Stepping Up to Real Money Poker

You’ve been playing play money poker for a long time now, dominating the games and watching your (imaginary) fortune grow larger and larger. Your success has given you the confidence to finally make the leap to real money poker, and you’ve decided to make your first deposit into your favorite poker site. What can you expect to happen now that you’re playing real money online poker?

Well, no matter how good you were doing in play money games, you can’t expect to dominate real money games in the same fashion. For one thing, the players in real money games are going to be stronger and more disciplined than those you saw while playing for play money. You won’t see ridiculous all-ins with terrible hands; now that players are playing for real money, they’re going to take the game just as seriously as you are, meaning you’ll have to take advantage of smaller mistakes. You’ll also have to overcome the rake – the money the poker room takes out of the pot to make their profit – which is usually not taken during play money games.

In general, your opponents will be tighter and less aggressive that the play money opponents you’ve probably become accustomed to. By tighter, we mean that they’ll be inclined to play with fewer starting hands, choosing to fold rather than continue on with weak hands – especially after a raise. This means that you may need to tighten up a little too; hands that were usually ahead of your opponents in play money games will find themselves behind more often against real money competition.

Aggression is another story. Being aggressive in poker is a good thing; betting and raising is typically preferable to simply calling the bets of other players. However, play money players tend to be wildly aggressive, simply throwing all of their money into the pot at any time just for the excitement of a big showdown. Now that real money is at stake, players will tend to play in a more restrained manner; some will still be aggressive to a certain extent, while others will play very passively, to the point of almost never raising or opening the betting themselves. You do not want to be one of these players; you should still be aggressive, but only in situations that warrant it.

Essentially, we’re recommending a style known as tight-aggressive (or TAG) poker. This is the best style of play for players who are new to real money play, because it allows them to aggressively attack their opponents, while restraining them by playing only good starting hands. While some more experienced players may loosen up their play to become loose-aggressive (LAG) players, success with that style requires a deep understanding of poker strategy that most new players haven’t yet acquired.

You’ll also find that you notice changes in yourself when you begin playing poker for real money, too. Poker is naturally a game where swings can be quite dramatic, and these wins and losses will affect you more now that you’re playing with real money rather than play chips. Try your best to keep your emotions under control. Don’t let a losing streak throw you off your game; if you feel yourself going on tilt, step away from poker for a while until you calm down. Similarly, don’t allow a short-term winning streak to make you think you’re ready for much higher limits that your bankroll can’t support. Many promising poker players have quickly blown their bankrolls by jumping into games they weren’t ready for with too little money.

While your first steps into real money poker might feel daunting, you’ll soon find that you can handle these games just like you were able to win in the play money games you’re used to. While putting your own money on the line can be a scary prospect, it’s a step that every budding poker pro has had to get past on their way to becoming a successful real money player.

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