Playing Real Money Poker on Your Phone and Why You Might Not Want To
Published on July 20, 2018
While the boom days may have ended a decade back, online poker is still a big business that generates billions in betting worldwide.
One reason behind the industry’s staying power is the rise of mobile apps that allow players to bring their favorite online poker site on the go. And no, I’m not talking about Zynga or any of those free play money poker apps – today’s generation can compete for real money through their mobile device.
This isn’t exactly a new thing. Since the WSOP first rolled out its inaugural online bracelet event in 2015, players have been known to show up at the table with iPad in hand, vying for both live and online bracelets at the same time.
Mobile action isn’t limited to tournaments by any means, either. Cash specialists can connect directly to some of the biggest ring games in the world with nothing more than a standard wireless connection.
All things considered, the arrival of fully functional mobile apps has revolutionized the way we play online poker for real money.
In 2018 and beyond, players simply don’t have to remain tethered to their laptop or desktop computer any longer. Sure, the creature comforts of home are always nice to have on hand, but busy lives pull people in different directions by default.
Why not bring your hobby along for the ride? After all, nothing beats catching a few choice cards on your daily commute or pulling in pots during a true power lunch.
Clearly then, online poker played through your phone or mobile device is an option to keep in mind. But like any emerging technology, mobile poker has definite pros and cons that players should be aware of before signing up.
And when you throw in the real money being put at risk, you’ll want to know as much as possible before downloading a poker app.
To help get you started on that front, this page presents both sides of the mobile online poker debate. Objectivity is my goal here, so I’ll simply explain how the major poker sites make their products available on mobile devices, before moving on to the pros and cons of mobile play.
In the end, I hope to leave readers with the information they need to decide whether or not to play for real money while on the move.
It doesn’t matter where you live or what online poker room you prefer – if the site is worth its salt, it’ll have a mobile app up and running. Indeed, there are several poker sites we rank very highly for mobile poker.
For folks living in the US market, the situation is a bit more fluid. Federal law in America bans operators from conducting online poker business, but individual states are free to legalize and regulate the industry as they see fit.
This has led three states – Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – to authorize the regulation of online poker since 2013.
In the five years since, several platforms have sprung up to serve America’s three regulated markets – including WSOP.com in Nevada and New Jersey, PartyPoker and PokerStars in New Jersey, and 888 Poker in Delaware.
Below, you’ll find a state-by-state breakdown of legal poker sites in the US.
For the most part, these mobile clients are made available as downloadable apps, usually straight from the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android). A few sites, however, may not require a download at all, allowing you to access the online poker action directly through your web browser.
Because the regulated market in the US is still relatively new, and the mobile apps were typically launched after the main platform established itself, you can expect a steady stream of updates and modifications.
But for a work in progress, the mobile online poker products that are completely legal in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware get the job done.
Personally speaking, I’ve played alongside big pros at the WSOP in Las Vegas who were busy with two games at once.
In between hands of their live tournament, these players – usually young guns who can’t get enough action – would instantly look down to their iPad or tablet, tapping away at the screen to grind cash games or tourneys.
With seven-figure prizes up for grabs on the felt and disconnections in the online game a surefire trigger for tilt, I feel safe in assuming that the regulated apps function just as intended.
Moving on to America’s unregulated marketplace, online poker still thrives in the other 47 states – just on a larger scale.
Major platforms like Bovada and the Winning Poker Network – which combines America’s Card Room (ACR) and Black Chip Poker (BCP) – serve thousands of players day in and day out.
And sure enough, even these unregulated sites make sure to connect their customers through mobile devices.
For a listing of popular online poker rooms that cover the rest of the US, take a look below.
Unlike the majority of platforms in regulated markets, most of the sites above make their mobile product accessible through your web browser. This saves valuable memory on your phone, tablet, or device, as you’ll only need Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or some other browser to take you straight to the tables.
Finally, players living outside the US market have much more variety to choose from. Countries like Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), Spain, Italy, and France all consider online poker to be perfectly legal.
