If you have read a few of my previous articles you know my opinion on playing poker with play money. Playing for free with fake chips is a big mistake if you are interested in learning how a real money game works.
The players are very loose, and why not? Players are not losing anything by making stupid calls and raises. Once their chips are gone they can simply request more. It is like having a speed limit, but not giving anyone fines for speeding. If this were the case everyone would drive as fast as possible. At a play money table, everyone plays as fast as possible.
The one thing a play money table can do for you is help you to understand one of the most basic fundamentals of poker. Each poker variation has different hands which are considered winners. Understanding the winning hands in each variation is important to winning. For instance, in Five-Card Stud a high pair is a powerful hand, but in Omaha the same hand will lose every time. By putting some time into playing at a free table before jumping into a new game you will have a much better idea of the hands which will win in that game.
Another skill you can work on at a play money table is evaluating the other players at the table. Make sure to take notes on who plays tight. When these players are in the pot with you be careful; they probably have a good starting hand. Most players will be loose however. It is important to recognize the different types of loose plays. The players you want to take advantage of are the ones who bet at every pot. They will often do the betting for you. Also notice the loose players who call to see every flop and then fold. Watching their participation after the flop will often tell you exactly how strong their hand is.
If you are interested in winning at a play money table you must be very choosy in the hands you play. Playing tight is the only way to win. Nobody at these tables is going to bother watching the way you play, and if they do, they will not be scared when you are in the pot. Nobody at these tables is going to be fearful of a small bluff. You must wait for your good hands and bet them hard. If you are lucky you will have some players who are betting for you and be able to hide the strength of your hand.
As I have already mentioned, it is very difficult to practice your real money poker skills at a play money table. A small bet which would scare players at even a 25 cent table will have not affect at a play money table. Even depositing $10 and playing at a nickel table is much better for working on your poker game than playing at a free table. There are plenty of sites out there that will give you $10 to sign up so be sure to take advantage of these sites when working on your game.