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Poker has found a level of popularity and acceptance since
the turn of the century that has never been seen before.

The media coverage, particularly on television, and the
spread of online play have made more potential players aware of
Texas holdem and available to them than ever before.

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While some players jump right into a real money game, either
online, at a local poker room, or in a local private game, many
players want to try their hand at a free game. You can put
together a free game with friends and family sometimes, but it’s
generally more realistic if you can play in a more normal
environment for a poker game.

The internet fills this need. You can find hundreds of places
to play free Texas holdem online. But they aren’t all the same.

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As you read more about free play on this page it’ll help you
avoid many of the possible pitfalls and help you have a good
time playing online, whether you want to be a pro player some
day or just want to blow off a little steam at the end of a long
day.

Every Texas holdem player who considers playing at the free
tables should ask what they hope to accomplish, or why are they
playing?

  • Are you just playing for fun?
  • Do you ever plan to play for real money or are you going
    to be happy just playing for free?
  • Do you hope to build a bankroll to play for real money?
  • Are you practicing to get better or just winging it on
    every decision?
  • Are you willing to work at improving or are you treating
    the poker tables just like a slot machine?

The good news is none of these questions have a right or
wrong answer. You can play free Texas holdem for any reason. But
by answering these questions honestly it can help you make the
best decisions that help you now and in the future.

Tournaments

You can find two different types of free Texas holdem
tournaments. The first type is simply a tournament where you win
more free chips.

The second type is called a freeroll tournament. Just like
the first type of tournament, you don’t have to pay anything to
enter a freeroll, but you have the chance to win real money if
you finish high enough.

Most players that watch poker on television have seen poker
tournaments. ESPN has been televising the World Series of Poker
for years and it’s usually a player’s first exposure to poker on
TV.

After watching a poker tournament on TV players start looking
online for an opportunity to enter a tournament. If you’re
looking for a free tournament, try to find a poker room that has
a wide range of freeroll opportunities, so at least you can win
a few dollars if you have a good run.

Most free poker tournaments are no limit Texas holdem, which
is also the most common form of poker you see on TV.

Recommended Reading

Check out our article on freeroll
tournaments and how they work for more information. This article
also includes some strategy advice for playing freerolls.

Ring Games

If you’re not playing in freeroll tournaments then you’re
probably going to play in a ring game. A ring game is one that
doesn’t really have a start and stop. Player can come and go and
if you lose all of your chips you can get more.

Ring games can be limit or no limit and have different buy in
restrictions based on the limits.

Even though you’re playing for free, the poker room gives you
a number of chips to pay poker with. Some poker rooms let you
click a button to get more chips at any time and others only
give you a set number of free chips every day.

If an online poker room gives you 10,000 in free chips to
start they might offer the following Texas holdem games.

  • $1 / $2 limit
  • $3 / $6 limit
  • $5 / $10 limit
  • $10 / $20 limit
  • $25 / $50 limit
  • $50 / $100 limit
  • $100 / $200 limit
  • $500 / $1,000 limit
  • $100 buy in no limit
  • $500 buy in no limit
  • $1,000 buy in no limit
  • $5,000 buy in no limit
  • $10,000 buy in no limit

The no limit games have blinds in proportion to the total buy
in. The blinds in a $100 buy in game might be $1 / $2.

Almost all of the free online ring games are Texas holdem,
and the majority of them are no limit.

Strategy

You can find a great deal of strategy advice elsewhere in the
Texas holdem section of this site, but the strategy you need to
use to do well at the free tables is slightly different than at
some real money tables.

The same overall concepts are important, but one of the
things a good poker player is able to do is adjust their play
based on the other players at the table.

And most of the competition at the free tables is terrible.
So you need to learn strategies that give you the best chance to
take advantage of poor poker players.

This might seem like it would be the easiest thing in the
world, but the truth is that beating a single bad player is not
the same as beating eight of them at the same time. And even
when the correct play is profitable in the long run, the long
run can seem to take a long time against a bunch of maniacs.
Poor players in bunches tend to make your short term variance
quite wild.

Example

If you get all in with pocket aces against a single opponent
you’re a favorite to win. You have an 85% chance to win against
a single random hand.

But if you get all in pre flop with pocket aces against six
opponents you’re no longer a favorite. Against six opponents
with random hands you’ll only win 43% of the time with pocket
aces.

The correct play in both situations outline above is to get
all in if you can, but it’s aggravating to lose almost 60% of
the time with pocket aces if you’re in a seven way pot.

To show why it’s still profitable even when you lose 57% of
the time, let’s look at the numbers.

If everyone has $1,000 at the table and you get all in heads
up with pocket aces against one player the pot is $2,000 and you
win 85% of the time. $2,000 times 85% equals $1,700. This is
your expected value. When you compare your expected value of
$1,700 with your cost, $1,000, you see why this is so
profitable.

If seven of you get all in the pot is $7,000. When multiplied
by 43% your expected value is $3,010 for the same $1,000 cost.
In the long term you’ll be quite profitable taking either bet,
but sometimes the short term is painful. You could lose three or
four of these hands in a row before winning a big pot, but the
big pot more than makes up for the losing ones.

