Most poker rooms make it possible to play for free using play money. The poker room will keep track of your play money as if they where real money and you can easily see how much you have won or lost since you started playing. If you loose all your play money you usually only have to contact the customer service to get new play money to play for.
Learning to play & gaining experience
Using play money can be an excellent way to gain some initial experience playing online poker. You learn how the game work and can get a feel for pot odds. Most good player knows the odds of any hand instinctively.
It is important that even though you can learn a lot form playing with play money it is still very far from the real thing. Do not be surprised if you initial loose money when you start playing for real money even if you have been successful playing with play money. Players will play a lot more carefully when they play with real money. The average skill level will also be higher on the real money tables. Some players pretend to be bad players on the play money tables to be able to win money on the regular low stakes tables.
You will experience a similar experience every time you start playing with higher stakes. This is due to the players you play against will be ever more skillful poker players.
Building your bankroll
Once you have gained some experience at the free tables it is time to start building your bankroll. There are two ways to do this. One is to deposit the initial money in your account and the other one is to win it using free rolls. We will focus on how to win the beginning of your bank roll playing free rolls.
Free rolls are available in most poker rooms. Most have small prize pots but some tournaments give you the change to win more money. The larger free rolls are usually weekly or sometimes daily events. If your goal is to win the beginning of a bank roll than you should play as many free rolls as possible regardless of how much you can win. Avoid free rolls where you can only win VIP points. This are worth nothing for you at this point.
There are two main strategies that you can choose to use to win your bankroll. One is better for aggressive players and the other ones is better for grinders.
- The first strategy is to try to win the tournaments. To do this you often have to start playing aggressively and take risk early in the tournament. Most poker rooms offer a lot of tournaments so it is best to try to get a good start and play aggressively. If you are unable to get a good start than it is better to be knocked out so you can focus on another free roll. Your goal is to get to the final table and hopefully win the tournament. It is usually very hard to win a free roll and to do so you need luck more than skill.
- The second strategy will let you see slower but more stable progress. It is not unusual for this strategy to allow you to reach your goals quicker than the one mentioned above. This strategy is built around the fact that most players play very aggressively to win the tournament. A lot of people get knocked out of the tournaments rather quickly. This makes it rather easy to stay in the tournament long enough to end in the money. By playing conservatively you can maximize your chance to get to the money and earn a little money each time. It is often possible to end in the money about half of the time using this strategy.
You have to choose which strategy is most suited for your needs.
Increasing the stakes
Once you start building a bank roll you can start playing real cash games and start your climb up to ever higher stakes. It is very important that you do not start to play with real money to early. If you do the risk is large that you end up loosing all your money. You will need to have enough money in your bank roll to be able to play the odds without risking loosing your entire bankroll on a single bad beat.
I recommend that you keep playing free rolls until you have at least $50 in your account. If you do you can start playing $5 buy in cash tables or $1 tournaments. Single table tournaments can be a very good way to increase your bank roll on these stakes. I strongly recommend against starting to play cash games with less than $20.
Once you start playing with real money you should develop a risk conservative bankroll management strategy. A strategy that clearly define when you are allowed to raise the stakes. Once you have developed this strategy it is very important that you stick to it. It is better to climb slowly than it is to risk loosing everything and having to start all over.
Maximizing your profits
To be able to maximize your profits and your success as a poker player you will need to learn all you can about poker as well as about good bankroll management. It is important to remember that there always is more to learn and that you never are finished learning.
Some of the most important things to learn if you want to become really successful is to play a strong pre-flop game, learn how pot odds work, learn to play your position and how to play your opponents as well as your cards. It is also very important that you learn how to use bankroll management to reduce the risk and the effect of luck. Good bankroll management is a very good tool that tell you when it is safe to start playing with larger stakes and when you should reduce the risk by going down to lower stakes.