What Free Poker Can Teach You

Many so-called poker ‘experts’ argue that the free poker tables offered by sites like SkyPoker aren’t any use to people who want to become really good at the game. Certainly, they represent excellent entertainment, so the argument goes, but the real players play for money, no matter how small the buy-in is.

This theory has solid foundations, but is fundamentally false. It’s based on the fact that people play differently when there’s no actual cash in the pot, that people raise, and bluff, and play cards that they shouldn’t in the hope of something coming out on the river that they would have folded long ago if there was actual money on the table. For a beginner, this strange behaviour can be confusing, or worse still, you can go along with it, and before you know it you’ve formed a lot of bad habits that will only see you lose money if you ever play for the real thing.

All of which could be true, but if you’ve taken enough time to read this article, it almost certainly won’t happen to you. With enough self-control and the right game plan, free poker can be a great way to get the ball rolling.

First of all, it’s the ideal situation to learn how to read your opponents in an online environment. In real life you can see people’s faces, see how they tick, see what they do with their cards, online you can’t do that, you have to judge their actions from how they bet, from whether they delay or play quickly, from whether there is much discussion in the chatroom. All these things are useful, because, until you get to being really good, you’re probably only going to play for money online, and the tools to read people in online games are the same at any level, so start looking for them quickly.

Secondly, free games are exactly how real players react when they’re tilting. They make stupid decisions, they stick when they should fold, they fold when they should raise, etc. If you think your opponent is tilting that’s all very well, but they might not be, so learning to work out when someone is playing irrationally and when they’re playing their hands is very useful. Think of free online poker like a set of opponents on permanent tilt, and you’re trying to make the most of it.

Finally, the really good players take excellent notes and they can play multiple tables. Free games is the best place to start with this, you have to learn to make precise, clear, and useful observations that you can learn from later, and you should learn to handle games at several tables. Don’t try to play eighteen straight away, of course, just two or three will be sufficient but playing well in several different tables, and calculating odds and assessing people quickly are exactly the skills you’ll need when the stakes get higher.

September 20, 2012 |

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