Learning to play poker takes practice. In fact, it takes a lot of practice. Most players, to add insult to injury, start out being losing players. Combined, the result is that learning to play poker online can cost you a fair amount of money. This leads some to suggest learning to play by taking advantage of freeroll tournaments and play money ring games. Is this a sound strategy? My opinion is that it is not. Read this article to find out why, and to hear my suggested solution.
What Is a Freeroll Tournament?
All major online poker rooms offer freeroll tournaments. It is simply a tournament where you will not have to pay any fee, and thus entering it will cost you no money. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the prize for the winner is also very modest. The main problem, though, is that the poker being played in these tournaments is not "real" poker. When players put up no money, they play however they feel like in the moment. Going all-in with a seven deuce offsuit? "No problem, its not like I paid to play."
What it all comes down to is this: you will never learn the skills necessary to be a winning player from playing in freeroll tournaments. The effect money has on the mind is profound, and judging, dealing, and handling this effect is a fundamental skill. A skill that you will, obviously, receive no training in when players have nothing on the line.
Play Money Ring Games
Play money ring games is the ring game equivalent of freeroll tournaments, but the play here is actually even worse. This is due to two factors. First, at least in the tournament there is a prize, so that players lasting long will start to play seriously when said prize is within reach. Secondly, tournaments with large fields generally lends itself well to players with a loose, aggressive style. Thus the maniacs at the freeroll tournaments might be playing very poorly, but at least they are playing poorly in a relatively suitable style. Ring games, on the other hand, requires you to play tight and picking your spots. It is not something you will see in the play money variety, however, and therein lies the problem.
Are They Totally Useless?
I will mention one benefit of play money games and freeroll tournaments. They allow you to get comfortable with the mechanics of it all. How the software works. When you start playing for real money you do not want to be worrying about such things, so I do recommend playing a few hands without risking money, until you are familiar with the software. Then, I recommend getting out of there, before you develop bad habits!
Learning to Play Poker Without Losing Money
As mentioned in the beginning, most novice players are not beating the rake. They might be break even, or close to break even, but rarely more. How, then, can they learn to play real poker while still making a profit? The answer is provided by sign up bonuses. Competition among online poker rooms is fierce, thus all poker rooms offer a bonus when you make your first deposit. Full Tilt Poker, one of the best and largest poker rooms, offers a hundred percent bonus up to $600. Thus, you can deposit, say, a hundred dollars, play for the next three months "losing" fifty dollars, but still end up with fifty dollars in profit. Not to mention invaluable experience.
When you are learning to play poker, take advantage of the generous deposit bonuses. Don't waste your time with play money ring games or freeroll tournaments. Before you know it, you will have learned the skills to be a winning player, and done it while making a profit.
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