Play money poker is an excellent way to learn the basics of the game and at the same time hone your poker skills without putting any of your own hard-earned money at risk. Even though the play on the real money poker tables will be far superior to anything you encounter at the play money tables you can still learn a lot about the game from practicing with play money.
Certain online poker rooms actually welcome play money players with open arms, going so far as to offer them real money for their play chips should they accumulate enough of them, in addition to the possibility of free-roll tournaments and more.
We have gone through all of the online poker rooms and chosen the following five rooms as the best play money online poker sites.
Best Poker Sites For Free Play In United States
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Why participate in Play Money poker games
Although play money doesn’t do the best job of simulating what it’s like when you actually put some of your cash on the line, it will teach the basics of the game, like blinds and antes, how the action goes around the table, what types of hands (hand strength) typically win the pot and so on.
And it’s this knowledge that will come in very handy when you do decide to plunk down some of your hard-earned money at a real money online poker table. Even players who have read a poker book may find the play money tables particularly useful: After all reading something and then applying it are two very different things! Many players have been known to practice calculating their pot odds, or counting outs at the play money tables.
What Sites Offer Play Money Poker?
Most poker sites offer free money poker, to give players who are absolutely new to online poker to develop a good feel for the software and the game play prior to playing with real money.
Another reason to look to play with play money is if you don’t have any money to deposit at present, but plan on making a deposit a little down the road and want to get some experience at your chosen game, or perhaps try out a new form of online poker that you are not that familiar with.
So finding an online poker site is a very easy task in itself, although that there are some poker sites which have advantages over others as far as their offering of play money games go. It’s not just about that though, it’s even more important that you start out playing at a poker site which is also highly rated in terms of their real money poker games.
So our recommendations take both these important factors into account, to provide you with a list of the very best poker sites overall in terms of where you should be starting out at with play money. Once you move to real money, you will then already have an account at a top poker site and you won’t have to go searching all over again to get connected to the best ones, and perhaps make a costly mistake along the way.
How To Choose A Play Money Site
The first thing you need to look at is how well set up a poker site is on the play money end of things. While just about every poker site has the option to play for play money, they do tend to differ quite a bit in terms of what they offer their play money players.
What you need and what we look for in particular is lots of play money traffic and lots of variety as well in terms of the different types of games that a poker site runs with its play money tables. In particular, we look for a real nice layout of freerolls, which are tournaments which are free to enter but the prizes are very real, as in cold hard cash.
As I mentioned already, the quality of a poker site’s real money games is the most important factor, even when deciding where to play for free. The goal for every play money poker player should be to move up to real money as soon as possible, so how good a poker site is as far as their real money action is obviously something of considerable importance.
So this of course factors into our ratings considerably, although at the same time we realize that you are here on this specific page because you want to know where the best places are in terms of play money online poker, and that you shall definitely get.
Difference Between Play Money And Real Money Poker
A lot of play money online poker players are unprepared to make the jump to real money poker. In particular, they tend to overrate, and often grossly overrate their chances at real money based upon how they have done at the play money tables.
What you want to keep in mind is that people play pretty recklessly with play money, so the fact that you are able to crush these games usually just means that you have a minimal regard for your outcomes, versus the little or no regard that your opponents typically have. If you bust out at play money, you merely refresh your stack. When you bust out at real money poker, you have to deposit some more real money to continue on.
So this has players playing much tighter at even the loosest and smallest stakes real money games than you’d see at the tightest play money games. So what you may considerable reasonable at play money is probably going to be ridiculously bad at real money.
More specifically, with the shove fests that you see at the play money cash tables, you often will get the proper odds to play a lot looser than normal. With real money play though, there are less people in the hands, so as a general rule you are going to have to choose the cards you play more selectively.
On the other hand, since players do play tighter at real money poker, there are a lot more opportunities to get people to give up pots to you by putting pressure on them and getting them to fold. With play money, it’s extremely rare that you can scare anyone even with shoving, and therefore the opportunities to bluff are virtually non-existent. However, with real money, you can definitely push the too tight players around, and there are plenty of them these days.
What you do need to realize is that there definitely is a big adjustment that is required for you to make the move from doing well at the play money tables to doing well at the real money games. You’re going to have to both tighten up and play more aggressively than you are used to at the play money tables.
