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Poker is a famous pastime, one that doesn’t need to be played for money to be enjoyed. Professional players may not agree with that assessment, but even they can think back to their humble beginnings when they wanted to learn the basics of the game without losing their bankroll.
No matter the reason for wanting to play free poker, there are many places to find it. Nearly all of the major online poker sites offer dot-net websites that can be played without any financial investment whatsoever. Those sites allow players to compete for play-money and coins, and while players may be able to buy a few coins with real money, the vast majority of them compete for the simple love of poker.
What are the Benefits of Free Poker?
With no money at stake, can poker really be enjoyable? Yes! The game is one of strategy and excitement, the thrill of the all-in and the suspense of the river card. And the pure fun of it is why it is played by millions of people of all ages at kitchen tables around the world.
There are numerous benefits of playing free-play games, though. Whether one aspires to become a professional player or simply to improve those skills enough to beat family members at the next reunion, there are many things to gain by putting in some time at the play-money tables.
- Learning the Basics:The best way to learn the basics of betting, raising, and position is to practice. Of course, using primers on websites like ours is always a great starting point, but it doesn’t always make sense until those lessons are put into practice at actual online poker tables.
- Practicing Strategies: As a player improves, it is beneficial to devise strategies or take ones found in books and on instructional websites and try them out. Play-money poker is the best place to see how well those strategies work for each player and if they work as intended. Every player finds different strategies that work best for them.
- Bankroll Management:Before investing hard-earned money to an online poker site, try to manage play money first. Since a skilled player never puts more than 10% of their bankroll on the line at any one time, it is a good idea to try that method with play-money poker and learn how to manage that bankroll, even if it doesn’t contain real money.
- Discovering Swings: Poker can be filled with upswings and downswings. No matter how much skill is employed, the luck of the draw can get even the best players time after time. While the odds are always in the favor of the players who use skills, getting the full experience of the potential downswings of poker is a good lesson.
- Managing Tilt: Even with no money on the line, the actions of other players or frustrations with one’s own play can put players on tilt. It’s not uncommon to see players go crazy in the chat boxes at free-play poker tables because they ran into bad luck. Learning to manage tilt comes easier before real money is on the line.
- Garnering Experience: Most live poker players know that poker online is different and adjustments must be made. Starting on a play-money site is the best way to get the feel for the online tables, even for those with experience in live games.
Warnings about Free Poker
This is not as ominous as it sounds, but there are some things that players should consider when playing free poker. It is going to be different from real-money poker online in several ways.
First and most importantly, players on free poker sites tend to be much looser in their playing styles. Without real money on the line, they might be more apt to call on every street, bluff more often, and play more wildly in general. This will change when switching to a real-money site, but there are quite a few players on free sites who take it seriously.
Second, don’t get tricked into buying play-money coins! Free poker sites always provide ways to win more free chips or coins, so there is no need to buy any if the option presents itself. If a player is that desperate for coins or chips, it might be time to read about tilt and figure out a way to manage it.
Third, there is no need to rush from play-money to real-money poker. Winning a few hands or even a few days in a row doesn’t mean the jump should be made immediately. Take the time to experience some of the ups and downs, and don’t get overconfident because of a few million play chips.
What are the Top Free Poker Sites?
The best place to play poker for free is with PokerStars, 888poker, or PartyPoker. Instead of using the dot-com website address, simply replace with dot-net to access the free-play sites. These sites have invested a great deal of time and energy into providing an extensive free platform as well as offering tutorials, lessons, and tips for every level of player – from new to advanced. Take advantage of the information at no charge.
Ultimately, those sites will also offer special deals and bonuses to open a real-money account on their sister dot-com sites. While there is no rush to do so, it is good to have those bonus options to make the most of that first deposit when the time comes.
Even if sites don’t offer a specific free-play site, other poker sites like Ignition Poker and Intertops offer information that is meant to help new players improve their play. Most sites also offer things like freeroll tournaments that cost nothing to enter but give players the chance to win real money. This helps new players build their bankrolls with little to no initial investment.
No matter where a new player chooses to play, it is always beneficial to gain experience and move up slowly. Every pro player will give that same advice.
Is Learning Online Poker Easy?
I used to get intimidated by the enormous variety of poker sites online. What’s more, I had heard all sorts of stuff about how online poker players were really good, how I’d have a hard time at the tables, and how I should just stick to play money games to avoid losing my house. Had I taken these things to heart, I might not have learned poker at all! But I took the dive, head-first, and am glad I did. Nobody is ‘really good’ online. I didn’t have a ‘hard time’ at the tables. And I still have a roof over my head. Everything I had heard turned out the be the opposite of reality. Poker is an easy game if you play at one of the soft poker sites. The only hard thing about it is learning the rules, and even that only takes about five minutes.
Don’t doubt for one second that you can easily learn to play poker. And take it from me — you’ll be much better off learning online as opposed to in a casino.
Why Learn to Play Poker Online?
For starters, you’ll see more hands per hour online than in a brick and mortar cardroom. Online poker is inherently faster than live, because it’s easier to click a button than to shuffle chips and read stacks. The faster pace means you’ll be exposed to more poker situations in a shorter period of time playing online. This will make you a better player in the long run.
Second, playing poker on a software client is much more convenient than playing at a live table. In a casino, you’d have to memorize chip values and learn all sorts of arcane casino-specific rules. Online software displays bet amounts and stack values in plain-old number format — so easy to read! I can’t stress enough how helpful this is when you’re learning.
Third, you’ve got all the resources you can find on the net available to you when playing online. You can keep a poker table open on one half of your screen, and a starting hand chart on the other half. You can search Google if you run into tough situations. You can vent about bad beats to your friends via IM. I could go on and on about all the benefits to playing online. But I’d end up writing an entire book. Suffice it to say that the best poker sites to learn poker online beat out the best casinos any day.
3 Important Factors: Easy, Appealing, and Fun
Once you’ve made up your mind to learn the game online, it’s time to pick a site. This doesn’t have to be hard, or intimidating. Just ask yourself the following three questions about any poker site you come across:
1. Does this poker site look easy to use?
2. Is this poker software visually appealing?
3. Does this poker site look like it’s a fun place to play?
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Factor 1 is pretty simple. If a poker site looks confusing or complicated, what’s the point? When you’re just learning how to play poker online, you don’t need all sorts of fancy features to deal with. You just need a simple, sensible poker client that will help you ease into the game. I found 888 poker to be one of the easiest poker sites for me. Everything I needed to get started was basically available on one screen. I just downloaded the client, clicked the link to register for an account, and boom! I was done.
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Factor 2 boils down to personal preference. You’re not a professional grinder, so you don’t need to put up with crappy software just because the games are ‘good.’ Pick a poker site that agrees with your aesthetic sensibilities. In this regard, I found Bovada Poker to be the clear winner. The table layout is very simple — no distractions. Bet amounts are clearly labelled, action buttons are prominent and visible, and the games flowed smoothly. Bovada almost won me over with its well-designed software (I chose 888 though, in the end.) Try both sites, and see which you prefer.
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Factor 3 is, again, a matter of personal preference. Does a prospective site look like fun to play on? If you aren’t having a good time — especially while you’re learning to play poker online– you won’t want to stick with the game. So if anything about a site puts you off, try a different one!