If you‘ve clicked on this article, you‘re probably wondering: is PokerStars play money really free to use? The short answer is yes, absolutely! PokerStars grants all players an initial package of 35,000 play money chips just for signing up. You can then add another 15,000 free chips to your stack every four hours by visiting the Cashier. This gives you tons of no-risk practice chips to enjoy the site‘s extensive selection of play money poker games.
In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll teach you everything you need to know about accessing PokerStars‘ free play money tables. I‘ll explain how they work, their key benefits for your poker development, plus tips to crush the play money competition on one of the world‘s most popular poker sites!
What Exactly is PokerStars Play Money?
PokerStars dominates the online poker landscape. According to PokerScout, it averages over 13,000 real money cash game players daily, peaking above 35,000 during major tournaments. Impressively, over one million players enter PokerStars‘ weekly guaranteed tournaments!
For players not ready to risk real money, PokerStars offers play money versions of Hold‘em, Omaha, Stud and more. These function similarly to real money games, but use chips with no monetary value. Play money provides a safe environment to learn poker rules, refine strategies, and build confidence before transitioning to real cash games.
While experienced players may scoff at play money, it serves a very valuable purpose. Think of it like training wheels on a bike before you ride unassisted!
Getting Started Playing Play Money Poker
Getting started on PokerStars is quick and easy:
Visit PokerStars.net to sign up for a free account. Make sure you verify your email.
Download the PokerStars software to your desktop or mobile device and log into your account.
Select "Play Money" as your currency by clicking your profile or going to the Play Money lobby.
Claim your starting 35,000 chips plus 15,000 more every 4 hours in the Cashier!
Once you build up a big stack of play chips, it‘s time to pick a game! PokerStars offers a mind-boggling array of play money options:
- Regular cash game tables from 2¢/5¢ blinds up to $10/$20
- Scheduled multi-table tournaments with guaranteed prize pools
- Sit & Go tournaments starting as soon as 6-10 players register
- Unique formats like Zoom, Spin & Go, and more
I recommend starting at low stakes hold‘em or Omaha tables to get comfortable. Once you rack up more chips, you can advance to higher limits and different poker variants worry-free.
Why Play PokerStars Play Money? 3 Major Benefits
1. Sharpen your skills with zero risk
Poker is a complex game that takes time and practice to master. Play money lets you get in plenty of volume to improve your fundamentals without damaging your bankroll.
You can practice essential skills like hand selection, bet sizing, bluffing, handling tilt, and more against real opponents without sweating each decision. Win or lose, your play money balance stays fully stocked.
Many top pros actually started out battling play money players. 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Greg Raymer revealed he cut his teeth on PokerStars play chips to hone strategies. He had no fear of losing or making mistakes. You shouldn‘t either as a beginner.
2. Learn new games and formats
PokerStars gives you the chance to sample virtually every poker variant for free. If you‘ve only played Hold‘em, test your skills at Omaha, Stud, Razz, or more unique creations like Fusion Poker developed on the site.
You can also explore different formats like:
- Regular ring games
- Sit & Go tournaments (up to 45,000 daily!)
- Multi-table tournaments with thousands of players
- Zoom, where you rapidly fold and switch tables
- Jackpot Poker, offering big progressive prizes
Exposure to many structures and gameplay styles will make you a well-rounded player. PokerStars play money lets you experiment risk-free.
3. Gain confidence before playing for real money
Moving up from play money to real money poker is intimidating. You go from meaningless chips to having your hard-earned cash on the line.
But extensive play money practice eases this transition. Once you consistently defeat play money competition, real money poker won‘t seem so scary.
Think of play money success like passing driving lessons with an instructor before venturing onto real roads. The skills translate, but the stakes feel higher.
Before depositing on PokerStars, grind play money until you feel fully prepared. It builds assurance that you can win once poker becomes "real".
Key Play Money Strategy Tips from PokerStars Pros
So you know play money games help sharpen your poker skills, but exactly how? Here are some strategic tips from PokerStars pros like Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker to crush the play money tables:
Master the basics first
"Focus on basics like hand selection, position, and reading opponents at play money tables," advises Chris Moneymaker. "Once you have these locked down, more advanced strategies will come easier at higher stakes."
Stick to strong starting hands like big pairs and suited connectors in early position. Play looser from the button or cutoff. Review basic beginner poker guides to reinforce proper fundamentals.
Adopt a TAG style
"Play tight and aggressive at play money tables," Daniel Negreanu recommends. "Only enter pots with premium hands, but bet and raise aggressively when you have the goods."
This solid TAG (tight aggressive) style works perfectly against the weak competition you‘ll face. Punish their loose passive play by capitalizing when you‘re strong.
Observe opponents‘ tendencies
"Take careful notes on play money players‘ patterns and tendencies," says PokerStars pro Jennifer Shahade. "You can exploit their leaks better once real money is on the line."
Pay attention to players who fold too often (tight/passive) or call too many bets (loose/passive). Identify aggressive regulars as well. Their behaviors often persist in real games.
Talk and make friends
"Chat with play money players and see what you can learn," Chris Moneymaker suggests. "Getting insight into their thought process will help you outsmart them."
By starting conversations, you may discover if they‘re impatient, chasing draws, or just gambling for fun. This intel provides a big strategic edge.
Leave the bluffing at home
According to Daniel Negreanu, "Fancy moves like bluffing rarely succeed at play money tables. Just focus on patiently accumulating value from strong hands."