While the extent of regulation varies by nation and region, much of the international community can sign up for online poker accounts with little to no trouble.
As such, non-Americans have a multitude of choices when it comes to mobile online poker, as shown below.
Many of these platforms are regionally facing, with Winamax serving the French market, Paddy Power operating in Ireland and the UK, etc.
The big boys, like PokerStars and PartyPoker, can be accessed from most of the world, though, giving players the ability to bring pack their poker game along with their passport.
Now that you know how to connect your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device to your online poker account, let’s run through the pros and cons of mobile play.
There are definitely some good reasons to play online poker from a mobile device. Here are the main ones.
If you’ve ever used an app to make your life a bit easier while in transit, you know all about the primary benefit of mobile online poker – convenience.
There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a train or bus during your morning commute, armed with nothing but a magazine or muffin to get you through the trip. And even with a smartphone or tablet at the ready, scrolling through Twitter or browsing Facebook pics will get old in a hurry.
But break out your favorite online poker room’s mobile app, fire up a cash game or Sit and Go tournament, and you’re suddenly immersed in something more. While fellow travelers are staring out the window while their eyes glaze over, you’ll be sweating your flush draw after the flop, forcing opponents to fold with a well-timed shove, and earning real money all the while.
Mobile play isn’t limited to travel, either. Maybe you’re stuck in the waiting room while your doctor runs late, or even playing a leisurely $3/$6 game at your local casino.
Another important aspect of mobile play to consider is fidelity to the main platform.
Back when mobile access to online gaming sites was coming into its own, about a decade ago by my count, sites could only condense so much of their platform. A site like PokerStars – which runs a laundry list of cash games, tournaments, Sit and Gos, satellites, and other events by the hour – simply wasn’t able to convert every table from the main client to the app.
As a result, players were left with a watered-down version of what makes PokerStars tick. Fans of many specialty games, such as Pot Limit Omaha or the Spin and Go lottery-style tourneys, couldn’t find their favorite tables through the app.
Fast forward to today, and that problem has largely been solved. If you’re using an app or browser-based option from one of the sites listed above, you’ll almost always have full access to the main platform’s full menu.
In other words, if the operator is running a game of any sort, you should be able to find it via mobile access.
That’s great news for winning players out there who love nothing more than putting in marathon sessions.
If you’re a skilled player who winds up in the black more often than not, poker is probably more like a profession than a hobby by now.
Sure, you still have a day job, and chasing down Phil Hellmuth in the gold bracelet race isn’t the goal – but you derive a steady stream of supplementary income from your online poker exploits.
If I’m describing you, then the chances are good that you’ve missed out on a few poker opportunities from time to time. Family obligations, work duties, and basic errands can all take you on the move during an average day.
Without access to mobile play, these hours spent away from the computer at home eat away at your poker bottom line.
Mobile apps and browser-based options make it eminently possible to jump in for a quick few hands whenever you feel like it. With a phone or device in your pocket, you’re never more than a minute away from sitting down to the virtual table.
Even if you’re only adding 100 or so hands to your daily volume with a mobile app, this is a windfall for skilled players. You’re already one of the better players in your regular game, so why not play in that game more regularly?
Now let’s take a look at the downsides of playing poker from a mobile device.
For the majority of online poker players out there today, sticking to just a single table is old school, to say the least.
When you load your desktop or laptop poker client, the software typically allows you to pull up several tables at the same time. This method of “multi-tabling” is part and parcel of online poker, allowing players to flash in and out of up to a dozen tables at once.
Multi-tabling is great for reducing variance, as you can weather the storm of swings much more easily when you have several stacks in play. Perhaps you suffer a bad beat on one table, but with three more open and running, your total session bankroll isn’t dealt a disastrous blow based on a single hand.
Another benefit of multi-tabling is the increased pace of play. For all of its beauty, Texas Hold’em can be a bit of a bore when you’re not catching cards.
