This article explains the relationship between iPhone/iDevices and online poker. It also explains the current problems with playing poker on your iPhone. If you would like to read our detailed how-to article explaining how to play poker through your iPhone, please see: iPhone Online Poker How-To

Intro: iPhone and Online Poker Rooms

Since the dawn of online poker, people have been looking for more and more ways to play as conveniently as possible. It’d be great if you could play while on the train, while in the bus, while doing your standard commute, and during pretty much any other scenario you could think of (and others you can’t) instead of only in front of your desktop pc. As technology advanced, more and more devices began to surface which are not only capable of connecting to the Internet, but capable of doing this well.

Enter the iPhone, which encompassed a true mobile revolution when it was first launched. Apple, one of the most revered pc makers in existence which has developed a cult-like following by always releasing products of the utmost quality and craftsmanship, clearly outdid itself by releasing one of the most revolutionary and game changing devices that the world has ever seen in the form of an iPhone. It was quite literally the first mobile device with enough power to do a heck of a lot more than just calling numbers and have pretty address books, and does it well to boot. It did music. It did mapped star charts without sweating too much. It even allowed you to play Grand Theft Auto Chinatown wars, among many more excellent handheld games, on it. Together with the iPhone, Apple also released the iPod Touch, which is essentially the same thing but with no camera and no calling capabilities.

A little bit later, Apple introduced another revolutionary device. This time it was the iPad. Anything the iPhone and the iPod could do, the iPad could do it better. It has a screen that is both bigger and better, a faster processor, and much improved battery life, particularly considering the size of the device. This was the device every online poker player has been dreaming about. It should really be a no brainer to make a tabbed interface for playing poker on it, cashier in its own separate tab, etc. Just let the imagination run wild here and chances are it can be implemented in a snap. Or can it?

The Problem: Are they compatible?

It seems that native real money poker clients on any of the iDevices (collective term referring to the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch and also the iPad) are a dream that might never happen. There are a literal multitude of problems that abound in this specific scenario of usage for your preferred iDevice.

For one we have the nature of Online Poker, which is tied to gambling. Whether or not Online Poker is actually gambling is a much debated issue as it involves a lot of skill. As for the iTunes App store, it currently does not allow for any poker app that involves real money betting. Recent changes do indicate that the App store does allow for sweepstakes and contests however, so it may be only a matter of time before we get legitimate online poker clients for us to enjoy.

And then we have the legality of it all. The App store operates on a country by country basis, so what may be entirely legal in one country may or may not be so legal in a different one. In that same vein, what may be legal in one state might land you in jail for 40 years in another. It will be quite a mess to regulate it all, and to determine who gets access to what, which laws are currently applied or have to be, and whose notices to respect can be considered such massive jobs that you may need the employment of permanent task forces just for the tackling of these issues. Also, since the app store is a closed ecosystem by design, it is a lot easier for the lawyers to attack something a particular group does not like. Let us not forget the foggy and unclear situation that online poker’s legality is currently in within the U.S.A.

But fear not, as the situation is not as dire as it seems if you really want to play some honest-to-goodness online poker on that precious iDevice you paid for in blood, sweat, and tears.

The Solution: Are you savvy enough?

Whenever there is a will there is a way. There are two main ways to do this, and both require quite some computer savvy on the user’s part.

One solution is to take advantage of the Java clients that the sites are offering. The problem with this is that no iDevice runs Java code natively, and they don’t do much better with Flash either. While it is possible to get your iDevice to run the Java code anyway, it involves "jailbreaking" and this by itself is a practice that is frowned upon by some.

In essence, Jailbreaking allows any of the aforementioned iDevices to run code that is not officially sanctioned by Apple. The main thing is that you break it free from the jail that is the App Store and its tight regulations. But there are a few problems with this. Not every iDevice can be jailbroken. The jailbreak process is not necessarily easy and constantly varies, and a firmware update can kill your jailbreak (and you also run the risk of it bricking your iDevice altogether).

Therefore, the Jailbreaking method is not without major drawbacks, which means that we need to look elsewhere. Enter the Remote Desktop method.

See, while the iDevices do not run the poker clients natively, your desktop can. With your iDevice of choice, a myriad of apps exist that allows you to take control of your desktop and operate it at will. See where I’m getting at? It works for both Windows and Mac OS X users, and theoretically it does work for the Linux crowd as well, but you will be running Java poker clients in that OS in the first place so it might not be the best approach.

The most obvious drawback for this is that you will need a second device, either a laptop or a desktop, on which the actual playing will take place. You can think of your iDevice in this case as a wirelessly connected monitor to your main system.

In order to get the ball rolling, we need to use the VNC and the RDP protocols to take control of the machines. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing, and it’s an open standard built for the very purpose we are looking to use it. To make a very long and extremely technical story short & sweet, this method of connecting will function primarily with Mac OS X computers. To connect with Windows based systems you will need to use an RDP enabled app, which stands for Remote Desktop Protocol. In a nutshell, this is very similar in function to VNC, except it is proprietary and has been developed by Microsoft. Since all the poker playing will take place on your actual desktop or laptop and not on your mobile handheld device, this method will always forever work and does not depend on any App store or approvals or any legal wrench that may get thrown in the machinery at any time or any other nonsense. You will be able to enjoy online poker the way God intended.

Conclusion: Light at the end of the tunnel.

While there are still no native clients available for our beloved iDevices, and while the Java clients are also no good, we can still use workarounds to do exactly what we want to do with it.

iDevices are a very convenient way to get your poker fix while on the move. And the most recently introduced member of the family, the iPad, is just perfect to play some online poker. It’s simply sad that technology feats do not always get realized to their fullest potential.

Stay tuned, because in the next article, we will go over the details on exactly how we will accomplish our mission. We will be going over the following:

  • How to set up your computer so it can be viewed properly over the network and over the internet
  • Securing it so that you are the only one that can access it
  • The best programs you can use for connecting your iDevice to your computer so you can play some good old fashioned internet poker with it

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