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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Safest sites

In order to do so, you'll need to fund your account. Most major credit cards no longer allow you to fund a poker account with their cards, McDonald says. Instead, you'll likely need to use a third-party payment service such as NeTeller. You can fund a NeTeller account with a Visa credit card, wire transfer or electronic check from your bank and then fund your poker account from your NeTeller account. Darren has gone one step further by setting up a separate, low-dollar checking account to fund his third-party payment service. This way, if someone finds a way to compromise his account, he can contain the damage.

Many sites offer bonuses to lure new players. If you deposit $100 in your poker account, a site offering a 25% bonus will give you $25, for example. But don't forget to read the fine print. Many sites require you to play a certain number of hands before granting you your bonus.

Once you're set up, you can choose from games that are tournaments, where you pay one set amount at the beginning and play multiple hands until your chips are gone (or you've won), or ring games, where you place minimum bets with each hand. A 50-cent/$1 game means the first person obligated to bet (called the "blind") has to bet a minimum of 50 cents, and the second blind has to bet $1. These very low-stakes games can be a good way to test the waters before venturing into a $4/$8 game, for example.

Sites make money by skimming a little off each pot. This is called the "rake," and a typical amount is probably 5%, McDonald says. So if you win a $40 pot at a site with a 5% rake, your payout would be $38. You can see PartyPoker's rake schedule here.