Rather than watch one screen while waiting for a hand, having a few tables going gives you a never-ending stream of decisions to make.
You’ll only be able to play a single table when connected to the mobile client, and this can be a bridge too far for some players.
If you’ve grown accustomed to playing multiple tables over your online poker career, reverting to single-table mode can be jarring, to say the least. Experienced multi-tablers have honed their craft, skipping and darting across several cash games or tournaments in real time, all while making close decisions on the fly.
Shifting over to a single game removes all of that from the equation, leaving you with just eight opponents to study and one hand to assess. Without the sensation of sensory overload that multi-tabling provides, many players find that they just don’t enjoy online poker like they used to.
If you’re content to play one table at a time, mobile apps and browser-based products are perfect for you. But if you’re a multi-tabling whiz who needs more, going mobile may not be the best bet.
Depending on your cell phone service provider and current location, connecting to a wireless network may not always be possible.
I began this list of pros and cons by noting the convenience that mobile online poker apps can provide. But the flip side of that coin is quite apparent – if you can’t connect to the internet at any given moment, you’ll be disconnected from your game.
A year or so back, I happened to experience this nightmare scenario for myself.
I was traveling by train for a business trip, so I decided to kill a few hours playing poker. About midway through the ride, my $22 buy-in was now good for $50 at the very minimum, as the field of 85 players had been cut down to the final table of nine.
But I was more interested in the $675 up top for the first-place prize, a payout which would double my bankroll at the time.
Shortly after the final table got underway, I looked down at the screen to see every poker player’s favorite sight – pocket aces. I held the button and watched as the scene got even sweeter, with not one but two raises in front of me.
I kept waiting for the little spotlight to move my way, signaling that it was my turn to act. But after 60 agonizing seconds or so, I realized that the action had frozen onscreen. The raises were still pushed forward, but nobody had acted after that, and nothing was happening whatsoever.
That’s when I noticed my signal had gone from 4G to a big, fat X. I’d lost signal at some point, moving just out of range from whatever Verizon cell tower had been providing me with service.
Panic set in, and I started clicking away at the screen, desperately trying to revive the dead game. Eventually, after a couple of minutes that felt like hours, the signal caught on once again, and the game reconnected.
Of course, I never got to play the pocket aces, which were folded unceremoniously after I timed out. Instead of potentially holding the chip lead, I was just another face in the crowd sitting on a middling stack.
You can probably guess what happened next. I was so angry at my misfortune that tilt quickly set in, and within an orbit, I had donked off all my chips – settling for a ninth-place finish and peanuts for a payout.
This type of situation is becoming increasingly less likely as service providers expand their range, and if you live in a major city, it’s probably not a problem at all. But for millions of players out there, cell coverage isn’t always perfect, so disconnects are a distinct threat.
This one’s always tough to talk about, but I believe honesty is always the best policy when it comes to gambling.
The vast majority of online poker players out there enjoy the game as a diversion, hobby, or ambition. Unfortunately, however, quite a few find themselves digging deeper into the hole of addiction with every hand.
This can be mitigated somewhat when playing at home on a desktop or laptop. People have to go to work, attend appointments, and generally live their lives – leaving only a few windows with which to indulge their problem gambling.
If you’ve ever had trouble controlling your play in the past, it’s definitely worth thinking long and hard about how mobile play may impact your life.
Should you play real money poker on your phone?
Having explored the issue of mobile online poker from both sides, I hope you’re able to answer this question on your own.
Mobile poker can be a great addition, offering convenience and accessibility for players who love the game. On the other hand, a few glaring drawbacks leave much to be desired.
Personally speaking, I tend to limit my online poker sessions to the laptop at home these days. I like having as little distraction to deal with as possible, and dedicated Wi-Fi shields me from the dreaded disconnect.
Even so, when I visited the WSOP last summer, I loved the idea of playing live and online at the same time – and I even got a few dual sessions in for myself.
Deciding whether or not to take your poker game mobile is a personal choice, but I hope this page leaves you better informed on which path to take.