We're deep into lockdown and we don't know when it it's going to end. There's a chance this might be going on for a long time, so it's best to make contingency plans. One of the best ways to make Saturday night really feel like Saturday night is to play online poker with friends online.
You would think in the age of 3-D printers and instant communication that playing poker with friends over the internet would be easy. But it is surprisingly difficult, thanks in large part to America shutting down the bulk of the online poker industry a few years ago. We've just about hacked it, and here's our tips on playing online poker with your friends.
Before we get into it, let us just establish that this post is intended for casual players looking for a bit of poker and a bit of conversation, who want to play in the easiest and quickest format. We're pointing you towards online poker options that are free and next to no cash outlay. Poker is fun game when played amongst friends and we don't at all advise getting involved in the murky world on 'online poker'. All of these games are perfect with Zoom/Skype/Google Hangouts on a second screen.
Game notes: Poker Stars is one of the biggest online poker sites in the world. After downloading their software, you set up a 'home game' via a league that can host your private game and invite mates. Here's a step-by-step guide to that process.
Set up difficulty: Easy to medium. You'll have to install the PokerStars software in order to play, and that involves creating logins, verifying emails etc. I know people have had varying degrees of success creating the home game/private game. Many Balls.ie readers recommend it, this humble writer and his friends couldn't get it to work. If you do get it working, it's brilliant online poker software.
Game notes: The perfect resource for casual players. This is no frills poker. Game play is easy and minimal and there's a chat function.
Set up difficulty: Piss easy. Nothing is required to get this off the ground. You don't have to download anything. You get a table and send an invite link to friends and the game takes care of itself. Because of its simplicity the game has seen a massive spike in popularity over the last month, to the point that it can be very hard to get a table on a weekend evening. Make this your first port of call.
Game notes: Basically a crypto version of the Pokernow game. You start with some crytpo coinage and have the option to play at private tables or with strangers.
Set up difficulty: Easy to medium. There's nothing to download, which is great. However, the front design isn't mindblowing and connecting via the private table proved tricky for me and my mates. Maybe you'll have better luck. It definitely doesn't have the popularity issues of PokerNow. If you do spend your free money, you'll have to purchase crypto currency to top up again.
Game notes: This is a fun app that mixes video and poker in the one place.
Set up difficulty: Easy to medium. It's a tablet or app version, which takes the desktop element out of it.
Game notes: Prominence Poker is an old Xbox game that you can download for free over the gaming network Steam. You create a character and can play with your friends in private games. To play with friends, just set up a private game and invite your Steam buddies.
Set up difficulty: Medium to hard. First you need to download Steam, then you need to download the game, then you need to create you character and do a few demos to build cash. You'd want to really enjoy gaming to opt for this set-up. While the graphics are cool and the poker venues are enjoyable, it's perhaps needlessly complicated for a casual Saturday night game. Also, you need to put €5 in your Steam account to connect to friends and this game is not compliant with Macs, which might rule your cool friends out.
Game notes: There are hundreds of online poker apps run by gambling companies that claim to let you play poker with friends. In our experience, these were all painful to navigate and involved a cash outlay at some stage
Set up difficulty: Hard to impossible.