Is fun any fun?

September 27, 2007

So, why do you play poker? I play for money. It’s fun playing for money. I might lose everything I brought, I might end up breaking out the checkbook at the end of the night, but I never could imagine sitting down and playing cards if money wasn’t involved.

Until recently.

Lately, after watching more poker on television, I’ve played around with a few Texas Hold ‘Em sites online for free  – mainly PokerStar.net and FullTiltPoker.net – (as well as my travel video game!) and found myself just as serious and calculating with my gameplay as I am when I have $50 in chips stacked in front of me.

So, why would anyone want to play poker for fun? Personally, I think it’s easier to learn the game when there’s no money on the table. However, and follow me here, this only holds up if you have a strong history of actually playing for money and know what it’s like to drop a huge pot. What I mean is, having played for money before gives you perspective if you sit down in a no-money game, and still want to practice how to act in different situations.

Everyone’s opinions vary (hence the opinion part), so let’s take a look at what are the benefits and downfalls of both money and non-money games.

Money

1.) The most obvious – profit: You can parlay a talent for reading people and smart, patient betting into a nice supplement to your day job salary if you….heh, heh…..play your cards right. I assume making money is the major draw for most new poker players, and for most veterans, as well. As well it should be, since you’re putting in valuable time, you want to see a return on it at the end of the night.

2.) Prestige: Aside from the bucks, there’s the gold watches, the pictures up on the walls of the casinos, the desire to be the best, be it in a professional circuit tournament, or just the best in your office or your local gym, etc… To me, it seems like the prestige goes hand in hand with excelling in a MONEY game. While being the top ranked player on a free poker Web site might be nice, people will be wondering why you haven’t taken the jump into the “major leagues.”

3.) Adrenaline: I don’t have to say much here, but there’s nothing like the sweating and shakes that I get when I’m sitting there with one stupid call between me and a healthy 3-digit pot. Or if I’m the one making the stupid call.

Non-money

1.) A relaxed atmosphere: Nothing’s on the line, you can separate yourself from your nerves and tells and learn the fundamentals of the game without the stress to go with it. You can take the time to analyze the smartest play without having to factor in how much you may win or lose. Is that a positive? Sure, it can be. But like I said before, you have to be able to understand what you move would mean if you were playing for money, and be able to make a decision with that in mind. That is, of course, if you’re trying to improve yourself as a player and not just playing to kill time.

2.) To counter an earlier positive – the lack of debt: You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. Therefore…….wait for it……..if you’re playing for fun, you’ll never lose anything! Tends to be a positive for those of us who’ve gone home without enough money to stop by McDonald’s for an egg mcmuffin. And I was damn hungry, too.

3.) Family: Poker actually can become a family game right up there with Uno and Scene It (so hard to convey sarcasm through the Web.) But it can be fun to play with family or non-gambling friends. Bust out a bag of pretzels and cookies and you have your chips. Everyone has fun and spoils dinner at the same time.

So there you go, while playing for fun may not seem like “real” poker, there are some benefits to diving in without your bankroll by your side.

But the question you have to ask yourself is – is playing for fun still fun?