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How to Play Poker Online

Two new Massachusetts casinos now offer state-of-the-art poker rooms but online poker in Massachusetts remains in limbo.

Massachusetts’ 2011 gambling expansion bill has paved the way for something of a gambling boom in the Bay State, where the MGM has opened a casino in Springfield and Wynn Resorts recently launched the new Encore Boston Harbor casino. Both casinos feature high-end poker rooms and a wide variety of Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Stud cash games and tournaments. Unfortunately, even as the state has opened its arms to gambling establishments, state regulations prohibit these casinos from offering online poker.

Massachusetts poker could become a reality after the state approves its pending sports betting legalization bill, which will allow existing casinos to launch online platforms. As these platforms grow more mainstream and attitudes on poker evolve, it is quite likely that the state moves toward full-scale legalization in the near future.

For now, Massachusetts residents can try their luck at social casinos, which use a sweepstakes model to avoid running afoul of the law. These casinos allow you to buy play money and give you a “gift” of coins with every purchase. You can ignore the play money angle and use the coins to play poker and other casino games. The coins can then be redeemed for their cash equivalent once you have built up your bankroll. Since you cannot bet real money and you cannot purchase the coins, you can play poker for money without violating any regulations.

Online Poker in Massachusetts

Texas Hold’em In Massachusetts

Texas Hold’em is the most popular form of poker, largely thanks to the World Series of Poker. Each player is dealt two cards face down followed by a round of betting. Players can call, or match the bet, raise, or increase the bet, or fold, and surrender their hand.

Three cards are then placed face up in the middle of the table, followed by a fourth card, and a fifth card, and a round of betting after each. The goal is to make the best five-card hand using your two pocket cards and the five community cards. Hold’em is typically played with no limit, meaning you can bet all your money at any time, though some games have a set limit or a pot limit, meaning you can only bet as much money as is already in the pot.

The hand rankings are as follows:

Royal flush: 10, J, Q, K, A of the same suit

Straight flush: Any five consecutive cards of the same suit

Four of a kind

Full house: Three of a kind plus one pair

Flush: Any five cards of the same suit

Straight: Any five consecutive cards

Three of a kind

Two pair

One pair

High card

Omaha in Massachusetts

Omaha is similar to hold’em but instead of two pocket cards, players are dealt four cards. The rest of the game, including the rounds of betting, are the same as Texas Hold’em but players are required to use exactly two of their pocket cards and three of the community cards to make the best five-card hand.

Omaha is typically played with a set limit or with a pot limit.

Stud in Massachusetts

Seven-Card Stud is similar to the other games but does not have any community cards. Instead, each player is dealt two cards face down and one card face up on the first round, followed by a round of betting. Each player is then given one card face up on each of the second, third, and fourth rounds, followed by one card face down on the final round.

As with the other games, the goal is to make the best five-card hand. Stud is typically played with a set limit.