Our Preferred Casinos
Play-Money Games and Real-Money Games
Finding the play-money games in an online poker room shouldn't be hard. Depending on the service, you may even automatically default to the play-money area if you don't have a real-money account established. In any case, don't worry about accidentally joining a real game—it's impossible to sit at a cash stakes game without first depositing funds into your player account.
Online poker rooms use several different approaches to separate the play-money games from the real-money games. Pacific Poker, for example, employs a straightforward method (see Figure 8.2). Whenever you log on to that site, you choose then and there whether you're playing for fun or playing for keeps. This simple approach is rather effective; it removes any ambiguity about where you are.
A more common solution is to simply have a main interface window in which clearly marked buttons or tabs allow players to switch back and forth between play-money and real-money table listings (see Figures 8.3 and 8.4). One nice aspect of this method is that you can quickly toggle between screens and compare the play-money offerings with the real-money games. While there are minor variations, this method of navigation is becoming something of a standard among the online poker rooms.
At a few poker rooms, it takes a little more work to determine the play-money tables. Rather than grouping all the play-money tables together, these rooms list play-money games along with the real-money games, requiring the player to sort through the tables. This tends to be the case at sites where the design is older and more basic, with fewer frills.
Paradise Poker is an example of this type of design (see Figure 8.5). To find the play-money tables, you have to scroll down the list of tables on screen. By default, Paradise Poker games are sorted by table stakes, beginning with the most expensive games. You must scroll down through the real-money tables to find the play games at the end.
Notice that Paradise Poker's real-money table stakes can get pretty low—for example, $.02/$.04 limit Hold 'Em. These are sometimes referred to as microlimit games, and they can be a great place for beginners to start. Even if you try really hard, it's tough to lose the mortgage payment at a $.02/$.04 table.
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