Best Instant Play Poker Sites

The quality of instant play poker sites has come a long ways in a very short amount of time thanks to improvements in Flash, Java and HTML5 technology. Today’s no download poker games are nearly indistinguishable from their full download counterparts. If you have a connection to the internet, you have everything you need to play for real money today.

It’s not always clear which poker sites offer instant play software thanks to dated information and the fact that some sites require you to sign up and log in before you can even see if there is a no-download option. To help with that, I checked with each of the poker sites on this page to verify that each one does allow you to play in your browser.

Here’s what I found:

How No-Download Poker Works

Traditional poker software is downloaded and installed on your computer just like any other piece of software. Instant play poker sites simply display the games in your browser with no download necessary. If you have ever played one of those free flash games that you sometimes find on gaming websites, you can compare instant play poker to that.

Getting started is as simple as signing in to your poker account and clicking on the “play now” button to load the games lobby. Each new table opens in a new browser window and you can then play just like you would if you were using the full download software. For the most part, poker sites deliver the games via Flash or Java technology. No modern browser should have any trouble displaying the games in either format.

If you do have problems getting the games to load, check to see if your browser has any plugins or security settings set to block Java or Flash. Add-ons such as AdBlock Plus and NoScript have been known to cause issues. If that doesn’t work, check to see if you have the latest versions of Java and Flash at the links below:


Java and Flash are both designed for lightweight applications that load quickly for people on the go. Developers are therefore limited in the number of features and graphic files they can include in the instant play versions of their poker sites. Generally, no download poker rooms come with fewer features and less impressive graphics.

The most common limitations I’ve found at instant play poker sites include the following:

  • A lower number of maximum simultaneous tables
  • Animations and graphics take longer to load
  • Side games such as blackjack and video poker are limited
  • Compatibility issues with poker tracking software such as PokerTracker

However, the spread of high speed internet, improved technology and a trend towards software as a service (SaaS) have given developers increasing flexibility over the years. It wasn’t all that long ago that even basic features such as resizable tables and the ability to run multiple games at a time were completely nonexistent. Improvements in all areas are helping to close the gaps.

Why should I use instant play software?

Full download poker software will always offer the best performance, but sometimes that isn’t an option. If you’re playing from a computer with restricted download permissions, instant play is the way to go because it doesn’t save anything to your hard drive as long as the browser can display Java and Flash content.

The other reason you might want to go the instant play route is if your operating system isn’t supported by the full download software. For example, us poor Mac users are often ignored when it comes to software compatibility. If your poker site doesn’t have a Mac download but it does have an instant play option, you can just play in your browser. The same also applies to those running Linux or other more obscure operating systems.

Finally, instant play software leaves less evidence behind if you’re not supposed to be playing poker. I wouldn’t recommend doing this at work if you’re monitored because everything you do online does leave behind some evidence. But if you’re just looking for a little privacy from normal people who may use the same computer, a few games of instant play poker won’t leave obvious traces littered across the desktop.

Does instant play software work for mobile devices?

The type of instant play poker I’ve discussed so far on this page is geared towards desktops rather than mobile devices. Some devices may be able to load the software in your browser, but it will have display problems.

There is a certain type of no-download software designed specifically for mobile devices. If you take a look at my mobile poker page, you’ll find all the information about that. The basic idea is similar (you don’t have to download anything) but mobile poker is designed specifically with smartphones and tablets in mind.