I Can't Possibly Be Ready To Play Online Poker For Real Money Can I?

So, I watched the movie Rounders a few weeks ago and was immediately convinced I’d be ready for a seat at the World Series of Poker next year. Not. It did however pique my interest in actually playing the game so a few weeks ago I started playing at pokerstars.

They start you off with $1,000 in play money, I’ve played exactly 8 times on the site and I’m up to $2,908 in play money now. I mostly play the $1 / $2 blinds with a fixed limit. A couple times I’ve jumped to the $10/ $20 fixed limit tables to see if I could quickly make up some losses. Both times I was successful. Today I played for an hour at the $1 / $2 tables and decided that being up $240 that quickly was time to call it quits.

My only previous experience with poker was 5 card draw years ago at various parties playing for stacks of pennies, nickles, dimes, and quarters. Before jumping into pokerstars I did some quick Googling and I’m using the following 2 links as resources for strategy.

I can’t possibly be ready to play for real money right? Not even under $1 tables right? Everyone who plays the ‘play money’ tables hasn’t even bothered to Google the two links I managed right? It’s all just a ploy to convince me to play for real money right?

I sure as hell don’t have $1,000 to plunk into an account but $100 I wouldn’t mind. Especially if I can milk it for year of cheap Saturday night entertainment and occasionally end up $20 ahead for the night.

So, please tell me experienced players. Should I play at least a year for play money before playing real money or jump in because there’s no comparison to playing for real money, even sub $1 money?

Using ‘proven’ poker strategies at play money tables yield much different results than at real money tables. Everyone plays nearly everyhand when they are not ‘gambling’ their own money.

Just because you make money on a play table, does not mean it will transcend to profits at an actual table.

If you can afford to lose 100 bucks, go to the very low limit tables, be patient, play premium hands, and follow sound poker strategies, your C-note will last a long time, you might even make money.

And this is best advice a poker dealer gave me. Don’t fall in love with a losing hand. Trips and 2 pairs typically lose to boards that have 4 suited cards or 4 to a straight in low limit. games.

I’ve never played online, but I read a few Texas Hold’em books and went to Vegas*. :cool:
I played at the Luxor in their simple tournaments:

  • $35 entry fee
  • 11-22 entries
  • no rebuys
  • blinds start low but double every 15 minutes :eek:
  • depending on entries either 1, 2 or 3 prizes.

I was enjoying it just for the atmosphere. Professional dealers, cocktail waitresses, security cameras, casino chips … bliss. :smiley:
The Casino take a % of the entry fee (quite right too), but otherwise it’s all down to you.
I won my 7th event :slight_smile: and thus made a small overall profit.

I shall return next year - and if I play often enough, I get comped a bit. :wink:

*Start at the top - that’s my motto!

I know where you can get some cheap Thursday night entertainment.

I’ve been a semi-professional poker player since graduating college six (six!) years ago, which is another way of saying that I’m unemployed, but I pay my bills with online poker.

The answer to your question is, of course, “it depends.” Pokerstars has Limit Hold’em tables as low as .02/.04 – I confess I’ve never played the micro-stakes games, but I imagine at limits that low the play will barely be better than the play money tables. So, if you enjoy poker, I’d encourage you to pick an amount you’re comfortable with losing and deposit it with PokerStars (an *extremely *reliable site). If you decide to do so, keep the following things in mind:
– It’s important to have the right mindset going in: it’s not an investment, you’re not out to make a killing, and if you lose your money it’s not important that you win it back. If you deposit $200, you’re *buying *$200 worth of poker. If you happen to turn a profit, fantastic.

– The world is positively filled with online players who won some money at first, then busted down to zero and chased their losses with more money because they thought their initial success represented their true level of ability while their subsequent failures were the result of bad luck. Don’t fall into this trap. If you happen to start out hot, cash out your initial deposit and then some to lock in a small profit. If you go busto, don’t reload without more study and careful reflection.

– Work your way up from the very small stakes. Don’t just jump into a $.50/$1 LHE table, where you can lose $100 like that and the players will be much, much better than you’re accustomed to. Don’t try moving up in limits until you’re confident that you’re a winning player at your current limit. You should be able to identify the mistakes that your opponents are making, and have a clear understanding of *why *they are mistakes, before you play for higher stakes.

– Books are your friend. Book 1. Book 2. Even being a no-limit player, Book 2 was easily the most helpful book I’ve read.

– Criticism is also your friend. You could get some helpful advice from the small poker community here, but even better would be the twoplustwo.com forums (Micro-Stakes LHE forum). Any hands you think you played wrong, post them there and don’t be offended when people say you played it like a retard (over there the members are a little more . . . uncouth). In fact, it would be a good idea for you just to read some of the threads there to get an idea of how you should be approaching the decisions during play. In fact, I’d say you should definitely do at least this before risking any real any money.

