If you ever played online poker or even logged into Facebook to play the game against your friends from high school, then you know that “play money” online games are very, very popular. These are, of course, poker games where no real money is wagered by any players and they instead collect virtual chips, so they are naturally attract more people who are looking for some free entertainment. While they’re a great way to learn your way around the software or understand the basics of a game, “play money” online poker games are not a good way to learn how to play poker properly, for reasons that we’ll go into.
Poker games in which no money is wagered have no inherent risk, which means that there is no reason for a player to play “good” poker. This means that there is no way that free online games help you refine your poker skills in any way. When you learn to play free online poker games well, that is literally the only skill set you are creating because the habits that work well in online poker games fail spectacularly in real money games. We recommend that real money online poker players avoid free online games entirely, because it can actually cause your game to deteriorate.
In play money online poker games, you’ll find that your opponents will happily play almost any hand they’re dealt. After all, why would they fold when there’s no real consequence to their failure to hit the flop. This style of play means that they can see a lot of flops while holding speculative hands and gamble to win a solid hand. Eventually, you’re going to be paid off and so sticking to an extremely loose form of preflop play before going to tight-aggressive after the flop makes a lot of sense.
People in real-money online poker games are not quite as loose-aggressive (or, to put it less kindly, stupid) as their counterparts in free games. For example, let’s look at a board that reads AsKs5s. If you went all-in with a flop like that, your opponents would probably fold pretty quickly as you’re representing a very strong flush. Someone holding 3c2d in a play money game would call you, however, hoping to catch a straight and assuming that you were bluffing because that’s what they’d do.
Play-money online poker game players who wait too long before moving into real money games have false confidence about their skills in comparison to their opponents and find their bankrolls drained very quickly. If you’ve learned how to play poker in play money games and want to start playing for real money, then you should first take the time to properly acclimate yourself to the betting style at micro-stakes games and slowly work your way up through the ranks. Too many other players have felt they could jump instantly to $1/$2 games and discovered that the $100 they deposited on the site disappeared in a matter of hours.
Play money poker is, for lack of a better term, gambling. Real money poker games require a discipline and dedication that simply doesn’t exist at the free tables in any online poker site.