Many online poker
sites offer free, "play money" poker games
in which people are able to play free poker
online against other real players. Run just like real money poker games, free poker games utilizing play money demonstrate the same qualities and aspects of game play that players will encounter when they choose to move on to real money poker.
Benefits of Free Poker
Free poker games provide a number of advantageous opportunities for beginner poker players. Online poker sites furnish free poker games in order to allow players to familiarize themselves with the various game structures, ensure they know the rules of the games before gambling real money, and practice employing poker strategies - all without any actual risk.
In conjunction with reading the Rules section, playing free poker is an effective way to reinforce what has been learned about each game through total immersion. Becoming well-acquainted with the process of game play in a no-risk environment ensures that a player fully understands all of the intricacies of the poker variant.
Once one can be reasonably assured of having a firm grasp on the rules of a particular form, one can begin to apply the various tactics for that poker variant, as well as general Poker Strategies, provided in the Strategy section of Poker.org. Counting outs, calculating odds, and analyzing opponents are all skills that can be honed in free poker games. While the caliber of the average free poker player does not exactly prepare one for competing with the professionals at high stakes poker, it does provide the ground work for low stakes poker strategy against inexperienced players. From there, one can continue to build upon obtained knowledge with each step up the ladder.
How to Play Free Poker
There are two approaches to accessing free online poker; one is to download the online poker room's software, the other is to access the play money games via the site's instant-play poker games. While the downloadable poker software is recommended for the greatest stability, game selection, and graphical interface, this is not always an option for some people. In such cases the free play Flash games, where available, are a welcome and convenient alternative to the online poker download version.
Before access can be granted to any of the online poker tables, it is necessary to register an account with the poker site. Only a minimum amount of information is required, including a login name, password, and email address. New players will be required to validate the email address provided to the online poker site before being allowed to play online poker for free, but this process is usually very swift, and allow quick resolution if the login information is forgotten or lost.
Once the email address has been verified, members may access any of the available free poker games supplied by the online poker room. While each poker network may implement a slightly different navigational scheme, those that provide free poker games generally employ a filter that forces display of only the play money tables available within a category. This can be in the form of a check box system for narrowing the results within a specific poker variant or tournament style, or an option chosen in a guided game selection process.
Upon selecting a free poker game to join, the online poker table usually opens in a separate window. Often, newly seated players are given the option of posting a big blind in order to be dealt into the next hand, or sitting out until the big blind naturally comes around to their position at the table by selecting "wait for big blind." Because time limits are enforced in online poker to prevent game lag, players may tick check boxes to automatically post antes/blinds at the appropriate times to speed the game along at the beginning of each deal; it is highly recommended to make use of this feature.
Players will also have the option of pre-selecting their actions while waiting for their turn. These can be useful in the beginning, especially in cases where one intends to fold no matter what the opponents do. However, be careful not to make a habit of overusing these conveniences, as they can telegraph information about your hand strength to observant opponents. These early action options can play a key role in online poker strategy.
Game play in free online poker is much the same as real money games, with the exception that there is no risk. Play money may be reloaded within certain time frame constraints if the players goes bust. The time restrictions are generally rather short, and vary from one online poker room to the next. Primarily, these reload rules are in place to encourage free poker players to take the play money games more seriously than they would if they had a constant, limitless supply of free online poker chips.
What to Expect From Free Poker
Playing free poker online, while very useful for learning how to play a variety of poker forms and bet according to different limit structures, is not going to turn anyone into an instant success at the high stakes tables. Accomplishing the skill and knowledge required to play at the top of the poker food chain requires dedicated time and study, as well as experience against many different types of poker players.
Playing free poker games with play money lays a foundation upon which one can build stronger and more complex mastery as one rises through the levels of online poker proficiency. With free poker play one has the opportunity to prepare for small stakes online poker, which will provide new challenges and incrementally stronger opposition than one will find at the play money poker tables. Once a sufficient bankroll and expanded poker strategy have been developed in the small stakes games, one is ready to move up to mediums stakes, and take on the challenges of more formidable competition. Free poker games are an excellent place to start, but are merely a springboard into a field of great depth and intricacy.
Transitioning from Free Poker to Real Money Games
Having tested one's knowledge of the desired poker variants, become accustomed to the betting structures and limits, and dabbled in each of the poker formats furnished in the play money poker games (ring games, sit and go tournaments, multi-table tournaments, etc.), one is likely to feel ready to make the transition from free poker to real money games with a better idea of one's own game preferences and preliminary strengths. All that is required is that one make a deposit into the real money account. This is done through the "Cashier" at the online poker site.
Each online poker site provides a number of deposit options, some faster or more readily available than others. Deciding which deposit method to use is generally dependent upon the location of the depositor. Be sure to take into account any processing fees that may be charged by some e-wallets. Also, many online poker sites require a minimum deposit amount - usually somewhere between $10 and $50. The online poker site should also require some documented proof off identity via fax, email, or regular mail; which may seem tedious, but protects players, as well as the general public, from bank fraudulence.
Certain deposit methods can take upwards of a week or more to clear, while others can be processed within half an hour or so. Be patient and continue to practice on the free poker games while waiting for the funds to be transferred to the real money account.