For many months now, I have been playing most of my poker, indeed the vast majority of it, via a mobile device or two.
Like many people I cut my eye-teeth in the online poker world playing via some of the most popular poker websites, however the advent of mobile technology saw a number of companies expand their poker product to include a mobile variant of their game.
Over the past six months, I have played a wide number of different poker games across a host of the most popular mobile poker rooms.
I have encountered many of the frustrations that players have with mobile poker at present and in sharp contrast. I have also encountered precisely why mobile poker is likely to play a huge role in defining the next generation of online poker players; chiefly thanks to the many benefits it offers to the player.
So while there are any number of mobile poker site reviews and lists ranking the top mobile poker sites and more, what this review seeks to do is provide a broader perspective from someone who has been there, played the games and experienced the excitement, fun and enjoyment of real cash mobile poker, as well as the more frustrating aspects.
In this article, we are going to look at five of the top reasons why mobile poker is a fantastic opportunity for players to play the game like they have never experienced before. We’ll examine some of the many positives of playing mobile poker, using a variety of devices and highlight the many benefits of playing via a mobile, compared to playing in a casino or via a PC.
However, for balance it is only fair that we bring to you the top five frustrations that many mobile poker players will experience when playing the game. These can range from simply being a mild annoyance, to something potentially costly and expensive.
But first, let’s take a look at what your ideal set up will be if you want to play poker via your mobile and the first decision you need to make here, is which type of device to pick. A smartphone, or a tablet?
I’m not going to open a debate here about the merits of an Android system over an Apple one, as this is very much a personal choice and to be honest, most mobile poker sites tend to offer support for both devices.
Certainly, there is no device that seems to own the monopoly on the best mobile poker sites.
What does matter though is whether you choose to play via a mobile phone, or a tablet. I’ve played using two apple devices, an Apple iPhone 5S (and occasionally on an iPhone 4S) and also using my trusty iPad.
What I’ve discovered is there is no ‘better’ device. Which device you should choose should depend entirely on how you want to play mobile poker.
If you want to play when you are out and about, travelling and moving from place to place, then the added portability, combined with the standard inclusion of 3G (or 4G in some cases) makes the iPhone (or another smartphone) a far better choice. Firstly, you’ll need that 3G or 4G connectivity to play when travelling (though you can still use WiFi when at home or at work for example).
The easier portability and connectivity of the smartphone makes it an ideal choice for users who want to access mobile poker when out and about. It would be perfect for a travelling businessperson who wants to play in flight for example, or when on the train or bus.
However, if you want to play mobile poker from home or somewhere with a decent WiFi connection and portability and connectivity to 3G isn’t an issue, then a tablet is certainly a great choice.
With a tablet not only do you get the added benefit (and it is a BIG benefit) of a bigger screen, but you can play anywhere in your house, whether you are sat in front of the TV, in bed, working in the office or cooking some food in the kitchen.
The larger screen size makes playing poker much easier than on a smartphone, making placing bets, folding, etc. easier and simpler and not as error-prone as on a mobile device.
However, although they are a ‘mobile’ device, tablet’s are not really ideal to keep in your pocket and you also have to pay an extra £100 on some for 3G compatibility, which hikes the price up considerably.
So to conclude, if you want to play while out on the go, travelling or similar, get a smartphone. If you want to play around the home via WiFi, get a tablet.
The good news is that whatever choice you make, and whether you choose an Android or an Apple device, you’ll still get an overwhelmingly positive mobile poker experience.
Outlined below are five reasons precisely why.
It is exceptionally obvious I know, but the fact that mobile poker is mobile, is undoubtedly its major asset. The advent of top quality mobile poker apps, for real money, has meant that players have flexibility to play their choice of poker like never before.
You can play as a passenger in the car, or on the bus on the way to work, during a flight (if your device has airplane compatibility) or coach or train journey, while sat in the doctors waiting room, or even if you a bored in crucial senate hearing about the Syria crisis (as US Senator John McCain was caught doing in September last year).
While I wouldn’t recommend playing poker when you should be concentrating on your work (whether you are a senator or not), the flexibility of mobile means that those parts of your life that you previously assumed were ‘down time’ such as when travelling, or waiting, can now be spent playing poker.
Mobile poker gives players the chance to play the game more often and in more situations than ever before. As we head into a future in which mobile technology will come to the fore, it looks like the popularity of mobile poker, as is already the case with many other forms of mobile technology, will grow rapidly over the next few years.
