If you don’t like the idea of depositing your own funds at an online site there are two options available to you:
- play money
I am always surprised by the numbers of people that seem happy to spend their time chucking play money chips around. The one benefit I can see to the play tables is that you can get used to the site’s controls. Most online sites have features such as: four colour decks, note-taking on your opponents and prefered seats. At the play tables you can discover all this in a risk-free environment.
However, I recommend you leave the play money stakes behind you as soon as you can. The standard of play is absymal and you won’t discover what real poker is about until you play for something worth having. More importantly, you can’t win any money here. This leads us to the second-best value betting opportunity you are likely to find:
Competition between sites is such that they are all reinvesting some of their profits in promotions designed to keep players coming back. Most common is the freeroll MTT but some sites also offer freeroll SnGs.
These offer cash prizes to the winners and represent a much better place to learn the game as you have a chance to build your bankroll at the same time. The next question to consider is which games to play in:
Multi Table Tournaments
I suggest you look at the value you will be receiving from the tournament entry fee.
Divide the total prize fund by the number of entrants to get the entry fee the poker site is giving you.
If a tournament has 1000 runners and a $50 prize pool (then, assuming you are an average player) your equity in the event at its start is 5 cents. If the tournament has a prize pool of $7000 and 5461 participants then in the long term you can expect to win average of $1.28 every time you play.
I hope you agree that the second example represents better value for you as a player.
In fact, a person would have to play in 26 of the first type of freeroll before his expectation rises above that from playing in just one of the second.
I suggest that you try to concentrate on playing in tournaments with a subsidized buy-in (SBI) of $1/player or more.
I believe this is an absolutely crucial concept, but one that is not fully recognised by most players. They get an urge to play and just jump into the next available game regardless of the numbers. Of course, in a freeroll there is no harm in doing this, but you are not maximizing your opportunities unless you carefully select the tournaments you play in.
As always, the most important thing in poker is game selection.
On many occasions you will get better value than it first seems because:
- there will be a large number of no-shows
- there are some really terrible players out there
It is not unreasonable to expect a return of three or four times the SBI given to you by the site. This may not seem like much but if you play regularly for six months or a year, you should develop a healthy bankroll and gain valuable experience without risking your own money.
Single Table SnGs
There are fewer sites offering this type of tournament but they are definitely worth considering because:
- the standard of play is terrible and it won’t take long to earn the minimum buy-in for a small cash game
- playing SnGs gives you experience at short handed tables. Most of the prize money in MTTs goes to the top three or four players at the final table so being skillful here is very important
- you won’t always be able to find a good MTT but SnGs run 24/7
The SBI for these tournaments is smaller than for the MTTs. With a 9 or 10 person SnG the top three will usually get paid. Perhaps 5c/3c/2c. If you are lucky 50c/30c/20c. Hopefully you won’t have to spend your whole poker career at this level but if you want to build up your bankroll from nothing it is one of your options.