friends can join, which you can then use to start a game.

How much of poker is luck and how much is skill?
There is no quantifiable percentage. I think that’s why the game is so popular. You can compete against the best players in the world if you wish to and you have a chance of winning. There are some skills and knowledge that make you a better player, of course, but there’s always a chance that you could beat the best. For some people, playing poker is their hobby – like mine is football – and it has the benefit of being much more accessible. I can't play at Wembley in the FA Cup final, but they can sit down anywhere in the world and play a hand online.

Finally, how do you know when to fold?
The most important thing to remember is to not get attached to single cards. If you have an ace don't get too excited – your kicker (second card) is crucial.



1. Play within your bankroll

Anybody can lose with the best hand, so you need to have enough in reserve to reload and get that money back. Try and always have ten buy-ins available: for example, if you deposit £50, play £5 games until you build your bankroll to £100. Then move up to £10 games and so on.


2. Be observant

See what other players on the table are doing: who plays too many hands? Who plays too few hands? Poker is a one-on-one sport. You are competing against each player in a psychological duel.

3. When the fun stops, stop! 

It’s not good to chase losses. Put a limit on the amount of money you feel comfortable betting – and stick to it.

4. Speak to others

There are so many poker communities out there with people who want to be good at online poker and those who give free advice. It’s a great way to feel part of something.

5. Learn from the experts 

You can watch professional poker players stream on Twitch every night and explain their thought processes. You can also ask them questions through the chat service. This is a great way to learn a bit more about different games and hands.

Follow Patrick on Instagram @Pads1161

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