Poker Articles: Practicing Poker Online

There is an ongoing debate about the value of practicing poker by playing online at many of the free Internet poker sites. The main reason cited to bolster the argument is "Nothing Ventured - Nothing Gained" The free play poker sites give each player a certain amount of money to play with. Some sites will replenish a player's bankroll as soon as they go broke, while others will make them wait a day before they are granted more money. Either way since a player has no fear of ever going broke they will often play with an any two-card mentality for stating hands. Once in a hand they will play "no Fold'em Hold'em" and call each hand to the river. If they go broke they will just wait for their next stack of cyber-chips and continue playing.

I agree that many of the online players in the free poker sites are bad players and it can lead to the deterioration of a player's game if they start emulating the other players. Players have a tendency to lower their standards when they are playing for fun. If a new player sees this going on they may adopt a similar playing style, which will be fatal once, they sit down in a live game. My friend John D coined the term "Plunger" to describe this type of player. Even with the Plungers in the game I do believe that there is something to be gained from practicing online.


If you are new to Texas Hold'em you can learn the mechanics of the game while playing online. Watching and participating in a game will make you comfortable with the procedures and protocol of the game. When you sit down at a live table you will have an idea what is happening at the table.


Discipline is one of the most important traits you will need to be a winning player. You can practice discipline by adopting a real game approach to your online session. When I started practicing online I made up my mind that I would treat my cyber bankroll just the same as my real one. Folding hand after hand can get boring especially after seeing other players winning with pure trash hands but it takes discipline not to lower my standards and stoop to their levels of play.

Reading The Board

Learning to read the board is another skill that can be practiced when you play online. You will have plenty of opportunity to do this as many times the play online is faster than it is in a live game.

Reading The Board

Learning to read the board is another skill that can be practiced when you play online. You will have plenty of opportunity to do this as many times the play online is faster than it is in a live game.

Paying Attention

You should be watching the other players at the showdown to see what hands they are playing. This is something you should be doing in live games. Get in the habit of doing it every time you play. It will help you develop your attention to the game and the other players. Try to determine who is a serious player online and who is not. Just as in real games you should be able to determine who is playing tight or lose by the hands they are showing at the end.

Pot Odds

You can practice figuring pot odds by counting the money as it goes into the pot. Some of the online sites actually show the amount of money in the pot. If this is the case you can cover the total on the screen. Other sites just show a pile of chips that you can click on to see the total. After the rounds you can peak at the total and see if your count matches the actual money in the pot. Its good practice and will sharpen your ability to figure pot odds during a live game.

Emotional Toughness

When you play against the really bad players online you will experience bad beats much more frequently. This is because more of the players are staying to the end looking for the miracle draw. While you will never get used to them you will have a better understanding that it is part of the game when you are dealing with this type of player. If you can learn to accept it as part of the game it will not have as great of effect your emotional stability when it happens at the tables in the card room.

Private Games

There are sites where players can hold private games or play one on one with each other. This is an excellent opportunity to get together with some of your serious poker friends for some practice. While there is no real money exchanging hands, if everyone considers their cyber chips to be as valuable as real money and plays the game as such, it will make for a great learning experience. The knowledge shared and experience gained will be invaluable.

It's Your Call

Practicing online can be like any other endeavor. You get out of it what you put into it. If you treat these free games as if you were playing with real money, then you can learn from it. If you decided to just play any two cards to the river, you are defeating the purpose. You are also wasting your time and running the risk of developing bad habits.