It is fair to say that while mobile poker is certainly enjoyable, the actual state of the industry, because it is brand new and very much in a state of flux, is somewhat confused.
There are a number of poker apps available (though the information on less reputable sites cannot be relied upon for total accuracy) and while most will do the job or offer limited access to certain games, there are a couple that are truly outstanding.
One such app is the 888 Poker app, which offers players a fantastic new player deal that is easy to access and quickly applied to your account.
In addition, once you have registered, you have access to a whole host of Sit & Go, speed poker, cash games and MTTs, meaning whatever type of poker game you prefer you can play.
Another great app is the world renowned PokerStars app.
Arguably the biggest and certainly the most popular app in the world in terms of daily traffic, PokerStars offers a vast range of games, of all varieties, to suit players from the microstakes fan, to the high roller who wants to play for thousands, or more, each hand.
Right now a free PokerStars bankroll offer is available to all new players just for signing up an account with the room.
In addition Sky Poker has recently launched the Beta version of its mobile site and while work is ongoing, the initial look at the site reveals it has huge potential to become one of the top sites for UK players in particular.
Additionally, the novel approach to poker displayed on the PKR3D app is also well worth a look, as it features many outstanding touches and a radically different approach to the mobile poker experience which will certainly appeal to many players.
Of course, a new medium on which to play the game should bring about innovation as to the types of games that are offered. While speed poker isn’t strictly a game developed to exploit the advantages of playing via mobile, as it was previously available via many poker rooms website, it cannot be denied that it is an ideal game to play for many players who want to play via mobile.
Many sites, such as Bet365, PartyPoker, BwinPoker, PokerStars, Full Tilt and more all offer a variation of speed poker, it can be known by a number of other names such as Fastforward or Rush Poker, but essentially each game is the same.
The game is ideal for mobile as it is played at a very fast pace.
A pool of players play against each other at a stated blind level and as a player folds out of a hand on one table, they are immediately dealt into another hand.
This is ideal for a mobile user who may not have much time to play, or an undefined amount of time to play, so they cannot commit to playing in a tournament or Sit & Go game which may last an hour or more.
Speed poker can be played quickly and entered and exited quickly too.
It is also worth noting that speed poker is rapidly growing in popularity with players due to the fast-paced nature of the game and although many argue it isn’t really a true game of poker, it is an undeniably attractive one to the mobile customer.
What many apps and sites share is the fact that they are especially easy to sign up to on a mobile. There are one or two exceptions to this (Winamax being one particular example I can recall), but most sites only need the basic information from the user to register them and then either a credit or debit card (or PayPal or similar) details in order to make the first deposit.
If registering for the site is easy then so is navigating it.
Most apps available for mobile poker are very simple to navigate through on touch screen technology. It is more crowded on the smaller screen of the smartphone, but not impossible. Though it is much easier on the larger screen of a tablet.
Finding the games you want to play, registering for them and then actually loading up the table and playing is all intuitive and even a complete beginner can be registered and playing on a site quite happily within a few minutes.
Cashing out too is relatively easy with most providers, with payments made back to your preferred payment method when you seek a withdrawal and any money you win immediately credited to your account on the site with no waiting or fuss.
Without doubt the most popular form of poker on mobile apps is the cash table.
More apps have cash table games available than any other type of poker and usually there are a number of different levels of play to pick from, with most offering mid to lower stakes games and a few sites offering the higher stakes games (such as PokerStars).
For the cash table player, mobile poker is an absolutely superb format to play on.
They can nip on and off the tables when their time allows them, playing hands when they can, or even playing via the PC, then logging in when they have to leave home and continuing playing on their way to work or similar.
There’s a huge choice of tables available across the wide range of poker apps, so if you are a cash game fan, you are sure to find a table that is fun to play and also suits your financial requirements too.
The speed and style of cash table games make them, along with speed poker, the ideal format for mobile poker, allowing players to dip in and out of the game when they like. The good news for the UK mobile poker fan is that there are a lot of fantastic cash game tables to choose from, with many more to come over the coming twelve months too.
So there are lots of great things about playing by mobile, but there are also a few frustrations too and in the interests of balance, here are some of the biggest issues I’ve encountered over the last six months intensive mobile poker playing.
As we have stated previously, cash table games and speed poker are both the best types of poker game adapted to playing via mobile devices, however many players also prefer to play in Sit & Go games or multi table tournaments via their machine.
