Is there a difference between play money and real money online poker play?

written by James West (

You bet. Beyond the obvious thing of one being played for real money and the other for fictitious currency, there are a few other differences that will surprize you.
All poker rooms feature play money tables nowadays. These play money tables are generally regarded as training grounds for players who intend to hit a real money table later, or as a place for people to play some poker for poker's sake. That would normally mean that real money play will be a lot more serious and as such, a lot more difficult than play money poker. The first part of that assuption is valid indeed, real money poker being a lot more serious than its play money counterpart, that, however, doesn't make it more difficult. Strangely enough I find play money poker much more of a handful. Because the money used in it is only virtual and there's an unlimited supply of it, the way players handle this money and consequently their play attitudes, will be different.
It is a lot more difficult to take a pot in play money than it is in real money. I grew to have no doubts about this whatsoever. Bluffing will be virtually useless in play money no matter how many players there are, and how much money one uses for the bluff. Nobody will shy away from "keeping you honest" since they don't really have anything on the line. Compared to this, bluffing works wonders in a real money poker room. Generally speaking of course. There are situations when you'll find the hard way, they do keep you honest at a real money table as well.
People tend not to pay so much attention to each other in play money... whichever way you decide to try to manipulate the opposition will simply not work. They'll be oblivious to the fact that you failed to succeed on your last three bluffs, and they'll fold the fourth time when you really have something going... it's just impossible to make heads and tails of the situation about 90 percent of the time. On top of that, many players who build up a substantial stack of chips get into the habbit of raising huge preflop, or going all in all the time, thus making it impossible for others to play at all. In a word: it's a jungle out there...
I sometimes use playmoney tables to get into the heat of the action before I go on to the real deal. The reasoning behind my doing so is, that if I can make it there I can probably make it anywhere. Your bankroll-protecting skills are seriously challenged at the play money table and that can only benefit you once you move on to real money.
Once there, you'll notice a couple of striking differences. Pots here are won with as little as a pair, and sometimes I've seen pots taken on nothing but a high card. (come to think of it, I myself might've taken a couple of those) Whatever you do, you'll be closely watched. Every and all moves you make will be noticed by the other players and they will try to take advantage of you whenever an opportunity rears its head. This - interestingly enough - will make your opponents more vulnerable to whatever you decide to employ to manipulate them. Once I pushed three consecutive bluffs ( in a limit game, so I could afford them) and failed miserably all three times. The following hand hit me big, ( had a full house or something of the sort) and I knew instantly what to do. I pushed the aggressive play once again, and of course, everybody knew the suicidal dude across the table was having yet another death-wish attack coming on. They raised the hell out of me and filled to pot up to possibly the biggest sum I've seen all night. When showdown came, they were astonished. Not only did I recover all that I had previously lost but also made a nice addition to my bankroll. Afterwards, the guys became a lot more cautious when it came to filling up the pot for me, so I used that to steal some pots and bluff some more. Bottom line in real poker is, that what you see is what you get indeed. It's a lot easier to get a read on opponents, and it's also a lot more likely they will read you. Be aware of this fact and use it to your advantage. After all, it is said the good poker player is not the one who keeps opponents confused. A good poker player cannot afford to confuse anyone. He needs to make sure that everybody is positive regarding what they should do.

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