How to Choose the Best Free Poker Sites
Choosing the best site to play free poker at can be a challenging task. Here are a few things to look out for when choosing a free online poker site:
The first question you need to ask yourself when settling on a place to play free poker is “does this site have a good reputation?” You can find out by looking at online reviews, reading customer testimonials and reviewing the site itself.
Most free poker sites will ask that you create an account before you play. This means giving the site your basic personal information (at least name and email). In some cases you may also have to make an initial deposit to play (yes, even for free). Normally these deposit amounts are small, but it is real money. You want to make sure the site is legit before you sign up.
It’s easy to be wowed by slick website design, but if you can’t find any information from resources like third-party review sites, blogs or industry news, it might be wise to move on.
The next thing to look for is the selection of free games. Many free poker sites only let you play one type of poker for free. Some of them limit your number of free games. The best sites will let you try out lots of games for free so you can get a feel for everything they have to offer.
Sometimes it’s fun to see what else a free play site has to offer. In most cases they’ll have a selection of slots and other table games you can play for free, too. You might just discover that blackjack is your game instead.
It’s one thing to have lots of titles and games available, but you also want to be mindful of quality, too. That’s where software comes in to play.
When it comes down to it, the only things that matter in poker are the games. When people play poker online, they want the same experience they get at a real live casino. The best games will have seamless play, plus great graphics and sound quality. Optional side bets and bonus games are always fun, too. The best software providers have all this in spades.
It’s important to understand that good software also keeps you safe. The big players are all regulated and licensed in their country of origin and have to adhere to rigorous testing requirements from international governing bodies like eCOGRA. This means their games are constantly being reviewed for fair play.
For these reasons, the leading casinos will go out of their way to stock titles from the top software providers. We particularly like the poker games from BetSoft, but look for Microgaming, IGT and others. It’s important to mention that the bigger players will have better prizes, too.
Licensing and Regulation
We talked a bit about licensing and regulation in the last section, but it’s critical to stress how significant this is. If you are planning to sign up at a poker site, even if you’re only planning yo play for free, it’s crucial that the site be legal and licensed in your geographic area.
You’d never want to become a victim of an online scam, so always check and see that a free poker site is properly licensed before you play. Legit sites will proudly display their certifications in the footer of their website, and they often have a dedicated page that lists the governing bodies they’re associated with, plus all the relevant links to the sites.
Most free poker sites will also promote responsible gambling practices, as such they’ll have links to appropriate supports you can access if you suspect you have a problem.
Real Money Play
It’s fun to play poker online for free, and there are many benefits to doing so. It’s a great way to pass the time, you can make new friends through online chats, and you can hone your skills in many different poker varieties before you decide to play for real.
When you’re ready, the best free poker sites will make it easy for you to transition from free play to real money play. If they’ve already asked for a deposit, you’ll be free to play with that cash.
There should also be a section that lists all their sign-up bonuses and perks. In a lot of cases, the sign-up bonus only applies to slots, but sometimes you’ll find a site that offers bonuses on poker and other table games. We also look for loyalty and VIP programs, too. VIPs and high rollers often qualify for tons of treats like gift cards, cash prizes and even access to exclusive events and tournaments. The more you play, the more you qualify for.
Free Poker Games
No-Limit Hold’em is the most popular poker variant on the planet, so it should not be surprising to discover No-Limit Hold’em makes up the bulk of free poker games on the internet. However, Pot-Limit Omaha is a game increasing in popularity each year, so some online poker sites make it possible for you to play Omaha games for free.
Most poker sites only offer freeroll tournaments and not cash games and do so with No-Limit Hold’em, sometimes abbreviated to NLH or NLHE, making up the bulk of them.
The Pros and Cons of Playing at Free Poker Sites
Playing poker at free poker sites online comes with distinct advantages and disadvantages, just like all forms of poker and other games.
The biggest advantage of playing a free poker site is they don’t expose you to any financial risk, which means you get to enjoy playing online poker even if you do not have any money in your bankroll. This is perfect if you are on a tight budget or are new to poker, and want to learn the ropes without worrying about losing your hard-earned cash.
Free poker games are also a great place to try new strategies. The lack of financial pressure means you can practice new playing styles (perhaps you want to try becoming a loose-aggressive player?) and implement new strategy into your game without the nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you that making a mistake will cost you funds.
