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Learn how to navigate the sites and play the games using "play money," as it won't cost you any actual money if you mistakenly fold when you have the best possible hand. Imagine, you're just about to win a big pot in a tournament that will guarantee you'll be "in the money," but through some silly mistake you hit the wrong button and fold! Another common rookie mistake comes in not knowing how to use the "slide bar" in games in which a bet may vary in amount. If what you just read looks like English, but you have no idea what the heck it's saying, you should definitely begin on the play money tables. We would never presume to tell you how to go about your business, but do realize that once you become comfortable with the mechanics of play over a short period of time, you'll have the rest of your life to play! Don't feel rushed; there's always a game. Don't think so? Log on at any time of day and see if a game in which you might want to play has a seat available in less than 20 minutes. We can't guarantee there will always be one, but gaps will be few and far between. We'll talk about the mechanics of play in Chapter 3.

A quick visit to www.pokerpulse.com established that the most popular online room at the moment these words were written was PartyPoker. But there are other well-established rooms: PokerStars, Paradise Poker, and UltimateBet make strong showings. We aren't sponsored by any poker rooms and don't recommend one over another, but for this example let's be followers and go to www.partypoker.com to download the software. Here's a screenshot of the main page (see Figure 2.1). Can you find something to click on to get the program on your computer?

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Figure 2.1 PartyPoker main page

Pretty obvious, isn't it? The entire raison d'être of the Web page is to get you to download the software and start playing. Once you've done that, there's no reason to go back to the page if all you do is play cards. All, or nearly all, functionality is handled by the client software on your machine.

After clicking the Download link, follow the instructions to install the software. To conserve space for more actual poker play discussion in later chapters, we'll assume you know how to install software. If you haven't done it before, you should be able to simply follow the prompts until you get to the magic Finish button. Do be aware that at some point in the process you will be required to accept a user's agreement of some sort. Read it carefully if you are concerned about what, if any, spyware and/or marketing permissions you're granting the company. If you can live with the conditions, hit Accept and move on. If not, you won't be able to install the software, but you will have preserved your privacy. Call or e-mail the company with any questions you may have, and don't install the software until you're satisfied with the answers they give you.

When you establish your account, you will be required to provide your real name and other information, including a valid e-mail address and your current mailing address. This is used to send you your winnings. You will also be asked to establish a screen name. Some try to be funny (Hugh_Jass still makes us laugh), while others try to intimidate (Cap_It). What you do is up to you.

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