Is play money poker really a good learning tool?

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Pepsi Man

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I know some people play "play money" poker like on full tilt. However I am not sure how good that is as a learning tool beyond it just looking like poker. Maybe learning the basic rules but anything beyond that is useless.

It looks like poker, plays like poker but it is not poker. There a lot of problems that come from trying to learn poker on play money:

1. Too many people are involved in too many hands:

Just the mere fact that literally nothing is at stake is a problem in of itself. You are removing an important psychological tool when you take real money out of the equation. People are a lot more likely to play trash hands like:

:9d4::3c4:

:6h4::8c4:

This is great when you are in real money poker when you have like AK suited but when everyone and their brother at the table play these kinds of hands you got a problem. Lets say you are playing a full ring of 9 people. You have to play SUPER tight because you will see 70-80% of the people at the table see the flop and are very likely to follow you to the river. bluffing is impossible to do on here which leads to my next point.

2. Bluffing is non-existent on play money

Sadly one of the most important and fun aspects of poker doesn't really exist in play money. With nothing being at stake who cares if they are trying to bluff? A lot of people who play "play money" poker are gamblers. You are dealing with those same people who are not afraid to go all in with hands like :9c4::8c4: or even :ad4::3s4:. Since bluffing is none existent that leads to the next problem.

3. Multi-table tournaments are a nightmare

What do you get when you have 80% of players playing every hand and non-existent bluffing? A luck feast. Now I don't really like to use the term luck while talking about Texas Hold Em but for play money I have to use it. You have to play tight and not bluff against those kinds of players but that is problematic in a multi-table tournament setting. Stealing blinds is so important to stay alive in a multi-table torny setting but it is VERY difficult to steal blinds on those tables.

You cannot absolutely scare most people off a hand; so you just have to pray they don't hit something ridiculous.

If you are going to practice I would personally just go with micro stakes at the very least. I am just so done with that scene and I wouldn't recommend it to new people.
 
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fundiver199

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I think, many people vastly overestimate the difference between play money and the bottom end of micro stakes. You can buy in to real money cash games for as little as 80c and to tournaments and SnGs for even less than that. And its not like, the prospect of losing that kind of money makes recreational players hold back in any way. You still see people playing almost any hand, going all in for way to many blinds etc.

On the other side when people have build up a large play money "bankroll", they tend to care about it, because it would take a lot of time to rebuild it. So while the bottom end of play money is a complete donk fest, the quality of play does actually rise somewhat, as you climb up the stakes. There is even a grey market for fake money play chips, crazy as it sounds. You will not encounter "regulars" at play money tables though, so for learning to contend with those, you have to play for real money.
 
Edu1

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I like your text, and fully understand what you want to share, is funny how some aspects of this can be applied in the micro stakes.
thousands of players are playing "play money" in PS right now, much of these players want to be entertained, just that
 
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fundiver199

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Another important point here is, that if your end goal is to make money in poker, then you need to learn to love bad players, because they are your main source of profit, and they exist all the say up to high stakes.

Yesterday I watched a transmission from a 25.000$ tournaments, and the feature table seemed to be all pros. Then however a new player sat down. A pro opened 99, another pro called from SB, and the new player in BB looked down at K6 offsuit.

Not exactly a premium holding, and for most of us the only decision would be call or fold. The new player however went for an oversized 3-bet. The first pro thought for a few seconds and then went all in with 99 for at least 50BB. Apparently he knew the new player and the way, he played. SB folded, and K6 called it off. 99 held, and the pro dubbled up.

This is not very advanced poker, but the truth is, this is how all pros make most of their money. Its rich recreational players like this, who pay their bills. This is also why, so many western pros have moved to Macau to play with Chinese business men.

Sure the pros spend many hours doing solver work and perfecting their game against other pros. But this is only to stay alive and be able to be there for the moment, when some rich recreational guy is ready to dust off 25.000$ in a few hands.

For new players however it is very common to be frustrated about calling stations, because as OP say, you can not bluff them. Typically there are two issues at play here:

1) Lack of patience. If you miss all the flops, there is nothing you can do, when you have a calling station on your left. You need to just find that fold button again and again.

2) Ego. You want to prove to yourself, that you can pull off that advanced multistreet bluff, and then the donkey call you down with third pair. Arggggh.

This is not to say, that play money tables are a great thing, or that you should stay there forever. But if your motive for moving to real money tables is to get rid of calling stations and gamblers, then this is not the right way to think about it. At least not if your goal is to win money in poker.
 
Only_player

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With bad players, you can increase your stack. The only problem with playing such players is that they cannot be beat due to your skill. They know the rules but are not good at playing. You can make a great bluff, but they will mindlessly accept your bet and accidentally beat you
 
maksonios

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I couldn't help myself by playing on play money, I wasn't taking the game seriously and was doing bad moves.
 
Matt_Burns88

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I think if you are looking to learn the game and take it seriously, but you have next to no bankroll, actually play money can be a great way to test out certain tactics. I think there is very little difference between play money and micro stakes; it's full of recreational players that aren't interested in playing good poker, they are paying to be entertained.

