People often ask me if it is a good idea to play poker at the play money tables when they first start playing online. The answer to this is often more complicated than a simple yes or no, as it depends on what a person is trying to accomplish by playing at these tables. The first table I sat down at online was a real money table. Since then, I have played on play money tables many times, but never for practice.
One thing the play money tables are not good for is practice to improve your game. The play is so much different from real money play that it can actually hurt your game instead of improve it. If you want to improve your game without risking a large amount of money, I suggest playing at a room with micro limit tables.
Many internet poker rooms offer games starting at .01/.02 or .05/.10. These games play much more like real poker than the play money tables. They still aren’t the same as 10/20, or even 2/4, but you can improve your game and learn a great deal at these tables.
There are two areas where the play money tables can be very useful. The first is when you are learning the rules of a new game. For example, if you are a Texas holdem player and want to learn how to play Omaha/8, the play money tables are the best place to learn, and make sure you understand, the rules.
The other thing these tables are good for, and the reason I use them, is to familiarize you with the software at a new poker room. Each poker room network uses different software, and while they are all somewhat similar, they each are a little different. You don’t want to become involved in a real money game and have a hard time finding the correct button to push.
Getting back to the original question, and to sum up the answer in one sentence, the play money tables are very useful to learn the rules of a new game and learn how to use the software, but they are not a good place to improve your game.
Until next week, good luck at the tables!