Quick Tips for Free Money Poker Success

by Carson Cashman and Adam Marshall

Free money (sometimes called play money) poker games are a fun way to pass the time without the financial threat of loss that real poker games carry. However, the absence of basic risk changes the way poker is played because the goal isn't necessarily to win. Here are some quickie suggestions on playing free money holdem games.

Don't Bluff

People certainly bluff at real money games but it is taken to the next level at a play money table. With nothing to lose, players will be much more likely to call you out of simple curiosity. If they call you they get to see what you have and that is often enough reason when nothing is at stake. Don't be too surprised when you go all-in with nothing and are called by someone with ace high.

Don't Trap

Your opponents are not paying attention enough for you to dupe them. Unless you have maniacs at your table (which is likely), avoid slowplaying your hands. Just bet your hands and make people pay a price for more cards. If anything you may want to overbet your strong hands for value as you are more likely to get called by inferior hands than in a real money game.

Preflop Selection

Don't play every hand. You will see many more multiway pots than in a real money game. Some people play any two suited cards and many more will play every single hand. Expect people to hang around trying to hit gutshot straights and low flushes. If you do decide you want to play more hands than you usually would, stick to starting hands that have a chance of winning big multi-way pots like pocket pairs (even low ones) and ace-whatever suited. Interestingly though, trouble hands like king-ten or queen-jack become even more troublesome in play games because you tend to play them all the way to the end.

Experiment

While the results may not be very relevant to your regular cash game, you can still hone your style of play at the free money tables. If you find yourself with players who are actually playing smart poker (one hint for spotting them is to see who is folding preflop), you should use the opportunity to experiment with your own poker style. Although you typically want to avoid bluffing that doesn't mean you should avoid it altogether. Try being more or less aggressive for a while and then change gear after you feel the table may have noticed. Remember that this will only work against opponents who are actually paying attention and you may have to wait a while to find them.

Have Fun

Play money poker should be fun. In fact, the goal of free money poker could be "have fun", instead of the real money goal, "win money". So feel free to chat with your opponents about their hands, your hands, whatever comes to mind. Always be respectful, too. Nobody likes the player who complains about every hand lost. Especially when all that has been lost are a few play money chips!

Almost every poker room has fun money games to help beginners learn the game. Here are a few suggestions:
  • PokerStars : Currently the largest online poker room. They also offer daily freeroll tournaments (no entry fee). These can be a good way to practice playing in a tournament atmosphere.
  • PacificPoker : This poker room has an online poker school to compliment their free money poker games.
  • Zynga Poker : This poker application has caught on fire with over 18 million monthly players. It currently operates through Facebook, Myspace, myYahoo, and many more. Zynga makes many other popular games and has firmly established themselves as the premier free money poker app.
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