Unfortunately, the choice of apps or sites that offer a full range of types of poker is relatively small, with only the likes of 888 Poker, PokerStars, PKR3D, Winamax and most recently, Sky Poker offering players the chance to play all the main types of poker game.
This does mean that many other apps don’t offer poker players a full choice of poker games, which will affect how appealing these apps are to fans of Sit & Go games (many of which are very popular with beginner players) and multi table tournaments.
One of the biggest issues I found was when it came to claiming your new player bonus and I feel that too many mobile apps/sites make it far too complex and difficult for mobile users to claim any bonus owed to them.
On several occasions I missed out on a bonus because I was not aware I needed to enter a code or complete the registration process in a certain way and within a certain time to qualify.
This is a rather brainless way to do business as it means people sign up to the site, expecting to receive their bonus, only to find out that because they didn’t know the code (which is often hidden away on the site somewhere), they now no longer qualify for it.
Compare this with the likes of 888 Poker, who send you your free cash and other bonuses immediately upon you making your deposit, ensuring that you get all what you are due as a new player as quickly and simply as possible.
While I understand that new player offers were originally designed for use on the website, this really needs to be addressed by several mobile poker providers who risk alienating brand new customers before they have even played on the site.
While I am willing to forgive sites or apps like Sky Poker or Party Poker who both fully admitted that their poker products were in the Beta stage of testing and not yet fully working, if a company releases a full software app or site, then the least I expect is for it to work.
Unfortunately, there are times when the software for certain companies does fail and fails quite spectacularly.
One site (Winamax) occasionally boots me from playing my game, forcing you to close the site down, log out, then reload it and rejoin the table, all of which costs time. And if you have money in the pot when the site boots you, then the likelihood is your hand will be folded in your absence and you’ll lose it.
Frustrating when you are sitting on AAAKK full house on the turn, with hundreds of chips in the pot only to be booted and find that in your absence, someone has raised and the software automatically folded your hand!
Companies do have recompense for this though and you can submit a claim if the fault is with the software. I am still waiting to hear the response to mine, however.
Other bugs are less troublesome, but just annoying. Clicking on a menu button to be taken to the account menu, unresponsive menus, lists you cannot sort, these are not huge issues but they still annoy users and put them off using the site.
While issues with the site may be a problem for mobile poker players, there is arguably a much greater problem when playing via mobile and that is the issue of being distracted. If you are in a public place, at work or at home, there is always the chance that something will drag you away from your poker and force you to lose focus.
This can be critical if you are playing a big hand and your attention is distracted away from the game.
Of course, ideally, you’d be able to play without fear of distractions, but if you are likely to be interrupted from your game at home by the kids, or on the train by having to get off at a stop, I’d seriously recommend playing lower stakes, small buy in games, so if you do have to quit, you only stand to lose a very small amount.
I’ve mentioned how unreliable software can cost you money. Well unfortunately so can unreliable connections. Again this is not a specific fault of mobile poker, more just an inbuilt problem with mobile networks and WiFi providers.
I have a perfect example of just one such issue. Last weekend, I was playing a Twister Poker game for a $5 buy in and the wheel had spun onto a prize of $30 - six times my buy in - which was pleasing.
I’d been playing for several minutes and myself and another player had eliminated our other opponent and it was now a heads up race between me and him to see who won the $30.
Our stacks were about even, when all of a sudden, my internet connection at home went down. It has been doing this sporadically and intermittently for several months, but this was the first time it had happened when I was playing in a real cash game.
I tried to reboot the router, all to no avail, all the time I knew that my opponent was simply raising on every hand and my hand was automatically being folded, thus I was losing my chips every second I was disconnected.
With the internet down, my last resort was to borrow my wife’s iPhone and use 3G, by the time I logged in however, my opponent had wiped out my stack and had taken the $30 prize money unopposed.
This can happen anywhere and at any time and there is nothing you can do about it. Your mobile poker site won’t help you out because it is not their fault, your Internet service provider will likely do nothing as the fault only usually lasts a few minutes at most.
So in the end, all you can do is take it on the chin and hope that next time, your connection holds and if you keep experiencing issues, contact your ISP to have it resolved
Mobile poker, as part of the mobile gambling industry, is certainly still in its formative years, so it is only to be expected that as the market grows and develops, the state of play in the industry will improve as will the quality and number of apps and sites available to play.
All in all, mobile poker, as with mobile gambling, has a very bright and important future to play for the online poker industry and you likely have everything you need to be a part of it.