For much of poker’s history, the “home game” has been the most popular way to play poker. As much as we like playing in casinos and poker rooms and in other public locations, the private poker game among friends is how millions primarily enjoy the game.
Since first being introduced in the late 1990s, online poker has become a preferred form of poker for many. Indeed, whereas it was on the periphery at first, online poker now rivals “live” in-person poker as a favorite way to play for most.
In fact, playing online is a great way to start playing poker. On PokerStars, you can start out playing for play money, learning the rules and strategy without any cost whatsoever.
Once you do, PokerStars is also a great place to get together with friends to play online. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to getting an account, using PokerStars to help increase your knowledge of poker, and setting up a private poker club in PokerStars Home Games.
Use this guide to start playing online yourself or point your friends to it to help them get online and start playing.
1. Getting an account
PokerStars works as a “standalone” client. That means rather than viewing it through a web browser, it runs as its own program.
Start out by visiting the PokerStars site and downloading the client.
You should know that real money games aren’t available in all countries, but you can play for play money from anywhere. In countries with real money games, you can follow the instructions about depositing and withdrawing funds. Keep an eye out as well for bonus offers when depositing and take advantage of those when available.
PokerStars works on both Windows PC and Mac computers. It is also available to play on a mobile device or tablet, including iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.
When you visit the site and download, the site automatically detects what version of the PokerStars client you’ll need.
Once you have PokerStars downloaded, the next step will be to create a username and invent yourself a password. You can also create a custom avatar that will appear at the tables when you play.
Once you’ve done that, you might want first to check out the play money games in order to get a feel for how the client works.
In the upper right corner, notice where it says “Real Money” and “Play Money” and click the circle next to “Play Money.” Then choose a game by highlighting and clicking on it, and follow the instructions from there to join a cash game or tournament.
When it comes to game selection, there’s a lot to choose from and it might seem overwhelming at first. You might just click the “Cash” tab and join one of the low “stakes” play money tables (listed as “Fun” tables) to start.
2. Learning poker rules and strategy
If you or any of your friends are brand new to poker, PokerStars has plenty of ways to help you get started learning the rules.
The great thing about playing online is that you can play whenever you like — there are always games going. That means you can read up on rules and/or gather strategy tips, and go play right away to test what you’ve learned.
For an general overview of poker rules, click here.
You can also visit the PokerStars School and check out its “New to Poker?” page. There you can find advice regarding the basics of poker, how to start playing play money games on PokerStars, and gather other useful advice and tips from the team of pros.
If you already play an in-person home game and are moving things online, one factor that you and others will need to learn about are the differences between online and live poker.
For players who have only played live, online poker introduces some differences that might take getting used to.
The pace of play is faster online, with hands being dealt and usually playing out approximately twice as fast as happens live. Players may not have quite as long to make decisions, which can be tricky especially when learning where the buttons are and how to perform actions like changing bet sizes.
This will involve some trial-and-error, to be sure, which is another reason why the play money option is a good one for new players.
If you are starting your online poker experience with friends, you can share what you’re learning as you figure out things together.
The PokerStars client has an incredible number of features enabling players to customize their experience when playing. These range from simple details like changing the color of the table to more involved options such as creating shortcuts to enable favored bet sizings.
Experiment with these features yourself, and share what you’re discovering with your friends.
3. Starting your own poker club with “Home Games”
Of course, a great way to collaborate as you learn is by creating a club in PokerStars Home Games where you and your friends can play together.
When you log onto PokerStars and join cash games or tournaments, you will be playing against players from all over the world. But the best way to play online poker with friends is to start your own private poker club.
Essentially PokerStars Home Games allows you to create your own club in which players can only play if they have been invited. It’s like having your friends over to your house for a game, only everyone gets to play from his or her home.
You can play cash games or tournaments. You can play for high or low stakes, either for real money or play money. You can also play any of a number of different poker variants, in case you and your club members want to try something besides no-limit hold’em.
To find Home Games in the PokerStars client, go to the main lobby and look down the right side. Among the choices you’ll see “Home Games.” Click that to open the Home Games lobby.
From there you’ll find options to “Create a Poker Club” or “Join a Poker Club.” Creating a club involves just a few steps, after which you’ll become the Club Manager. Those include inventing a Club Name and creating an Invitation Code (a password) that you’ll then give out to those whom you invite into the club.
Joining a club is easy, too. The player enters the Club ID number and Invitation Code, then waits for the Club Manager to “approve” the request. That’s it!
From there the Club Manager can create cash games and tournaments at scheduled times. There is even a way to set up an ongoing leaderboard to see who is doing the best in the club.
For more information, here is an overview explaining in more detail how to start your own poker club with Home Games.
Playing with friends online is a great way to keep a home game going. It also allows friends who don’t live near each other to stay in touch and continue to enjoy a favorite pastime together.
Being able to needle your buddy with a chatbox zinger or a well-timed throwable is a bonus, too!