Not so many years ago, most Macintosh-friendly poker sites were nothing more than instant-play versions of the poker room’s PC-friendly software. Instead of downloading the more functional poker client, as all Windows users were easily able to do, Mac poker players were confined playing the Flash-based version of the poker software directly in a browser. There were a few other options too, like using a PC emulator, which we will discuss more in just a bit, but they are often buggy and can draw heavily on your system. Thanks to the Black Friday of Online Poker (yes, I’m actually applauding that move for once – hear me out), we are finally starting to see more and more US poker sites providing a download for Mac poker players.
In the days before Black Friday, April 15, 2011, only the largest poker sites in the world – namely PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – bothered to pay software developers to program a Mac-friendly online poker client. When the US Department of Justice cracked down on these sites, effectively cutting Americans off from playing there, some of the online poker operators that remained active in the US decided to take advantage of the wide open doorway and finally give Americans what they really wanted; a Mac poker site with fully compatible, downloadable software platform.
Depending on your US poker site of choice, though, you may still be left out of the loop as far as downloadable software goes. We’ll take a look at the different ways to access online poker sites on a Mac OS, including the benefits and potential drawbacks for each.
Download Mac Poker or US Players
A downloadable poker client is definitely the most preferred option for serious online poker players. It offers faster, more flexible and functional gameplay that doesn’t draw nearly so much power from your system or internet connection, resulting in a smooth, more fluent gaming experience. They also come with all the bells and whistles, whereas instant-play software may lack certain features in order to keep the games flowing. Each online poker operator’s platform will differ from the next, but in general, the downloadable poker client is always better, faster and more graphically appealing than in-browser software.
BetOnline Poker is a good example. BetOnline is one of the oldest US-facing iGaming operators in the business, offering two separate downloadable poker clients, one for Windows PC and another for Mac. While we’re on the topic of BetOnline for Mac, I’d like to point something out. Time and again, for more than a year now, I’ve hear the same question: Where is the Mac-friendly download located on their website? There’s actually a good reason no one can find it – it’s not there! To get to it, you must first sign up an account with them. The download link for the Windows and Mac poker clients is then delivered via the confirmation email (I’ve pasted them below for convenience, and proof that they really do exist):
Downloading and installing poker software on a Mac is a breeze. Click the Mac download link provided, save the file and when the installer window opens, follow the instructions. If you already have an account set up with the Mac poker site, you can log right in and start playing. If not, click the ‘Join Now’, ‘Register’ or similar button and fill out the information to get started.
The drawbacks of Mac-friendly poker downloads are few. In fact, the only one I can imagine would apply to anyone who is playing poker from a public computer, or who simply doesn’t like the idea of clogging up their hard drive with downloads. [Note: If you’re playing Texas Holdem for real money, you should be aware of the safety risks involved with public computers.] Or maybe you’re playing from a friend’s computer. Either way, you’ll be glad to know that every instant-play (no download) poker room is fully compatible with a Mac operating system, so long as a Flash Player is installed. If the computer was built in the last 5 years or so, Flash should be a given.
No-Download Mac Poker for US Players
As I said above, playing the instant-play version of a poker site does have some advantages, especially if you can’t download the software for some reason, or you despise downloads in general. The instant-play poker software is instantly compatible with any operating system, so long as Java and Flash Player are installed. And altogether, no-download poker games aren’t a bad option. They does require visiting the website, launching the program, logging in and reloading all of the imagery with each and every visit, which takes up some amount of time that could have been more enjoyable spent actually playing online poker.
Download Mac Poker via PC Emulator
This is what I (and I’m sure the majority of anyone else who’s ever tried it) would consider to be the worst possible option for Mac poker players. But, all in all it can get the job done when no other options are viable. The majority of PC emulators are programs heavy programs that mirror the efficacy of a windows PC, just short of running two operating systems on a single computer. When you launch the PC emulator, you can then open Windows-based programs within the emulator and run them just like they would run on a Windows PC – in theory. Unfortunately, all emulators are different and some will work with only specific brands.
The most effective PC emulator I’ve come across is actually not an emulator at all. It’s called WINE, which (ironically) is an acronym for “Wine Is Not a (CPU) Emulator”. It is instead a Windows Library Interface layer, so it runs much smoother within the original operating system (in this case, Mac – WINE also runs well on Unix). Like other PC emulators, it does draw on the system resources, but nearly so much as a traditional emulator. The only real drawback is that, again, WINE isn’t going to run every poker site out there (trial and error, my friends), and there’s always the risk of crashing from eventual HD overload. Don’t run too many other programs with it and you should be fine.