Against weak opposition, stick to basics pre-flop and value bet relentlessly when you connect post-flop. Save the hero calls and elaborate bluffs for real money.
Mastering these tips will ensure you develop a strong foundation from your PokerStars play money experience. Let‘s now discuss transitioning those skills to cold hard cash!
Moving Up to Real Money Poker on PokerStars
Once you feel ready to deposit and play PokerStars real money poker, here‘s the process:
Head to the Cashier and deposit at least $20 to activate real money games.
Consider using the bonus code STARS600 during your first deposit to claim a 100% match bonus up to $600! This instantly doubles your bankroll.
Start competing in the lowest stakes cash games like 1¢/2¢ or 2¢/5¢ to minimize risk.
Withdraw your winnings securely whenever your bankroll grows via bank transfer, check or online wallets.
Some keys for a smooth transition:
Only risk small portions of your bankroll at any table or tournament. Proper bankroll management is critical.
Start playing micro stakes Hold‘em and Omaha since those gamedynamics are familiar.
Review advanced strategy guides on concepts like expected value, implied odds, bet sizing and more. Mastering poker math is vital.
Stay focused on making the most +EV plays, not just winning pots. Your mindset needs to shift.
Stick to the solid fundamentals you polished against play money. Don‘t get too fancy yet!
Wielding an extensive play money background will serve you well when your hard-earned bucks are on the line against tougher foes. So practice diligently on PokerStars using funny money before you dive into real money action!
Why Play Money Players Differ from Real Money
While play money poker closely approximates the real experience, some differences exist in how people approach play chips versus real cash. Understanding these discrepancies will help you extract maximum benefit from play money practice.
Here are some common play money player archetypes according to poker psychology experts:
Bets and raises constantly with any two cards. They just want action since chips are meaningless. Don‘t try to bluff them off big hands.
The Calling Station
Calls nearly every bet but rarely raises themselves. They just want to see lots of flops for fun. Value bet relentlessly when you connect.
The Chatty Kathy
Talks endlessly in the chat box. Often gives away their holding or strategy. Pay close attention to their revealing ramblings.
The Silent Assassin
Uses the anonymity of online play to never chat and ruthless exploit weaker opponents. Don‘t get depressed when they suck out on you.
The Mathematical Robot
Methodical and calculating. They make every decision based on precise pot odds and equity math. Stay focused when facing their relentless logic.
The key is adjusting your play according to each opponent‘s tendencies rather than treating them uniformly. Maximize your edge by identifying their quirks, flaws and motivations.
Real money players can exhibit these behaviors too of course. But the stakes tend to make them tighter, more cautious and focused overall. The free-wheeling nature of play money attracts all player types.
The Complex History of PokerStars in the United States
For American poker enthusiasts, PokerStars‘ availability in the US has followed a long and winding road due to shifting legal attitudes surrounding online poker. Let‘s dive into that complex history.
PokerStars launched in 2001 and soon dominated the booming US online poker market in the 2000s. But in 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) outlawed the transfer of funds between US banks and online gambling sites.
While this made payments difficult, poker sites continued catering to US customers using murky workarounds. That ended on April 15, 2011 – dubbed Black Friday – when the Department of Justice seized PokerStars and shut down its real money games for violating bank fraud and money laundering laws.
This began a decade where PokerStars only offered play money games to most US players. However, a few states began legalizing and regulating online poker in that span – notably New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
PokerStars re-entered the US real money market in New Jersey in 2016. It later launched PokerStars PA in 2019 and PokerStars MI in 2021. Only players physically within those state borders can play real cash games on these ring-fenced PokerStars sites. Other US players still have access to play money only.
Those set on playing PokerStars real money poker from non-legal states may use VPNs to mask their location and circumvent restrictions. But keep in mind this violates the site‘s Terms of Service if discovered. Tread carefully!
While complex, this history demonstrates that practicing on PokerStars play money as an American can still ready you for the inevitable expansion of US regulated online poker. Sharpen up those skills!
Final Thoughts: My Journey From Play Money Fish to Shark
As someone who has logged countless hours on PokerStars play money tables, allow me to share some final wisdom I‘ve gleaned from that valuable experience.
When I started on PokerStars, I was a typical casual player chasing every gutshot straight draw and losing my 35,000 starting chips in the first hour. But through focused study away from the tables, I gradually improved until I could beat even the wiliest play money regulars.
Here were the most important lessons I learned conquering play money games that helped me crush real money poker later on:
Start with aTAG style. Only play strong hands in position. Bet aggressively when you connect.
Observe opponents closely. Spot their tendencies, then exploit any leaks or predictability.
Talk with players. Their banter often provides strategic insights you can capitalize on.
Brush up on poker math. Learn to calculate pot odds, equity, outs and more on the fly to make optimal decisions.
Review your play with a critical eye. Identify both strong moves to repeat and mistakes to avoid.
Treat it seriously. Play proper bankroll management, focus fully, take good notes. Winning attitudes ingrain permanently.
So if you find yourself struggling early against PokerStars play money competition, stick with it! Consume poker strategy content, discuss hands with friends, and grind those free tables relentlessly until you‘re consistently crushing. Consider it a rite of passage on your poker journey.
The skills you master there will serve you incredibly well once you make the leap to real money poker. So venture to the play money lobby and claim your free starting chips today. I‘ll see you on the virtual felt! Game on!