Online Poker FAQ — Beginners' Guide

Sites welcoming US players

Full Tilt Poker
Highest limits, celebrity players, $600 deposit bonus

Ultimate Bet
Aruba and Bellagio freerolls, $650 deposit bonus

Poker Stars
Best tournaments and frequent player freerolls

Absolute Poker
Weekly $150,000 freeroll


Compare all sites.

Keeping track of your own play

Session statistics

Some sites show you your own session statistics. This is a summary of your play during the current login session. Typically, the statistics include the number of hands you have played, the percentage of the time that you folded preflop and the percentage of time you won the hand. Aside from tracking the number of hands, these statistics are not very useful. For example, they don't even include the total amount you have won or lost in the session.

To see your statistics in Party Poker, right-click on your own name plate. In Poker Stars, choose the Stats tab in the lower left area of the window.

Hand histories

For those who like to review their play, hand histories are a dream come true. Most sites let you request an email report of the most recent hands you played, usually up to 100 or so. The hand history message contains a detailed record of the hand, including every betting action, the pot size and all the hands shown at the showdown. Some sites also include hands that called at the showdown but then were mucked without being shown at the table.

Some sites, such as Ultimate Bet and Party Poker, let you immediately bring up a record of the previous hand, without having to request an email. This is convenient when you didn't see exactly what happened at the showdown. Also, sites that specialize in tournaments, such as Poker Stars, let you request an email report of your recent tournament activity.

While it's fun to request a hand history when you win a monster pot (and savor winning it all over again!), the most valuable use of hand histories is as input into record keeping software that tracks both your and your opponents' performance.

Record keeping software

There are two main types of software for keeping poker records. The first is developed specifically for online play and can automatically import hand history emails into a database. The second is not designed for online play in particular and is used to manually track all your poker play, online or off.

Poker Tracker

This is the most popular tool for automatically importing hand histories into your own private database. It handles all the top sites. It keeps track of your own performance by site and by stakes, for both ring games and tournaments, but is limited to holdem. You can see simple session reports, or drill into detailed reports on your profit rate for each starting hand broken down by position. It tracks your opponents, too, and can export a player notes file with mini-reports on each player that you can see in the poker client. It even integrates with your email account and will automatically request hand histories while you play. This is a comprehensive tool that is frequently updated by its author.

Cost: $55. See Poker Tracker for screen shots, a free trial and more details.

Poker Office

This is the main competitor to Poker Tracker. It imports hand histories into your own private database in the same way. Poker Office doesn't support such a wide range of sites and doesn't come out with updates quite as quickly, but it's still a good product. Many people strongly prefer the Poker Office user interface to Poker Tracker.

Cost: $69. See Poker Office for screen shots, a free trial and more details.

PokerStat

This tool imports online poker hand histories and is similar to Poker Tracker. It only handles Paradise Poker and Poker Stars and can read both holdem and omaha hand histories. It tracks both ring games and tournaments. It provides similar statistics to Poker Tracker but isn't quite as full-featured.

Cost: $65 to import data from just one poker site, $105 to handle both. See Poker Stat for screen shots, a free trial and more information.

StatKing

This is a general-purpose poker record-keeping tool. It does not import online hand histories or track individual hand results. You manually input your session results and it generates tabular reports by game, location, stakes, etc. You can even use it for tracking other games such as video poker.

Cost: $30. See Conjelco for more information and the Conjelco download page for a free trial.

Poker Dominator

This is a free web site that allows you to input your poker session results and see cool reports and graphs of your results. It's very easy to use and you can access it while traveling – even from a cell phone. Having the data on the web is both a plus and a minus. On the one hand, you don't have to worry about installing yet another program or backing up your data (though you can export a copy if you want). But on the other, you have to trust the web site operator to maintain the privacy and integrity of your data. Many people have decided it's a net win and made the site a popular resource.

Cost: Free. See Poker Dominator for screen shots and more information.

PokerCharts

This is a subscription web site with a similar service to Poker Dominator (see above – the same comments about keeping your data on the web apply here). PokerCharts has a different look and feel and some people prefer it to Poker Dominator. On the other hand, it costs money.

Cost: About $2/month. See Poker Charts for screen shots and more information.

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Keeping track of your opponents Beyond basic strategy – polishing your game