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Online poker has come a long way in its 20-year history. One of the first major milestones for poker when it became available on the internet was the option to download a program that offered exclusive online poker, but the industry has now come full circle with many players now preferring to return to games that require no download.

There are pros and cons for both download and no-download online poker, but in today’s day and age, it seems there are more benefits to players when they can play their favorite games without the necessity of a download. The top sites are moving in a direction that gives players the option to download or not, which puts the decision in the hands of the customers. While no-download poker sites are not always up to the standards that a dedicated and downloadable program offer, this gives many sites the incentive to try with consistently improving online poker software.

What is No Download Poker?

No-download poker is also known as instant-play poker. The sites often display a “Play Now” button on the home page that indicates no download of a program is needed, that play can begin by simply going to the site online.

Most of the no-download sites offer their poker action via Macromedia Flash or Java programming. Players can access the sites via most web browsers, like Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Safari, though each site has its own preferences and suggestions for the browsers that will best support their games.

Benefits for Players

Many poker players prefer no-download sites for convenience, safety, and speed. In fact, there are many reasons that it is becoming more popular, which is why many online poker operators are beginning to offer instant-play games. They know that recreational players, which comprise the fastest growing demographic in today’s online gaming environment, do not need or desire a downloadable program.

The benefits of no-download poker sites include:

  • Convenience being able to play immediately without waiting for a download
  • Saving computer space without using MBs for a software program
  • Saving mobile device storage for other apps, as online poker programs can require a lot of MBs
  • Safety from computer bugs that may be attached to downloaded programs
  • Not having to wait for updates to load every time the operator upgrades the software
  • Issues with firewalls or security settings that may stop downloads
  • Speed of play relies solely on internet connection strength
  • Ability to play from any computer or mobile device

Perhaps the biggest advantage is saved for Mac poker players, as downloaded online poker programs are rarely smooth and without hiccups even when the operators do provide specific Mac options. Mac users often find that the instant-play poker option is best, as it allows smooth play but none of the hassle of an incompatible program or the necessity of a dual-boot for Windows just to play poker online.

Disadvantages of No-Download Poker

There are a few disadvantages to poker sites that offer only instant-play options and no downloadable program for their players. Most of those do not pertain to recreational players but to semi-professional or pro players. The downsides include:

  • Difficulties with multi-tabling, or playing several tables or tournaments at the same time
  • Accessing all features, as instant-play offers fewer perks and features than downloads
  • Fewer game options than the downloadable programs
  • Graphics may not be as sharp or colorful
  • Some poker sites do not allow large financial transactions through web browsers

Professional poker players rarely use no-download poker options because they want to get the most of their poker experience and need access to all possible games and stakes. These players, however, typically have computers with more hard drive space and the ability to handle multiple, large downloaded programs.

Are the Sites Safe & Secure?

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No-download poker sites are just as safe as any other program accessed on the internet. The security measures taken by poker operators include encryption and other top-level technology used to keep their players safe from hacking and cybercrime activities. The sites put just as much of a priority on instant-play poker sites as they do with the downloadable versions because it benefits the site and players to keep personal information safe.

As with all online poker, some of the safety of personal information falls on the shoulders of the players themselves. Players should always be careful with passwords, changing them often, and using different login information for real-money online poker than on other programs accessed on the same computers.

Those on poker sites without download should be careful, however, to always play on secure internet connections and protect information by not saving it to a web browser. Some browsers automatically save login names and passwords, so it is important to erase that history when playing on an open-play site.

Bonuses and Promotions

Very few poker sites restrict their bonuses and promotions to download players only. Typically, all deposit bonuses, reload opportunities, and promotions are available to players no matter if they download or play from a web browser.

It is important to check with the site’s customer service department, however. The top sites offer multiple ways to consult with representatives, and players should use email or the instant chat boxes to make sure they are not missing anything by choosing instant-play over downloads.

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Play-Money and Real-Money

Online poker players should pay attention to the instant-play options, as some of those are reserved for play-money action only. It doesn’t preclude a player from then using the downloadable version to establish a real-money account, but knowing the difference can save time.

The bottom line is that players should read the fine print before clicking the “Play Now” button or proceeding with a poker site download.

Meanwhile, check out these top sites that offer instant-play with no download required for online poker.

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DISCLAIMER: The games on this website are using PLAY (fake) money. No payouts will be awarded, there are no 'winnings', as all games represented by 247 Games LLC are free to play. Play strictly for fun.