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Real Money Poker vs Free Poker

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Those of us that play poker for real money just can’t wrap our heads around why someone would play the game without any cash involved? So much of the excitement of the game of poker has to do with what is literally at stake, usually big amounts of cash. Take away the dollar value of the chips wagered and there’s no real incentive to win. Playing poker for real money gives you a reason to keep your head in the game while freeplay poker options are merely a way to practice.

Playing poker for real money and playing the game for nothing of value (“free poker”) are two completely different things. How many of us remember playing poker or other card games at family reunions or on camping trips using matches or toothpicks? Those games are downright lame because there’s nothing at stake; those matches aren’t worth anything unless you need to start a fire, and a toothpick is just a match without a flame at the end, even more worthless than a match.

Why Play Free Poker?

Why, if free poker is so worthless, do you find so much of it online? Because truth be told, free poker has a place in the world of online poker play. You can use free poker games, including freeroll tournaments at online poker sites, in a myriad of ways.

Poker for Real Money versus Free Poker

Poker for Real Money versus Free Poker

Here’s a list of three reasons why free poker can be valuable to the real money poker player.

1. Free Poker Games Can Help Teach You How to Play

If you are totally new to poker in general, or online poker in particular, free games of poker are a good way to learn the game. It doesn’t make sense to jump right into poker for real money if you’re still wet behind the ears, poker-wise. Until you have a good sense of poker strategy, playing at real-money tables is akin to putting your cash through a paper shredder.

Free poker games at online poker rooms or even in video game-style formats can help you learn how the game goes, how poker action works, all about hand rankings, and the basics of real-money poker play like blinds and antes. If you want to learn who does what in a poker game, and when they do it, you should start out by playing free poker.

2. Free Poker Games Help You Figure Out How a Poker Site Works

You may not be totally new to poker, and you may have even played a bit at another online poker room, but when you switch poker sites, free games help you learn more about that site. Poker games are different from one online room to the next – the population of players, their skill levels, and even the ins and outs of navigating the site may be a total mystery to you when you move from one poker website to another.

This second benefit to playing free poker may become especially useful in the USA if that market suddenly expands due to state regulation of legal online poker games in the next couple of years, as is expected. If you live in a US state that suddenly grants licenses to new poker sites for citizens of your state, you’ll want to play a few rounds of free poker to make sure you know how the site works, what kind of games they play, and what the competition is like. Playing through a few hands for play money is smarter than jumping in with real cash wagers until you are familiar with the way a site operates.

3. Freeroll Tournaments Can Put Money in Your Pocket for No Cash Investment

Some forms of free poker come with a potential financial reward. Online poker rooms often host what are known as “freeroll tournaments.” These tourneys don’t cost anything to join, and are usually a big part of an online poker room’s marketing package. It’s common to see online poker sites advertising their lineup of freeroll tourneys, since you can win real cash prizes without paying to get in on the action. In this case, your free poker game may not be as free as it appears.

Remember that even freeroll tournaments, which don’t require an entry fee, do actually end up costing you something. If you play in a freeroll tournament online that offers real money prizes, you have a lot on the line. Besides the potential prize itself, you’re investing your time playing in the tournament. If you skip out on an hours’ worth of work and end up not winning anything in a freeroll tournament, you still have lost something – an hour of your time, and the potential prize had you finished in the money. In short, free poker isn’t necessarily free when you factor in the time you spend playing and the money you could win if you’re successful. Because you don’t spend anything on entry fees, you may think of it as a totally free tournament, but you really are making the same kind of investment that you’d made with a pay-to-play tourney.

Poker for real money is a favorite pastime of millions, and it may seem senseless to play a game of poker with no money on the line. You should not overlook the good side of free poker, even if you’re used to placing real cash wagers on your poker ring games and tournaments. Both free poker and real money poker have their place in the game.

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