Playing in freeroll tournaments with real money prize pools make it possible to build a bankroll from no financial outlay. If you think that is a far-fetched goal, look up Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, who famously accumulated a $10,000 bankroll after starting playing freerolls and using the money he made to play for real money.
Lastly, playing at free poker sites allows you to enjoy playing poker for the sake of it. It is easy to get wrapped up in win-rates and earning money when you play on real money poker sites, but playing for free lets you relax, splash around in pots, and interact with your fellow poker players.
The biggest downside to playing free poker cash games is there is no money involved. While not playing for real money relieves you of the pressures of worrying about money, some players find it difficult to focus on playing poker when there is no money at stake.
The same can be said for freeroll poker tournaments, which almost always come with prize pools ranging from $5 up to $50. You can play for hours only to win a few cents, which can be off-putting to some.
In addition, you may find that some free poker games play crazily because of the lack of financial risk for the players involved. While fun, some free to play poker can be quite unlike real money poker cash games and tournaments.
Differences Between Poker Games for Free and Real Money
The main difference between poker games for free and real money is the general skill levels of the players involved. Free games tend to attract a more recreational, lesser-skilled group of players because there is no or little money involved. These games center around having fun, but the trade off is you can only win small sums of money and do not get to challenge yourself against better players.
You will likely see opponents turning up with all sorts of crazy hands at showdown, or moving all-in with hands you would ordinarily fold when you play free poker games. This is because they have no financial incentive to play "properly", as losing does not cost them any of their bankroll.
For this reason, it is advised to keep your bluffs to a minimum because your opponent is more likely to call. This is not to say crazy things do not happen in real money games, but they happen at a far less frequency than in free games.
Another major difference that is unique to tournament poker is the speed of the games. Tournament poker has blinds – forced preflop bets – that increase after a predetermined period of time. Freerolls’ blinds increase far quicker than their traditional paid for equivalents. It is unusual to find a freeroll where the blinds have more than five minutes between increases, where this would be considered a fast or turbo tournament if you have bought in for real money.
Free Poker Tournaments
Free poker tournaments are called freerolls and cost precisely nothing to play, hence their name! Almost every online poker site out there has a freeroll of some sort mostly because they are a great marketing tool that attracts new players through the doors.
Most freerolls come with limited prize pools of $10-$100 with the champion taking home $1-$10, but they are a fantastic way to build a bankroll from scratch without putting any of your money on the line.
Online poker sites also sweeten their welcome bonus offering by throwing a freeroll entry into the mix for depositing players. These tend to have larger rewards, with prize pools of $2,500 to $10,000 being the industry standard.
Sometimes, live poker rooms and online poker sites run special promotions where the freeroll’s prizes are enormous. The World Series of Poker, for example, has given away entries to the WSOP Main Event, worth $10,000, in freerolls for its customers. Just because a tournament is free does not mean the prizes have to be minimal.
Finding freerolls is a simple task. Online poker sites running freerolls almost always advertise the fact when you sign up for a new account, or they are clearly displayed in their website. It is worthwhile to follow your chosen poker site’s social media channels, as it is common for them to give away freeroll tickets to their followers. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are free, meaning you literally have nothing to lose.
Failing that, fire up the online poker software, head to the tournament section, and sort the games by buy-in. Anything with $0 is a freeroll and you should be able to jump straight in and battle it out against a plethora of fellow poker lovers.
Smaller prize pools aside, the biggest difference you will find between free tournaments and those you buy into is the number of entrants. Freerolls often see fields of 5,000 to 10,000 entrants because players have nothing to lose. Of course, real money tournaments draw in large crowds too, but not often on the scale as those with no buy-in.
Free Offline Poker
It isn’t only free poker sites where you can play poker games for free because there are a plethora of free-to-play apps to choose from. A quick search of the Google Play Store or Apple App Store for free play poker sites will bring up dozens or apps catering for your needs.
These apps are great fun but the poker experience does not come close to replicating that of the best free poker sites mentioned in this article. Poker apps tend to feature cartoon-like graphics and usually revolve around earning coins for features and new avatars. They are fun to play, but they share more similarities with a video game than they do playing online poker.