However, the biggest difference between play money and real money is the added excitement that real money poker brings. There’s absolutely no comparison here in fact, and you could even say that there is only a tiny amount of excitement at any play money game, since the stakes are pretty much meaningless. With real money poker though, the stakes are very real, and you will experience highs even winning small pots that you could not even imagined at play money tables. In fact, once you’ve tasted real money poker, you will never be able to go back to the play money stuff again.
Play Money Cash Games And Tournaments
While cash games at play money tables do serve to educate players as far as the mechanics of the game go, meaning knowing things such as the rules of the game, how the betting works, and other basic elements of playing poker online, that’s about all you can expect really as far as the benefits of playing play money cash games go. Aside from that, what tends to happen is that play money players develop some terrible habits and have to ditch what they have learned at the play money tables in favor of a completely new strategy.
On the other hand, play money tournaments are a different story, at least at the great play money rooms that we are recommending here. These tournaments offer the best of both worlds, where it costs you absolutely nothing to enter, but the prizes that you can win are cold hard cash.
In addition, since you are playing for real money, even though you didn’t put any up to enter, these entries are seen as having some real value and players play much more sensibly and guard their chips much more closely. You might not think that this is a good thing, but in fact it is a great thing, as these freeroll tournaments offer the closest thing you’ll ever see to real money poker around. They are therefore excellent training grounds for those who want to improve their skills in a game which very closely approximates the real thing, without putting up any money to do so.
With that said though, there really isn’t any substitute for the real thing, meaning the actual real money cash tables and tournaments. However I do realize that not everyone is in a position as of yet to make a deposit and open the door to the much more exciting world of real money poker, so if you are stuck with play money for now as you wait to put a little money together to try out the real thing, if you are focusing mostly on freeroll tournaments, you will at least be getting a decent poker education while you wait.
Transitioning To Real Money Poker Sites
So beyond knowing the mechanics and rules of the game, I don’t really recommend that players spend too much time at all at the play money games, and in fact the sooner they can move on to the micro stakes, which are the smallest betting limits at real money, the better.
You should always look to start out at the smallest stake that a poker room offers, even though these stakes may not be very exciting, like one and two cent no limit hold’em. A full buy-in here is a mere two dollars, and if you win someone’s stack you might win a couple of bucks. There are some other games running where you have the money for a full buy-in but you make a lot more per hand when you win.
So as a poker coach and trainer who has worked with more players than I can count over the years, and having seen people struggle and bust out much more often than is necessary, I can tell you that these newer players are the architects of the pain they very often find themselves experiencing.
Until you can beat the lowest stakes, you will be losing money as you wait to improve enough to start beating this stake. So until that point, it’s a matter of how much your poker education will cost you. Do you want it to cost you just a little, as is the case with starting at the lowest stakes, or do you want it to cost you a lot more? This isn’t a difficult choice to make really, unless you have a ton of cash and don’t mind losing more of it than you need to.
On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of success among players who have taken my advice and started at the bottom and worked their way up the stakes. Many of these players quickly worked their way up to doing well for some serious money. What you want to focus on starting out though is getting to the point where you improve enough to win a little money per hour before you start setting your sites on bigger amounts per hour.
The higher the stake, the better the players are there, and the lower the stakes, the weaker they are, so you always want to look to learn how to beat up on the weaklings before you look to take on better players.
Things To Consider When Choosing A Real Money Poker Site
The most important thing by far when considering which real money poker sites are the easiest to do well at for players who are looking to make the transition at some point from play money to real money is the ease of competition at the lower stakes. As I’ve mentioned though, what you want here is to start out at a play money site that offers both the best play money games and the easiest real money ones. Therefore, once you are ready, you will already be hooked up at the proper site to ensure your ultimate success.
So while there are other things that must be accounted for as well, such as your chosen poker site having plenty of traffic and game variety, excellent customer service, user friendly software, easy deposit and withdrawal methods, and so on, there is nothing more important than ease of competition, and this is true by the way whether you are a beginner or an expert.
So feel free to check out our top recommendations for play money poker sites, with the knowledge and confidence that this has been put together for you by poker experts who have your ultimate long term success in mind.