– Be polite. Don’t type mean things into the chat box. If someone plays a hand terribly and gets lucky to beat you, just say “nh.” If you win a pot and your opponent calls you a retarded failed donkey-abortion, just say “ty.”
That’s all that comes to mind right now. Just remember to have fun.

Thanks very much for the replies. I’m certainly not ready for face to face poker tournaments. I have absolutely no poker face. I growl and curse when I have crap and hoot and holler when I’m dealt AA. No real life poker for me until I get some control.

The caution about real money being far different than play money is what I had suspected. I’ve definitely noticed people throwing money at the pot when I’m pretty damn sure I have the hand wrapped. I’m also guilty of occasionally doing the opposite directly as a consequence of the money not being real.

I’ll be ordering those books and checking out that other forum as well. My typical weekend is a $30 bottle of rum so if I throw $100 into a poker account and get some entertainment I’ll consider it good value.

VarlosZ I’m rather impressed you can pay your bills with online poker. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that level but it would fun to earn vacation money!

Robot Arm Thanks for the invitation. I’ll keep it in mind for after I read those books :slight_smile:

And although our weekly poker games (that Robot Arm mentioned) are for very low stakes, it’s because many of the players have almost no funds. It’s still played like poker, no idiots going all in on every hand and stuff like you tend to see on online tourneys with a similar buy in. The “stakes” are bragging rights, so everybody plays to win.

I’ve never read a poker book, but the play money tourneys are for the birds. Our weekly game was once for play money I think I recall, but again board bragging rights dictated thoughtful play.

VarlosZ has some good advice- but I highlight this because it is exactly what I was going to say. I have a few friends who put in money and lost, so I started with really small stakes and worked my way up. I usually only have time to play a few times a month, and typically I will do one table Sit and Go’s… so I started with I think $.50 entry fee’s… and played until I was winning consistently… moved up to $1 2, so on and so forth. The .50 and the $1 step up didn’t take long. But I actually found myself losing at the $2 level- but kept at it until I found I was again winning with consistency. I’m now playing $6 buy-ins. Clearly I’m not playing for big money here- but my general trend has been to have my money go up and not bust… and I believe its because I never played at a level too far over my head. Even when I move up now, I know there will be a slight learning curve- but I can also see that I can play with these guys.

The other issue, as was mentioned, is really honest self reflection. Knowing when you made a really stupid play vs. getting unlucky. When you hit a seemingly bad unlucky streak- you need to take a moment to stop and think… am I really being unlucky or am I doing something wrong. If I go back and think on it… I usually find that I’ve swung too far out of my “winning zone” as I like to call it and gone too far tight or too far loose.

I also recommend reading poker books, there’s some really good ones out there. My personal favorites are the Harrington on Hold 'Em books. But then, I find he has plays a style I like. (I call it tight aggression :slight_smile: )

Also, I don’t know where you play. I’m ab Absolute Poker- but i wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. I only signed up with them to play in a local radio promotional tournament. They gave me some “free” money and thats the only reason I play for real money to begin with. . (Started with $10- I’m at about $100 now. It’s been about 18 months, but like I said… I only play a few times a month and sometimes and sometimes nto even that for long stretches at a time.) But if I were to actually pick and choose, i’d probably pick either PokerStars (Where I first started playing) or FullTiltPoker.

In fact, I keep kicking around the idea of pulling my cash out of Absolute and putting it into PokerStars or FullTilt- I just never do.

For the record- I started playing freerolls online at PokerStars before I got the free cash at Absolute. I’m a Free Money millionaire there, if that gives you an idea of the difference.

The online game used to be rife with fish. Not so much anymore. With the government cracking down on money transfers to overseas gambling sites it’s more trouble than it’s worth for the casual player that just wants to play a couple of minutes before bed. Also, the poker boom revitalized lots of home games and legalized gambling is becoming more and more common.

It’s great fun. But to be painfully honest, I seriously doubt you’ll ever see that $100 again. However if you’ve got $100 to burn, why not.

This says a lot to me. I’ll be waiting until I’ve read a couple books and got a lot more experience before I throw down my $100.

Thanks for the brutal honesty. More reason to read and practice before throwing my money down. If I’m going to burn it I want it to burn slowly!

Practice being patient. With online play, you will see far more hands per hour compared to live play, but you still won’t be playing very many hands. Playing 6-handed is more interesting as you get to play more hands, but it is also more challenging. And unlike in Vegas, when you play online you don’t get to pass the time by ordering free drinks, chatting with your neighbors, and admiring the pretty cocktail waitresses.