The number one rule at this level is DO NOT BLUFF! It's simple. These guys are not paying attention to what you are doing, generally not paying attention to board texture, they will make a call with a pair of kings on a flushy, straighty board, just because they have a pair. It might feel like a good place to bluff, by representing the flush or straight, but if they're not paying attention, they're going to call your bluff and take your chips.

Play a patient tight aggressive game. The recreational players will pay you off when you have a hand - bet, raise and re-raise with your premium hands and you will get callers with crazy hands. Sometimes you will lose, but most often you will win and win big. Do not get sucked into playing every hand just because everyone else is.
 
Tracid

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'Is play money poker really a good learning tool?'

Is like asking..

'Are inflatable armbands really good swimming tools?'

No. No, they are not. The technical, swimming benefits are nonexistent.

Whilst they will help prevent you from drowning- you aren't going to break any Olympic freestyle records.

There is a drastic difference and skill gap between micros (or even freerolls) and play money..

Whilst higher buy-in play money games (at poker sites where real money poker is also available) might be somewhat closer, most play money games (estimating around 95%) are at least a league or two below micros.

Love the layout, structure & writing of the OP!
 
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fundiver199

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I think if you are looking to learn the game and take it seriously, but you have next to no bankroll, actually play money can be a great way to test out certain tactics. I think there is very little difference between play money and micro stakes; it's full of recreational players that aren't interested in playing good poker, they are paying to be entertained.

The number one rule at this level is DO NOT BLUFF! It's simple. These guys are not paying attention to what you are doing, generally not paying attention to board texture, they will make a call with a pair of kings on a flushy, straighty board, just because they have a pair. It might feel like a good place to bluff, by representing the flush or straight, but if they're not paying attention, they're going to call your bluff and take your chips.

Play a patient tight aggressive game. The recreational players will pay you off when you have a hand - bet, raise and re-raise with your premium hands and you will get callers with crazy hands. Sometimes you will lose, but most often you will win and win big. Do not get sucked into playing every hand just because everyone else is.

There are certainly a lot of level 1 thinkers in both play money table and microstakes. Even the higher end of microstakes like 10NL. Hand 3 is this article is a classic example of, why we should not try to bluff a fish. A lot of people will tilt, when they get shown the K8 offsuit, which rivered third pair and called off for stacks, but really the mistake was entirely mine.

https://www.blackrain79.com/2020/01/outsmart-your-opponents-in-poker.html
 
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GrammaKing

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Play money is great, IMO, if all parties involved care about the results. That's what money does for poker. If you can get a group together that cares about winning regardless of any money at stake, it's an excellent learning tool.
 
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Jlo111888

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Its fun yeah especially on pokerstars when i want to tilt i play money on 5 card draw no limit and 7 card stud hi/lo :playingba
 
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suitedsadness

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While I think that play money is ultimately a waste of time if you want to play "real" poker, I don't think play money is all that much worse than microstakes, and it just requires an adjustment from normal playing strategies, and there is nothing wrong with that. What really baffles me, however is that on pokerstars, play money is raked lmao.
 
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If your playing tournaments play money can be good to learn push fold ranges. Playing 18 man sngs on stars practicing when to shove or fold in spots on final tables or before can be good.

It can also be good to learn to fold hands without staking any money which is a key skill in live cash game poker since folding hands for hours which happens often to be a winning player in live cash NLH.

I decide to play poker for real money though and don't play play money but i see good reasons to play fake money play money games to learn a few things.
 
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Robbert_ro

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I think, many people vastly overestimate the difference between play money and the bottom end of micro stakes. You can buy in to real money cash games for as little as 80c and to tournaments and SnGs for even less than that. And its not like, the prospect of losing that kind of money makes recreational players hold back in any way. You still see people playing almost any hand, going all in for way to many blinds etc.

On the other side when people have build up a large play money "bankroll", they tend to care about it, because it would take a lot of time to rebuild it. So while the bottom end of play money is a complete donk fest, the quality of play does actually rise somewhat, as you climb up the stakes. There is even a grey market for fake money play chips, crazy as it sounds. You will not encounter "regulars" at play money tables though, so for learning to contend with those, you have to play for real money.


thats true. when i started playing poker i started with play money then slowly switched to micro stakes but the difference was so small that you couldnt even realise that you where playing for money.

but i think there are some good players at play money torunamnents also. it depends on the day, sometimes(rarely) i get a good table, but ususally there are this crazy, loonatic players that dont carea bout anything at all.
 
Pokerpoet2

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All Poker play, whether it is for real or play money is a help to understanding the game and the different stages from playing multi-table games, bubble play, final table situations and the biggest, Heads up play.
It is a real help, as you can play different variations of Poker like Omaha, Stud, Draw and many more, without it costing you an arm and a leg to learn them, and then slowly progress into real money play.
In my early steps into playing Texas Hold-em I found play money invaluable, in that I could play and lose as much as I wanted, without it breaking the Bankroll, and play in some of the free-rolls to win real money.
All practice is beneficial and the only way to learn, is to play! You can read all the books you want, and watch as many videos as you like, but the only way to learn is to be in the action and play, play, play.

