I’m not talking about “freeing” poker from jail; I am referring to playing online poker for free. What is the value in that? Obviously there is no monetary gain. You can’t pay for your rent, food or any bills with free poker chips. So why are thousands if not millions of people playing “free” poker on sites like Facebook and other sites that I have never heard of?
It’s a really good question, and some people spend endless hours every day doing just that. Is it a substitute for loneliness, play free poker instead of watching some silly programs on TV?
Poker is a game played for money. So should the free version even be called poker? It’s an anomaly, to be sure, yet some of these people take their free poker very seriously. The French have a phrase for it, C’est vraiment incroyable, which translates to, “That is really incredible.” But it just does not appear to make any sense. At least it doesn’t to me. I know someone who has a group of friends who play free poker regularly. He knows everything about them. It’s a little social network, and they chat and play for hours each day. The relationships seem to be the primary purpose and the poker secondary as they limp into every pot and see if they can get lucky and connect with the flop. This group of good friends gets very upset when an interloper comes to their table and actually tries to play “correct” poker. The interloper’s audacious play, like raising or going all-in, or even bets of appropriate amounts (like two thirds of the pot) really gets them heated. They prefer limps, checks, and minimum bets. They have a term for these aggressive poker players; they call them “bingo” players. It’s really amusing.
Now, you may be asking yourself, how do I know so much about free poker? I must admit that I do indulge. I play free poker too. I play a rebuy event, which allows me to play the worst poker ever, and get it all out of my system. I play cards I would never play in a real poker game and I make moves I would never make. I’ve even won the tournament twice with over 3,000 bad players—myself included. It’s a real (tongue in cheek) accomplishment.
However, if playing bad poker is not your cup of tea, and you really don’t need the cathartic experience of playing the way you would never play in real life, there are some other benefits to playing free tournaments. There are very few card rooms that spread games, like razz, 7-stud/8, 2-7 triple draw, 2-7 single draw, badugi and no-limit Omaha. If you want to learn these games where can you go? You can read a book, but nothing beats the experience of actually playing hands. The competition on-line is, of course, very soft, but at least you can practice a new game, and it won’t even cost a penny.
I played my first HORSE tournament event recently and I had never played most of the games anywhere but on-line in my free tournaments. When I first sat down, I was terrified; I thought everyone at the table would be able to see that I was a novice. Surprisingly enough, I made it pretty deep in the tournament, and while I wasn’t in the money, but it was a respectable finish.
I really do think we need a new name for “free poker” but I’m not really sure what is should be. Do you have any suggestions—other than calling it a waste of time?