No kidding. If I was able to do the last six years over again I’d be a poker millionaire several times over. The games have gotten so much tougher and more sophisticated. It used to be I’d sit down at a six-handed NL table and expect to find maybe one other solid regular, along with four terrible players. Nowadays if a table has two obviously pretty bad players at it all the regulars take notice and there’s a waiting list 6 players long. My current game would have been more than adequate to crush the 10/20 NL games 5 years ago, but today I have to make do squeeking out about $75/hour at 2/4 and 3/6 (while just two years ago my win rate was double that).

It’s no coincedence that I’m finally starting to get serious about finding honest work. I’m thinking nursing school.

Yes. Start here.

Dittoed. The financial investment is not that great, but we all take it very seriously, and play for blood.

Yeah, I hear you. Transport me back in time to 2003 with the knowledge I have now and I’m rich, bitch!

2/4-3/6 NL that is? How many tables do you play?

As to the OP: Play money results aren’t really meaningful because players aren’t acting rationally. The reality is that you’ll probably never be a winning poker player - well under 10% of poker players are (the actual number is theoretical and debated). If you want to try to learn to play, write it off as an entertainment expense and stick to low limits. One of the coolest aspects of online poker is that they’ll run limits that are a tiny fraction of the smallest game you can find live. If you’re really interested in the game, you can get tons of entertainment playing the nickel dime tables or small buy-in tournaments and work your way up.

I learned poker by playing online at microstakes by depositing $25-50 a week from my crappy gas station job. It took me about 5 months of intense study to become a break-even player, and that was during the golden age of online poker. From what I gather, I was significantly faster than average (among semi-pro/pro players). The total I spent on my education was somewhere around $1300 - that is, money I’ve taken from non-poker sources and put into poker. That’s remarkably cheap compared to what it used to cost before the days of online poker.

It takes a unique set of skills to be a winning poker player, and while in unraked games a signicant minority might be winners, the rake is absolutely devastating to someone’s win rate and you have to be able to crush games to turn a profit at lower limits. That’s what ends up making only 4-6% of poker players long term winners. If you have the right skillset and dedication to study and practice, you can turn it into a profitable hobby. But I wouldn’t count on it happening - it’s very difficult.

Deposit a little bit. Play very low stake games. See if you like it. If you’re good, eventually you can work your way up from there. But you’ll almost certainly lose your first few deposits.

This book is by far the most valuable single book written about poker. It’s not quite an introductory text so others may be appropriate (this is the first poker book I ever read and it’s a pretty good introduction.)

Four. If the games are unusually good I might squeeze in a fifth.

$75 is a conservative estimate but, I know, it’s a pretty thin profit margin.

Actually, looking up the numbers just now, I see that I’m at just under $70/hour for the year to date. To put into perspective how tough it is keep one’s head above water, I’m paying about $55 an hour in rake, or 44% of my profits. If the games were to get a little bit tougher and my game didn’t improve a corresponding amount, I could pretty easily be paying 66%, or 90%, or 120% of my profits in rake. Given the obvious direction of the trendline, even that last scenario is a real possibility in the not too distant future.

I wouldn’t call $70/hr a “thin” margin regardless of the way you’re getting it. I’ve made about that over the last month (live, 1-2 nl and 2-5 sometimes) and I’m quite happy with it.

As far as your rake comments - the remarkable thing is that it’s online, which is half or less the rake cost of playing live, and it’s still eating almost half your profits. You (and I) could be making well over $100 per hour without the rake.

That’s one reason I rarely play online anymore, though - the rake is just a ripoff and it pisses me off. Live poker needs to charge a substantial rake, they need to make it worthwhile to have a dealing staff, floor staff, space, comps, drinks, all that. The cost of running an online poker site is a ridiculously tiny fraction compared to that, and yet they charge ~half as much rake. Because they collude not to price compete, and because most people are too stupid to realize the impact of rake.

Years ago wsex.com created a rake free poker room and it never took off. Rake free! From a reputable site. Quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to poker. And it failed miserably because the poker playing public are idiots. Still pisses me off.

So you net approx $15/hour? That seems an exorbitant amount of money to pay for the privilege of playing. I’m getting farther and farther away from bothering with real money. Although from what I’m reading here I can only really improve my game by playing for real money.

I’ll just keep in mind the very good advice about looking at it as paying for entertainment. Not as a way to pay for my weekly bottle of rum and beer. The first two books recommended to me are already on the way from Amazon so I’ll definitely read those and keep playing the play money tables in the mean time.

I think he was saying that he makes $70 and pays $55 in rake, so that if the game were unraked, he’d be making $125/hr.

Edit: But yes, rake is absolutely devastating. Only a small percentage of the even already small percentage of winning poker players will beat a game for more than they’re paying in rake. Online poker is especially ridiculous because people like him who multitable are paying online sites $50+ per hour for services that cost the online site a few cents at most.