When the fun Stops, STOP!
 
Phoenix Wright

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I believe play money can be a useful learning tool with the correct mindset. It can "practice" bankroll management skills (even if play money), it can give you game experience and it can also give you a chance to experiment new things with no danger of risking real money.

True, some people will not treat play money that same as real money (which I think is a mistake by them for learning purposes). It can be annoying to face unfazed aggression and All-Ins, but this is worth learning to deal with. Maybe some whale will play that way in some real money game or maybe some pro will intentionally adopt this "strategy" if they realize you can't handle it well. The biggest adjustment is probably to not bluff much if at all and simply value bet more against them if they are playing everything and running huge bluffs that can play off your obviously better hands.

I recommend CardsChat freerolls and especially so at higher levels like Platinum level. There is less silly shoving and such because the players there are a bit more disciplined than your typical freeroll :)
 
nghoffman

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It is if you have never played a certain game before and want to learn the rules. Otherwise, it's a complete waste of time. Microstakes are good though.
 
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lolshovaments

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It can be. I won't believe playmoney ring games can be useful but STTs can teach you how to play better in tournaments, etc. But don't waste too much of your time playing with free chips, soon as possible you should start grinding some freerolls or even doing a deposit to "feel" the way poker really works.

Even playing some 25c ents or 50 cents tournaments you already feel the competitive side of poker, which you'll never experiment if you keep playing free chips too long.
 
deputat777

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There is no motivation to play for play chips, I only play for real money.
 
Alizona

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Play chips are the GREATEST learning tool. Obviously. They're free, meaning you can make as many mistakes as you possibly can (LOL and you will), but it won't cost you anything.

Almost everything I know about poker was learned at play chips... including my most important lesson I've ever had to learn... how to conquer tilt. I've played thousands of tournaments on the play chip side of poker stars. Before Black Friday, I had taken the 1000 free chips (I think its 10K free chips nowadays, not sure but I think a decade ago they gave us 1K), and I ran those up to 11 million chips. Then Black Friday happened on April 15, 2011 when our "wonderful" American government stepped in and shut down Poker Stars from operating in the USA...

...fast foward to somewhere around 2016 and I suddenly realized Poker Stars was open to Americans again, but only on the play chip side. Well I've never played poker for money, I play poker because I love to play poker... so I eagerly signed back into my Stars account... and Stars being the greatest site ever, sure enough, they had saved all 11m of my play chip balance. I quickly saw the pinnacle of achievement on the play chip side was something called the "Billionaire Club", and I set a goal to reach 1 billion play chips.

I took me about 3 years but somewhere around 2019 I won a tournament and exceeded 1B chips. I was as thrilled as if I had won the wsop Main Event. I had achieved a goal I had set for myself years ago and boy did that feel good.

But in those 3 years, things had changed at Stars. There no longer was a Billionaire Club, so I didn't get an invite into that. The price of poker had gone up, so my original goal to reach 1B was no longer sufficient. Now the new goal was to earn a big enough bankroll to play in the highest buy-in tournaments, which was 1B at the time, today they offer a bi-weekly 5B tournament, that's the big one, twice a month it runs.

Long story short, today I play in those 5B's. I'm a play chip baller from the Land of the Not So Free. LOL and sigh But for me, it has satisfied every reason why I play this great game we all love... it hasn't brought me fame, and it hasn't brought me fortune... but so what? That's not why I play poker. I play for the competition, and for the challenge of progressing up the ladder and (eventually) beating my opposition (in the long run).

And about my tilt issues... I used to have a terrible problem of tilt after losing to coolers and bad beats. But over the years of play chip poker, it has taught me how silly it is to get upset at a game (which is supposed to be fun), and especially, to get upset at a FREE game that costs nothing. Eventually I was able to see and realize that getting an emotional reaction over a poker loss is immature and senseless, and in fact it is harmful in many ways, causing us to make poor decisions at the table, but it goes deeper into our entire lives than just that. We become nasty people, ugly people.

Eventually I understood that all poker losses should be accepted in the same gracious way we accept our victories. Don't get too high, and don't get too low. Don't get overly emotional! Nowadays I play at the micro level on real money sites that allow Americans to play, such as ACR, and the lessons I learned at the play chips have translated over in full. I'm a profitable winning player, and I could be the next Moneymaker since I just qualified for the finals in July. (big grin!)

Conquering tilt is the biggest lesson I could ever have learned, in poker and in life... and I attribute it almost entirely to the fact I've been able to play many hours each day on the play chip side of Poker Stars. I will always consider Stars to be the best poker site in the world, and it's not even close. Are play chips worth using to learn from? YOU BET THEY ARE!!
 
emk211

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Well, it depends, for newcomers it can be a way to learn how not to play, for advanced players it can be a way to blow off steam and just all in everything, take out frustrations (tilt a whirl) on games that do not matter, but as to teaching how to play real money games, you just have to lose a few bucks to get the lesson.
 
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moularaki

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I don't think so cause everyone who has an Ace go all in
it's not like there is something at stake
 
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