By sunnywine at 2006-06-08 14:53
Internet poker has been like the plague these last few years. No matter who you talk to or what country they are from poker is in their life. Poker is being played by celebrities, sporting athletes, models, high schoolers and just about everyone you can think of. Guys like John Travolta can be seen playing at certain online poker rooms just about every day. So who isn’t playing poker? Well in many cases its Linux users. What makes Linux users immune to this online poker plague? It’s not that they don’t want to play poker it’s mainly due to growing compatibility issues surrounding the use of online poker software and Linux.
Online poker is now a mult-billion dollar industry. It’s come a long way in the past 8 years. At the time the only internet poker room was a place called Planet Poker. In the works was another college made software called PokerRoom. This site, PokerRoom, was the first internet poker room to support Linux users and has since upgraded their software to a highly advanced system that has received various IT awards. There have been huge advancements in poker software over the past couple years. These poker companies are spending millions on upgrades for things like picture in picture views, 3D modes, multi-table action, and better graphics. One area that still seems to be lacking is furthering the development of compatibility issues. Over 95% of PC users run Windows so it is no wonder these poker rooms continue to support the growing monopoly of Microsoft. Macintosh users are another breed of users who have been swept under the rug. It was not until late that certain poker sites began accommodating Macintosh users. It’s simply a numbers game and a basic cost analysis done by these leading poker sites to see which operating systems get supported. The one good thing about creating more Macintosh compatible poker rooms is that many times these Mac friendly sites are also Linux compatible.
Linux users tend to be a rare breed. You rarely hear them complaining because it’s almost like they are enticed by the challenge. According to a recent survey done by O’reilly.net the underlying reason why most Linux users switched to Linux was because they liked the challenge of Linux. This may be one reason you don’t hear much whining from Linux users about poker software compatibility issues. Like the old cliché goes, “Where there is a will there is a way.” Playing poker using Linux leads to various options and we’ll touch on the main three that Linux users have discovered. The three available options for playing poker on Linux are Java, using Wine, and Dual Booting. Unfortunately there are no native Linux compatible online poker rooms that support Linux. There may be some home grown software out there but none you would want to trust putting your money into or at least I wouldn’t.
Java tends to be the easiest and most accepted poker software for Linux. No special requirements are needed and Linux users can freely play using Java. The poker rooms that use Java are commonly referred to as “No Download” sites. While Java poker rooms are a short term fix they are not a cure for the ailing Linux poker players. Java leads to various problems when playing. The software is not meant to be “Fully Loaded” so to speak. If all the graphics and software components were loaded such as the downloadable software is the game would never begin. It would run so slow and glitchy that the user would exit out before they even made it to the table. Because of this Java based poker rooms come stripped of things like the use of avatars, searching tables with the use of ascending / descending buttons, certain graphics, and games. Typically in online casinos that use Java the games come very limited. Think of it like this. Playing at a Java poker room is like buying a Mercedes and having to roll the windows up manually. It works but it’s just not the same. Using Java is also quite common amongst Mac online poker players.
Java Safety Measures
Java is a great alternative if you don’t want poker rooms sending out DLL files to detect what types of programs you are running. This story is two sided. Yes the poker rooms may not have the capabilities to nosy around your computer but they also don’t have the ability to nosy around on someone’s computer who might be using prohibited cheat software. The recent enlightenment of the mass cheaters being caught at Party Poker and Poker Stars is what spurred the use of Dll files by bigger poker sites. Players were exploiting bugs by opening more than one account per computer. These cheats were then entering half million dollar tournaments and winning. The Dll files sent out are in a way only meant to protect players but some players don’t feel safe knowingly allowing poker rooms to snoop around their computer. Java on the other hand, due to the Runtime licensing agreement, doesn’t permit poker sites to participate in these types of activities. Depending on which way you look at it this is a benefit / downfall of Java. You may be protected from cheaters but are you protected from a potentially devious poker room employee that gets paid minimum wage to monitor these types of things?
Poker Using Wine
Wine is another possibility to knock down the barrier for playing poker for Linux. Wine is not a new alternative but is very often overlooked. For those of you not familiar with Wine I’ll give a very brief introduction. Wine is an Open Source implementation that allows users to run Windows programs without having Windows software. Wine is very commonly used to run Windows applications on Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, and other u86 UNIX. The great thing about Wine is that you don’t need to buy Virtual PC, Windows or anything like that. Speaking from experience there is truly nothing worse than going to play a free game and having to spend hundreds of dollars because of compatibility reasons. Most people would rather not play at all if that were the case.
Wine is not a God send because not all applications run perfectly on Wine. Many poker rooms will need to be tinkered with before the applications will run smoothly. Bugs and all sorts of problems could occur using Wine but modifications are constantly occurring and with a little bit of time most Windows based applications will end up running flawlessly using Wine. Top sites for playing using Wine include Party Poker and Poker Stars. Depending on which representative you talk to generally you can receive some sort of technical help if you are having problems. A couple places like Winehq.com and CompatiblePoker.com have sections for Wine / Linux that offer technical advice for using Wine at Party Poker and a couple of other rooms. It seems like most people tend to play at Party Poker when using Wine because it runs really well. Some errors with sound and table size can occur but these bugs are now easily fixed.
The Dual Booting Method
The final option I wanted to discuss is Dual Booting. Yeah I said it Dual Booting which would mean running Windows I’m not going to devote too much time to this method because it is pretty straight forward. This is probably the least favorite alternative among Linux poker players. The reasons are simple, most people flea to Linux as a haven from the Microsoft monopoly. Well unfortunately if you want to play online poker it actually will be the most viable but expensive solution. Partitioning your hard drive is a common task these days with so many applications requiring Windows at one point or another. It is almost a must for webmasters and internet specialists to have a copy of Windows handy. Dual Booting can become somewhat costly. Windows generally runs about $180 for the basic Home Edition and up to $300 for the more fancy Professional Editions. I’d recommend just getting the basic Home Edition because you probably have all the extra applications that the Professional Edition offers. Prices are going to vary from retailer to retailer and how you decide to go about getting a copy. Before you tackle the task of Dual Booting you might want to print up some instructions from the Redhat Dual Boot page. All said and done Dual Booting will not come cheap and to play poker at specific poker sites on your own terms this is the most effective way in doing so.
Shuffle Up and Deal
So as you can see Linux and internet poker can work in harmony on the Net. Linux users will continue to tinker with online poker software until it works perfectly. The days of a natively running Linux based online poker room may be on the horizon but I wouldn’t hold your breath. The costs and low demand for such poker software keeps pushing poker and Linux further and further away. By carefully following new updates of Wine you can successfully run various poker sites for free. The Java method is also highly suggested but remember Java limits your gaming experience and runs the higher risk of letting in cheaters using banned cheat software. If this is your first time playing poker online I highly suggest picking up a strategy book or some sort of online poker guide. Make sure the poker room is compatible with your system and see what the site has to offer you. Stay away from low traffic websites and your chance of getting cheated are much slimmer. From personal experience I would first go the Java route. It is the easiest and most sought out method to quickly run the poker software on most operating systems. After you have experienced what online poker has to offer and feel you want to continue playing go ahead and try one of the other methods we talked about above. They will take more time and possibly cost more money to run but in the long run it will be worth it.
Good luck at the tables and I hope you find a place to play at. Becoming a successful poker player takes time so be patient.