Turn a matchstick into a carton of matchsticks

As a kid I use to play poker for matchsticks. We all started with thirty matchsticks and a winner was declared when one player had amassed all the matchsticks. Sound familiar?

Do you remember a decade ago when the only poker you could play on a computer, was against the computer (via a CD)? There are now dozens of on-line poker sites and most offer play money (PM) or fun money games against real opponents. Normally your free bankroll starts at $1000 in chips and you have a choice of several game types, at various limits.

Now why would anyone want to play poker without winning money (cash)? Well at any one time there are over 3000 on-line poker players worldwide, gambling with fun money.

In many respects the play money on-line games I play, have revived my passion in the low stake poker I played in the early 1980’s. I have missed the fun and social aspect of poker. An aspect that is often missing, when the stakes can hurt players financially.

Since early 1999 I have been enjoying this addictive activity. When I first began with play money I thought opponents would play like it wasn’t real, make moves they wouldn’t make in a brick and mortar (B&M) cash poker game and the experience would be a waste of time. Well friends, you maybe surprised to discover the PM games are often very close to live B&M games.

Although the no limit and pot limit games are the closest to real B&M games, the limit games can also be very true to life. The Hi/Low Omaha and 7-Card Stud games do become a little unrealistic on occasions, however this sometimes occurs in live games as well.

To this day, I don’t understand why play money wins are thought not to be as exciting as B&M wins. To me the big bet games are a great testing ground for your skills, especially when your opponent is also playing seriously. Opponents who have amassed massive bankrolls from their $1000 start, do deserve some respect. It’s pretty exciting to put your $250,000 against a lone opponent with $3.5m. I did that and zipped away $2m richer. What a buzz!

Ego, skill, strategy, bankroll management and pride do play a part in these fun games. My original reason for trying PM games was to try some different strategies, I’d seen in B&M games. There was no cash cost to trying these out. You can try the same plays that weak opponents do to you. Like playing 7 hands out of 9 in a limit hold’em game. Or playing any suited combination in high /low. My favourite was testing low pairs and J or Q flushes in Omaha. By experimentation and selecting the best strategies, PM games can help improve your basic play and thinking behind your decisions.

Another experiment I tried on the PM table was to prove maniacs and/or players with a small table stack cannot on average beat a big bankroll. The basic set up was in heads-up, $5-$10 blinds, no limit hold’em game, with the maniac having $200 and his opponent a $10,000 start bank.

The question was:

If the maniac went all-in every hand and was called, could he beat his opponent?

After hundreds of hands over several hours the maniac never doubled through more than four times in a row, buying in at $200 each time he lost. So basically going all-in every hand is a losing strategy. As for sitting in a big bet game with a small buy-in against players with major bankrolls (bottomless pockets), you have a much greater chance of losing than winning. The big bankroll players can play many more starting hands and draws than you, so you are at a major disadvantage.

Sure on the odd occasion the little guy/maniac cleans up, but their basic game plan if flawed long term.

PM games can also help your reading of opponents hands. If you can read an opponents hole cards on-line imagine how powerful you would be in a B&M game with ‘poker tells’ to reinforce your decisions. In a recent heads-up no limit hold’em PM game the flop came 2.2.2. I checked my K.Q. to my pre-flop raising opponent, after he bet I said he had pocket eights and folded. He flashed “8,8”. It is well established that the math side of poker is extremely important to a winning strategy, but knowing opponents is also helpful.

Some friends are also playing 1 on 1 with play money, but with the losing players sending the winner side wagers. One enterprising player organised 14 players to put up $100 each and play heads-up matches, until one player became the winner of the $1400 prize. Although the on-line sites have not commented on this practice, anything that keeps players on their site has to be good for business.

So maybe you should try play money poker on-line and discover the fun that poker can be. There are dozens of games played worldwide like; chess, bridge, most sports and trivia contests that are played with no monetary prize. Play money poker isn’t as bad as some make out. Give it a go. It may be the poker fix you need with no cash risk. Just think of it as walking away from a game square. How often have you been pleased to do that? Chat to YOU on-line.