Play Money vs. Real Money

All of the top online poker sites features play money tables alongside their real money poker games, so you may be forgiven for assuming that the free poker chip tables are much the same as the real money games. The truth of the matter is that this couldn't be further from the truth, and you better understand the notable differences between the two, otherwise you risk donking off a lot of your own hard earned money once you eventually step up to real money poker.

First of all, let's get one thing straight. The play money games are not a good way to learn the game of poker. If you are a complete novice to Texas hold'em, then the tables with play money serve a purpose. You can test the software of the poker room and the different features and games to get a better feel of what the poker site can offer, but it would be a huge mistake to assume the play on the play money tables is the same as what you will find in the real money games section on the site.

At the play money tables, players have nothing to lose, and the play from most players in these games is reflective of that. They will go all-in with any two cards and make absolutely crazy plays after all what have they got to lose? But when poker is played in this fashion it really takes away from the fun of the game because you know players at the play money tables aren't playing seriously.

So it should go without saying that if the main aim is to play poker because you love the game, with the possible chance that you may even be good at it, then you really should start playing in the real money poker games as soon as realistically possible, and the sooner the better, since it will enable you to improve your poker game at a faster rate.

You might be thinking to yourself "but what if I can't afford to make a deposit." And this really is a non-issue, since you can play in the lowest levels online, which allows you to play against other non-skilled players on a similar level to yourself. One of the huge advantages of playing poker online is that most online poker rooms feature a big selection of micro stakes tables to suit players with smaller bankrolls. If you were to play poker at a land-based casino, the lowest limit you can play is typically $1/$2 NL hold'em tables at most casinos, so you would still need a decent sized bankroll to play in the lowest game.

However, when playing poker online, it's not uncommon to find games and stakes that start from as little as $0.01/$0.02 and $0.02/$0.04. This is a great starting point for new players who are just learning the basics of the game. Even if you make some mistakes and lose a few buy-ins it will hardly put a dent in your roll and unlike the play money tables you get to actually play some REAL poker where they will be thinking on at least some level.

If you find yourself consistently beating the normal game you play, once you build up a big enough bankroll, you should consider moving up in limits where there is more at stake and more potential to make even more money. The level of player at the micro stakes real money tables isn't all that different, so as soon as your roll can support it, you really should take shots at bigger games.

Besides the stakes you play, the other main consideration when it comes to real money poker is what games to play. The three main choices you have include sit & gos, multi-table tournaments (MTTs), and cash games, with all of them having their advantages and disadvantages. Every player is different and prefers different games. The beauty about MTTs is that you only need to invest a very small buy-in and get the chance to earn a very big payday if you take down the tournament. In order to do that, you will have to outlast a lot of players, but with enough perseverance and with a commitment to playing well, eventually you will win one, and it will be an awesome feeling not to mention a nice payday! A lot of poker players prefer cash games because if you are good at them you can grind out a consistent profit. In real money cash games you are playing with your own money at the table and even though you can't expect to turn a profit every cash game session you play, if you are consistently play solid poker, you'll end up ahead, more often then not.