In the US, 31% of American adults say they are “almost constantly” online. Thus, it’s no wonder that so many rely on the internet as their source of entertainment.
The increased use of online casinos has been staggering in recent years, and many people are using play money to learn the game of poker.
“Play money” refers to fake money or fake chips, and many online casinos will offer this option to new players to allow them to practice before playing with actual cash.
This is also a good option for those looking to pursue poker as a hobby and scope out whether it may be something they’d like to continue with at a more serious level.
Once you’ve tried out the free system, casinos will provide you the option of playing for real cash.
Play money is a very aggressive form of online poker. There is no risk of an actual monetary loss, meaning many players will be much less cautious.
This includes playing loosely and taking significant risks, which they wouldn’t do on their own dime. Because of this, many of the patterns that you recognize from play money will not necessarily transfer over to real money games.
Still, several techniques can be carried over and will benefit you should you decide to play at an online casino with real money.
Advantages of Using Play Money
From a perspective of an experienced player, it doesn’t make much sense to spend time on play money games. However, for someone just starting, these can serve as a nice and risk-free introduction to the real thing.
Get Familiar With Tournament Structures
It can be nerve-wracking to partake in an actual tournament when you’re relatively inexperienced. Play money is the perfect environment to get used to the system and build confidence without having to worry about losing cash from your own pocket.
You’ll develop a feeling for what an online rebuy and freezeout tournaments look like, how long the levels last, and how things play out as you get deeper. It’s not the perfect image of what you’ll encounter in real money events, but it comes pretty close.
Practice Identifying Patterns
When playing any type of poker, you will (often subconsciously) recognize specific patterns and then attempt to exploit them to gain the upper hand. This is a skill that you can transfer from fake to real money poker.
Again, play money games may be more carefree and reckless, but the basic idea still applies. If you can identify someone's playstyle in games with fake chips, you should be able to do the same when playing for real money as well.
Try Out Different Formats
Poker isn’t just Texas Hold’em. There are many different game variations out there, like Pot Limit Omaha, Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw, and much more. Each of these games comes with its own set of rules.
The best way to learn a game is by playing it. However, if you were to learn a new poker variation playing for real money, that could turn into a rather expensive learning experience. With play money games, you get to learn and understand the rules playing online poker with your friends or strangers, but with no financial risk.
Learn Patience and Discipline
Poker is such a complex game that it can be easy for newbies to get frustrated. If there’s real money involved, this can become a dangerous situation quite quickly. The importance of patience can’t be overestimated if you want to succeed in the long run.
Taking the time to build an effective skill set and a level head that you can take with you to a real game will definitely pay off. However, this is a process, so don’t expect things will change overnight.
Boost Mathematical Skills
It may come naturally to some, but for many people, the math involved in poker will be a skill they have to spend time developing. Learning poker odds and outs and other important numbers is essential. Play money tables allow you to do this in a risk-free environment.
Transitioning to Real Money
You’ll have to make several adjustments when playing real money, as, unlike with play money, most opponents will be extremely cautious and careful.
Players will respect bets and take much more consideration in thinking over their decisions. Any amount of personal bankroll on the line will change the game dramatically.
This means that the pattern recognition you may have used to exploit players at lay money will not apply to real money games. You can still use these skills, but you'll probably need to make some adjustments.
Here are a few useful tips to make the transition easier and as effective as possible:
Develop a Solid pre-flop Game
You should stick to playing only strong poker hands before the flop. Learn which hands to play from which position and stick to these charts at all times. As you become more experienced, you'll know when you can safely deviate from these norms.
Tighten up Your Game
When opponents are playing tighter, it means that their range (the total of hands they play) is strong. You need to have more winning hands than your opponent to make money playing poker.
Thus, you must exploit their weaknesses rather than play straight into their strengths. The best way to do that is by recognizing these weaknesses and doubling down on your strategy to maximize your chance of a profit.
Don't be that guy at the table that everyone wants to play a pot with, as you usually show up with a weaker hand. Stick to strong made hands when playing big pots, at least at first. As you become better, you'll learn when to pull off a bluff as well.
Final Thoughts on Play Money Poker
If you’re new to poker, play money could be an excellent option for you to build your skills, learn key strategies, and develop discipline. However, it's clear that these games differ drastically from real money poker.
Always be aware of these variations when switching between the two, and play to the strengths of each format to maximize your profit. And keep in mind that, unlike with play money, your real money bankroll isn't infinite, so stick to proper bankroll management!