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I have been away from home for some time and have not been able to attend my weekly or bi-weekly poker cash rings at the local pub. On my extended business trip, I filled that void with some of the free chip poker games (not sure if allowed to mention, Zynga, PP, and the like) and noticed that people (obviously) bet much differently when there is no "real" money on the table.

I have become accustomed to, and proficent in, the strategies involved in the Zynga-esque games and can almost always finish in the top two places on their tournament tables.

Problems arise when I return to the pub and play with people for cash. I can't help to shake the "bad" habits that have made me successful in play-chip poker, and I'm paying for the mistakes in "real" money games.

So the question is this: Is it detrimental to your live or "professional" gameplay to play free-chip poker games? If not, how do you keep strategies for the two games separate?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Strategy itself is a fluid thing, and although the flow of a game and the effective strategy to beat it will constantly change, the fundamentals of good strategy don't. Wherever you play poker, it's still the same game, play money or real money!

Simply put, if you let the type of game interfere with what you believe/know to be an effective strategy, then that's a weakness. Depending on your motives for playing poker, it's only detrimental to your skill set if you're letting obviously bad play, when engaged in play-money poker, become a habitualised part of your game when playing for real money.

Essentially, What you are today you are now becoming!

If your aspirations are to improve your skill, then make the decision to play your best, most effective strategy everywhere, every time, all the time! Rather than seek to conceptually separate the two games strategically, try to think of good strategy being something that moves on a single sliding scale, perhaps a loop. To illustrate, Johnny Chan once said, simplifying his strategy, "When they are tight, i'm loose. When they are loose, i'm tight!".

I would suggest it would be better to attempt to understand each (Game|Player|Hand) on it's own merits and combine your understanding of strategy into one fluid, adaptable understanding, which is applicable wherever you play. Of course, how serious you take applying yourself in any game is your decision.

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I would say that it is beneficial if you think about it the right way. If you have developed strategies that are effective at these tables then the first thing to do is figure out what type of play is going on at these tables. Then instead of thinking about strategies being effective on this site think of the strategies being effective in games that play that way. Now when you sit down at a (I imagine) very loose aggressive table you know what to do.

Whenever you sit down at a table you should be trying to understand each individuals play and the table dynamic and adjust your play accordingly.

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You should make an effort to understand -why- you play the way that you play.

Some strategies may be right in Zynga games that are not right in real-money games. The question to answer is WHY.

Because there are real money games that play like Zynga games. And Zynga games that play like WSOP final tables.

The location of the game is immaterial. The only thing that matters are the players.

Understanding why one strategy works in Zynga and another strategy works at the Pub is key to being a great poker player, because you'll find that you can apply those strategies in other situations.

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