Is play money poker of any value in learning real poker?

Exactly what the title says. I’m trying to learn poker; is there any value in playing 5/10 Texas Hold 'Em for play money on Partypoker, or is behaviour so different that I’m wasting my time?

You can learn the basics of the game online.

But poker is played against people; not against the cards.
Online versions lack the subtelties of playing against people.
Being able to spot a bluff or know when someone is sandbagging. Or being able to seccessfully bluff or draw in an opponent.
Betting patterns are a good tell in the online version; it lacks a sense of personal flavor.

You can learn the rules to play, and even basic strategies, but really, it’s nothing like real poker, and it’s even nothing like online poker with real money. With fake money, there’s no dawback to betting high hoping for a flush draw, or that the one card you need will come up. I tried online with play money for a little while (back when I had no money to use for real money games) and I found that people hardly ever fold, because there is no reason to. If you lose all your fake money, just get more!

So if you’re new to poker completly, yes, start there to learn the basics, but eventually to learn how to really play you need to use real money, either online or for real. Though I do recomened using real money with real people first.

I would advise against using play money, it creates bad habits and makes it more difficult when you decide to use real money. You might want to look at a site like Ultimate Bet where you can play for extraordinarily low stakes (.10/.25 limit for instance). The quality of the game isn’t good, but it isn’t the meaningless free for all that play money is either.

As to GrizzRich’s point. I would argue that serious online players are better than live players in many respects. I have always found the use of physical tells to be an overrated part of poker, and he is right about that being absent online. However, an online player sees many more hands per hour than a B&M player. That lets you refine your game and try many different styles of playing to figure out what works best. Most good online players find the B&M games to be much softer than they expected.

No, I wouldn’t say you’re wasting your time by playing for play money.

Even though the game is different, there are still things to learn.

Just a “for instance”, you might know that you want to be getting 3-1 from the pot to call for the flush draw.

Fine, you’re getting 3-1, you call, then those two maniacs on your left raised and re-raised, and when it got back to you, you weren’t getting sufficient odds anymore.

Or similarly. . .you’re not quite getting 3-1 from the pot, so you fold, only to see the two calling stations next to you both call, and all of a sudden you realize you would be getting proper odds if you had called.

Close to reality? Probably not.

Lesson to be learned? There’s more to odds calculation than immediate pot-odds and you need to keep in mind the action still behind you.

On top of that, it’s good just for getting used to the blind structure, the betting structure, how split pots work, the rhythm of the game, etc. etc. etc.

I’d say it’s useful to get comfortable playing poker online, i.e. getting used to the speed and flow of an online game. Also, it’s good to practice the patience and discipline of folding 2/3 of your hands pre-flop, even after watching several of them end up being the best hands by the river. If you find yourself playing crap starting hands after getting beat by maniacs, you’re not ready for real-money games yet.

Otherwise, play money poker has nothing to do with real money poker. If your opponents don’t care if they lose, it’s not the same game.

To disagree with most of the others,

There have been poker champions who did almost all of their learning and practicing on-line. I think, like chess, if you can “play the cards/odds” instead of trying to psych out the other players, you will be much better.

I agree that it’s best to play for real money. However, if you can’t or don’t want to do that, then play money tournaments are probably your best bet (as opposed to play money ring games). Yeah, it’s still play money, but people do want to win tournaments so the play is a bit better.

He’s not asking about playing online.

He’s asking about playing for play money online, like playing for match-sticks in real life.

As to the question of whether playing for real money online helps in a real-life cash game: indubitably!

To the OP: What they said[sup]1[/sup]. Playing with play money can be fun, just like playing online Hearts can be fun. But it’s of almost no value (assuming you already know the rules and basics) towards learning to play with real money or IRL games. Many would argue that it’s a negative, I’m apt to agree. Learn to play with friends IRL first, move on to low buy-in sit-and-go NL games online next. Expect to take a few lumps, and understand that playing a $20 NL sit-and-go isn’t alot different from playing with play money, but it’ll provide you with a little bit of room to learn. If you get good tables with many similar players, then it can be a great way to learn. However one guy who plays like the the money is no risk can ruin the realism as it applies to more “real” stakes games.

[sub]1 - Risking the cardinal “me too” post sin in order to help provide a concensus.[/sub]