In other words, concentrate on making the correct play and
let the long term profit number stake care of themselves. Just
because your opponent hits a long shot doesn’t mean they made
the right play.

The general idea behind winning poker is entering pots with
better hands than your opponents, using pot odds and other
mathematical concepts to make the correct plays at every stage
of the hand, maximizing the amount you win when you win, and
minimizing the amount you lose when you lose.

All of these things still lead to profitable play at the free
Texas holdem tables, but you have to be able to take a long term
view. When you have multiple opponents chasing different draws
one of them often hits. You can’t let this bother you or change
the way you play.

Here’s a quick list of basics you should use to beat the free
money tables.

  • Use tight starting hand requirements. If you start with
    a better hand than your opponents you’ll win more often than
    they do.
  • Bet aggressively when you’re ahead and check and call
    when you’re drawing to a better hand.
  • Use pot odds to make the correct decision when you’re
    drawing to a better hand.
  • When you have good hands always bet and play them as
    straight forward as possible. You don’t have any reason to
    try to make fancy plays. Bad players rarely recognize when
    they’re behind and tend to call when they shouldn’t.

One of the biggest areas where you can get an advantage at
the free money tables that you’ll continue using to make money
as you move up to real money is understanding and using
position. Play very tight in early position and the blinds,
loosen up a little in middle position, and play the majority of
the hands you play from late position.

Almost no one playing at the free Texas holdem tables pays
attention to their position so if you do it’ll pay off because
you’re not making the same mistakes your opponents make. The
reason position is so important is because it’s much more
profitable n average to be able to act last in a hand than to be
forced to act first.

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The later in the hand you can act the more information you
have to help you make a decision. Even if your opponents all
check you have more information than they did when they had to
decide what to do.

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Where to Play

When you start looking for a place to play free Texas holdem
poker you can choose just about any online poker site offering
games. But you should do a little research before signing up so
you don’t have any difficulties in the future.

If you’re playing for free it doesn’t usually matter where
you live or what the current online laws are in your country.
But if you decide to play for real money in the future, or even
win a few dollars playing in a freeroll tournament you need to
sign up for a poker room that accepts real money players from
your country or state.

The laws regulating online play are always changing, so you
should check for the current regulations where you live. But as
a general rule of thumb, if you can make a deposit at a poker
room you’re probably not in much danger.

When you start playing you’re only talking about a few
dollars and in most jurisdictions the government only goes after
the rooms, not the players, if they bother with them at all.

A few states like Nevada and New Jersey have specific laws
regulating online poker for players who live in the state but
players from other states can’t play. But players in all states
can find online poker rooms that let them play, even though many
in the media spread lies about it.

The media has widely reported that the UIGEA makes it illegal
for US citizens to gamble online, the truth is the act didn’t
have a single thing about American people playing online poker.

When the US government went after Neteller and Poker Stars
they never went after a single player.

Once again, if you’re worried about getting in trouble for
playing online poker you need to check your local laws, but most
players simply find a room that accepts players from their
country and get started.

Should You Play for Free?

This might seem like a strange question, but should you play
Texas holdem for free? At least two different reasons why you
shouldn’t play for free come to mind. Mecca bingo prizes.

Reason 1 – Standard of Play

The competition at free Texas holdem is so bad it can
actually hurt your chances of being a winning player once you
start playing for real money.

When you play at the free table’s players do all kinds of
stupid things like pushing all in with suited connectors and
calling every bet to the river with a gut shot straight. About
the 100th time someone draws out on their inside straight draw
it can be irritating enough to make you start playing poorly.

In many free Texas holdem games you can play quite loose in
comparison to real money games and still show a profit. If you
start playing for real money and continue playing as loosely as
at the free tables you’ll start losing.

Reason 2 – The Micro Limits

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You can play at the micro limit tables for pennies. By making
a minimum deposit of $20 or $25 you can have a large enough
bankroll to play for months at the micro limit tables, even if
you struggle to play at a profitable level.

Many players fin this hard to believe, but the mentality of
most players changes considerably when switching from free play
to micro limit play. Even if you’re only playing a $1 buy in no
limit ring game or a .05 / .10 limit table, you’re still playing
for real money.

If you don’t have $20 to make a deposit stop buying a cup of
coffee or a newspaper or a candy bar every day for a week or two
and use the savings to fund your account.

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If you ever plan to play for real money, the only times you
should consider playing Texas holdem for free are when you can
play in a freeroll with the chance to win some real money to
build your bankroll. Otherwise take the plunge and make a small
deposit.

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Play at the smallest limits available with the goal to slowly
and consistently grow your small bankroll. If you keep learning
and improving you may find yourself playing at the middle an
higher limits in no time.

Summary

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Playing Texas holdem for free is an excellent way to start
playing. You can gain experience and learn how the online poker
rooms and their software work without risking any money. But if
you hope to play for real money down the road consider setting
up a real money account and start playing at the micro limits.