Just how Worthless is Free Poker?

Back in 2003, the Chris Moneymaker effect and the increased WSOP coverage on ESPN made me want to start playing online poker.  Like a lot of people, I began my online poker days by playing the free software that nearly every room provides as a means of getting people to give them a try.  And like a lot of people, I did great in these free rooms and steadily increased my chip stack over time.  Suddenly poker didn’t seem like it was going to be that tough so I started playing for money.

But I found out that free poker doesn’t prepare you for real money poker and I took my lumps early on.  And I know that the subject of how free poker is bad practice for real money games has been beat to death, but a friend of mine recently reminded me of this subject.  He told me about how he was going to start playing online poker for money and that he’d had a lot of practice playing this High Stakes on the Vegas Strip: Poker Edition video game.  In fact, he had played over 6,000 hands already against other people online on this Playstation 3 game.

I told him what I wish I would’ve known over 5 years ago in that he’d better start at really low limits if he thinks the High Stakes game prepared him (which it didn’t).  I also told him that free poker is great for those who just want to mess around and pass time with the game, however, you should never use playing for free as any sort of measuring stick for what you can do against real money competition.

People in free poker games have no regards for the play money they’ve been given (and why should they?) so they make the craziest, most ridiculous calls ever.  95% of the people in these play money games are not taking it serious and will call a raise or re-raise with something like a non-suited 10-3.  Anyone who is actually serious about playing poker for money needs to study strategy and work their way up from the lower limits.

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