Mac users don’t have it easy when it comes to online poker. But before you begin to weep uncontrollably into your ergonomic keyboard, pause for a moment and take stock. We may not be afforded the attention lavished on our Windows-using compatriots, but things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem. Crunching the numbers provided by network tracker PokerScout.com, reveals that Mac owner have access to over 87% of the online poker world. Plus, of the top 10 online poker networks, only one lacks an option that will run in Mac OS X.
Of course, every Windows client can be run on a Mac using one of the commercially available emulators. From Boot Camp to Parallels, if you have the time, money, and perseverance then you can get a fully functioning Windows operating system running on your Mac. If you’re really serious about your poker, then this may be the best option. However, most Mac owners chose their beloved machines because of the great operating system. Crowbarring in the Windows OS many of us escaped from defeats the very purpose of buying a Mac.
So what are the remaining options for Mac Poker Sites? Earlier I made the bold claim that the vast majority of the online poker world was readily available to the Mac user, and I wasn’t bluffing. First and foremost there are those sites who provide a fully downloadable Mac OS poker client. There are only a handful of companies that currently support Mac software, but they just so happen to be some of the biggest names in the industry.
If you play online poker, then you probably have an account at Full Tilt or PokerStars. According to PokerScout, these two sites account for over 50% of all online poker traffic – and they both offer a Mac client. Both software downloads are fully supported and run just like any other Mac program. Full Tilt and Poker Stars both fully support their Mac software, and each program runs smoothly and safely in the stable Mac OS X. Plenty of other big guns also have excellent Mac offerings. Both bwin and TowerGaming on the OnGame network have their own Mac clients, as do the CEREUS pair Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. You can even access the Cake Poker network through a downloadable client, via the small but sleek LockPoker.com. This collection of websites accounts for exactly half of the top 10 networks and already covers a large percentage of the global online poker community.
We now turn to the option with which Mac poker is most commonly associated – the Instant Play client. These browser-based bare bones clients are the poor cousin of the fully featured Windows downloads. Mostly coded in Java, these clients practically all function in Firefox and most will work in Safari. They are naturally less stable than the full programs and usually lack a lot of the more in depth customization options. However, they are still a perfectly viable way to get online and play poker. Many of the poker websites who brazenly claim to be “Mac Compatible” do nothing more than provide an Instant Play client, so make sure you check exactly what the site offers before you deposit any money. Some less scrupulous sites even boast of Mac compatibility when all they mean is that their software will run using a Windows emulator.
There are very few online poker networks without an Instant Play client. At least one skin is likely to have concocted some Java based offering. The networks in the top 10 who provide browser clients for Mac use are iPoker, Party Poker, Microgaming, and the International Poker Network (Boss Media). The only major network to completely lock out Mac users is Everest Poker. Although it’s sad to see this Euro-centric room provide absolutely no support for Mac and Linux users, the fact that practically every other network offers some form of access should act as some healthy comfort. Through both downloadable and Instant Play Mac clients, you can access over 87% of the total online poker traffic.
Aside from missing out on some poker rooms, there are a few other hurdles placed in the way of Mac poker players. The one thing that keeps many serious poker players away from Macintosh computers is the inability to use Poker Tracker. This popular piece of software allows users to track and analyse their hand history, as well as integrating an informative Heads Up Display into certain clients. It is possible to run PokerTracker on emulation software, but without a native client Mac online poker will always be a step behind. Thankfully, a Mac version of PokerTracker 3 is reportedly in the works. With a tentative schedule announcing that a Beta version of the program will be released in late 2009.
As any well versed Mac poker player knows, there are also plenty of advantages gained by playing online poker on a Macintosh. Most of these stem from the excellent operating system Apple’s personal computers come fully equipped with. In general, OS X is far more stable than the equivalent Windows product, with program crashes very rare. The decreased likelihood of your client freezing in the middle of a key hand is always going to be a bonus. The use of multiple desktops and Exposé can also make multi-tabling easier. Although dedicated online grinders favor multiple monitors, your average player will probably rely on a more mundane setup. Exposé allows you to separate and easily view all open windows at the touch of a button. This is a much more intuitive system than Alt-Tabing or sorting through lists of windows, especially when racing against the clock.
Apple Macs have long been the forgotten children as far as online poker is concerned. However, over the past few years the gap between Mac and PC has slowly diminished. The growing number of native Mac Poker Sites, coupled with the in-built benefits of the operating system, makes playing poker on a Mac a perfectly viable activity. Parity has not yet been reached, but as each day passes the prospect of all-encompassing online poker compatibility creeps closer to reality.