Play money poker sites serve as a great starting point for anyone who needs to learn the absolute basics of how poker works. If you’re not sure of what beats what or you’re not quite sure how the game actually progresses from one hand to the next, a play money table is just the solution. Play money games let you get the basics down pat without risking a single dollar of your own money.
Why It’s Important to Choose Wisely
Finding the best play money poker sites isn’t a horribly difficult task since nearly all the world’s major sites host a variety of play money games. However, I strongly recommend that you choose a play money site as if you intend to make a real money deposit. There are several reasons why I think this is the best way to do it.
First of all, there’s a decent possibility that you eventually decide to make a real money deposit at some point in the future. You might as well choose a site that you would play at later. You’ll already be familiar with the software, have an account ready to go and be ready to hit the tables.
Even if you don’t ever make a deposit, it would be wise to choose a poker site that protects your private information. You’ll need to make an account to access even the play money tables. They’ll ask for your name, address, e-mail and so on. There’s no need to give that information to a second-tier operator.
And yes, you really should sign up with your real information. Large play money poker sites often host freeroll tournaments, no-deposit bonuses and other promotions. If you happen to win something of value from some promotion, the poker site will need accurate information on file to give you the cash or prize.
It’s also important that you sign up with accurate information because all poker sites are sticklers about making sure each customer only has one account. If you sign up with fake information and then decide to make a real money account, even if it’s years later, that old account could come back to bite you when it’s time to cash out your winnings. Poker sites serve a global market and they are always dealing with people who try to game the system.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this happen over the years. Hang around in any poker discussion forum long enough and you’ll eventually see someone come along and start a new thread complaining about how Random Poker Site X froze their account and won’t let them cash out. Almost every single time, we eventually find out that this person had already signed up for one account in the past and the poker site is now running an investigation to figure out if this person is legit or not. It would be best to avoid the trouble altogether by only signing up with accurate information at reputable sites.
What to Expect at Play Money Tables
Be ready for absolutely atrocious play at any play money poker site. Everyone knows the chips are meaningless and so strategy goes almost completely out the window. Most players have at least a basic idea of hand rankings but that’s about as far as it goes. You can expect to see lots of random all-in bets, people chasing the craziest draws and other plays that downright inexplicable.
Poor play is just the nature of the game when everyone knows a rebuy is just a click away. Despite all that, play money poker tables do prove useful. Beyond just using the play money games to learn the mechanics of poker, there are some strategic lessons to be learned.
One lesson you can take from the play money games is that even the craziest games can be beaten. Every time an opponent chases a draw against the odds, makes a poor bluff or goes all-in with a poor hand, it creates an opportunity for you. The single greatest lesson you can learn from these crazy games is that there’s always a way to turn a profit. You just have to adjust your strategy accordingly.
A tight, straightforward game will take you a long ways in any play money or low stakes game. All you have to do is sit tight, wait for strong hands and bet when you catch strong hands. Bad beats are common when it seems everyone plays everything, but that’s ok. The math works out in your favor over the long run. If you can keep your cool and stick to your strategy, you’ll accumulate lots of chips.
With that being said, there’s only so much to be learned from play money poker. The odds are pretty good that you’ll eventually want to play with money on the line against people who take the game seriously. The level of play increases significantly as soon as you make the switch to real money, but the low stakes games are still pretty soft. In my experience, it’s best to stick with the play money games for as long as it takes to learn the basic rules of the game.
Remember also that you don’t have to make a deposit if you’re not ready. No-deposit bonuses and freeroll tournaments serve as two alternatives that will let you join the real money games without making a deposit of your own.
Freeroll tournaments may be even better than the regular play money games. Freerolls give you a chance to learn the game without risking anything, but they also offer a chance at winning real money. All you have to do is log in to your poker account and register for any upcoming freeroll. The prizes aren’t all that impressive, but they do give you something to aim for. Every poker site that you see recommended above hosts regular freeroll tournaments in addition to standard play-money tables.