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Aces Full of It: Making the Donkey Walk III: Play Money

March 29th, 2016 by Justin Buchanan
I'm definitely setting myself up for a fall here, so I'm going to be as polite as possible in this one. (Source:

I’m definitely setting myself up for a fall here, so I’m going to be as polite as possible in this one.

Before you stop me by saying that it’s pretty much pointless to figure out how to play against play money players, I assure you that you are right.  However, I couldn’t resist profiling them as well as the other types I have so far because I have such a good position to have insight on this type.  What is that position?  Well, I have very close contact with such a person–in fact, he’s my own father.

Play Money Players: Motivation

Play money players, and I know I’m stating the obvious here, play poker to play the game, to mix it up.  It’s exceedingly rare to get a limper to fold pre flop, a drawing hand to fold post flop, or even a high card that whiffed to fold post flop.  Of course, not everyone is that reckless with every hand.  My father certainly isn’t!

The key distinction, I think, between play money players and people who play freerolls, or play play money some of the time, but also often play real money games, is a desire to be free of the constraints of so much as attempting to “play properly.”  I’ve approached my dad about playing real money games, and in a few select cases of live play he’s acquiesced, but never with much enthusiasm.  But in the case of even the idea of playing freerolls on some poker client or other, much less–gasp–putting any of his own money into online play, he’s distinctly opposed.

From what I can gather, he reacts to poker in much the way I react to basically any “real time” video game that isn’t a platformer.  In games like turn based RPGs and strategy games, I enjoy strategizing, thinking deeply, trying to predict my enemy’s next move and the best route to defeating them. Stick me in a real time game with stuff like Starcraft II, fighting games, or even something like Kingdom Hearts, and I lose my capacity to appreciate stuff like that, just wanting to smash stuff.

Why are you talking about video games in a POKER blog? Way to alienate your audience, dingbat.

Why are you talking about video games in a POKER blog? Way to alienate your audience, dingbat. (Source:

My point is, when it comes to poker, I want to strategize, to predict what other people at the table are gonna do–and of course, to win money. My dad just wants to smash up some chips, and in play money it doesn’t matter if those chips are his own so it’s a perfect fit for him.

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One Response to “Aces Full of It: Making the Donkey Walk III: Play Money”

  1. dj11 Says:

    There are a great many differences between real and play money poker, but you have that very common misconception that so many pure real money poker players have.

    You seem to believe that play money poker (PMP) have no real value. I disagree.

    The one main difference, and the only thing you can’t learn via PMP, is how to play with scared money. As a real money player, you should realize that you should never be playing with scared money anyway. So even that argument is a canard.

    At the higher buy-in PMP games, you can find most of the stuff one needs to learn to get better at poker.

    While what you state is mostly true at the lowest levels of PMP, at the higher levels, the play very closely resembles what you consider real poker.

    One of the recurrent arguments against PMP is it helps develop bad habits. With no consequences for poor play, I can’t really disagree with that. But once one has figured out how to succeed at those low levels, and moves into the more sane buy-ins, they will have gone thru those phases of poor play, and learned a lot of stuff, for free, about the game. They may still have bad habits, but they have figured out how to deal with those bad habits.

    Many will have mixed in real money games and will have noticed the sacred money thing. They notice that RMP players are just as willing to make stupid plays, although the circumstances of when they make those stupid plays tend to be a bit different.

    Which comes to why, after 12 years playing online poker, I still play PMP. I know what I want to accomplish when I choose to play PMP or RMP. With PLP, I often play just to play, like your dad does.

    But sometimes I play to change a habit. I may realize that in some circumstance, I just mash buttons like a Pavlovian dog. Once I realize a pattern, I know I have to train myself out of that automatic response. SO I go to the PMP tables and play a few thousand hands till I convince myself that I have broken that habit.

    It was free therapy. And I can go back to RMP with a fresher understanding of my reactions to the game.

    And all the while, over all these years, we both have enjoyed hours and hours of pleasure.

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