Why free practice games are so important before you start
playing, by J. Phillip Vogel
by J. Phillip
Free or practice play at an online gaming site is a luxury that often goes
unappreciated. While I’m the first to admit that free gaming shaves a bit of
the excitement off the action (okay, a lot of the excitement) its value isn’t
in the thrill of the chase.
Rather, for the novice player, such free gaming affords a wonderful opportunity
explore the online gaming environment risk-free. Players can test proven and
theoretical strategies, learn the basics of unfamiliar games, or just have fun
knowing that there’s no risk no matter what they do.
But free games aren’t just for novice players. They’re a terrific resource open
to gamblers of all levels of experience. Unfortunately it’s often difficult
to convince veteran online gamblers to play free games, even when the situation
warrants it, such as while testing out a new site. Although clearly to their
advantage, many feel that their familiarity with online gambling makes it an
unnecessary step claiming (erroneously) that all online gambling software is
identical, so why bother trying it out when it will be no different from the
Whether this is your first or 1000th time playing online, it’s never a good
idea to try a new site without first getting some hands-on experience with the
software. It’s just too important of a step. Mind you, that’s not to say that
free games aren’t wholly without drawbacks. Like everything else in life, they
have their good points and their bad points.
A Few Good Points
Forgetting the entertainment value of playing casino games, there are some important
reasons why both veterans and aspiring real-money players should give the preview
games a whirl.
Players can test before they commit. Free games allow players to try out a site’s
software before plunking down any cash. This is a good way to examine the look
and feel of the graphics, which can help you to determine if the site is a good
match of your preferences.
Practice makes perfect. It’s never a bad idea to get in a little practice on
your favorite games, especially if you’ve been away from the tables for a while.
Practice play is especially important if you are working on any new strategies
that may need fine-tuning.
Players gain experience with unfamiliar games. When dealing with new games,
it’s to the player’s advantage to first learn the theoretical basics and then
get some practical experience playing it for free. Taking the time to master
new games when there’s no risk is the most cost-effective way to learn.
Get your feet wet online. For those gamblers who have never even been in an
online casino before, playing in the free games section affords the opportunity
to make the leap from land-based to Net based with no pressure.
And Now the Bad Points
It’s true that nothing is perfect—even if it’s free. Below are a few of the
problems practice gamers are likely to encounter when playing online.
Incomplete selection. Not every game that’s available in a real money setting
is available for free play at every site. If you’re visiting a new site and
are unsure if a desired game is available for free, contact customer support
and ask them—they’ll be happy to answer any questions.
A limited amount of interaction. In free play, you’re typically going to be
facing off solely against the computer-generated house—which can get boring
quickly. If you’re looking to chat or compete against other players, micro-limit
multi-player games may be your only option.
It takes time. Between registering and downloading the necessary software (if
there is any to download) it can take 20 minutes or more to go through the entire
process. And after all of that, you may find that you just don’t like the site’s
software—meaning you’ll have to go through the process all over again elsewhere.
Unrealistic action. While free games will typically be identical to the real
games, any opponents you may face in multiple player settings tend to act differently
then they would if the game were for real money. For example, at a free game
table in an online poker room, don’t be surprised if 7 out of 10 players go
all-in on just about every hand with garbage—something they’d never do if real
money was involved.
While free games are a valuable resource for online gamblers—especially if your
web experience is minimal—they’re not without their limitations. But despite
any of its drawbacks, free gaming is an important step for safely entering and
competing in the world of online gambling.
Practice play: Casinos, poker rooms and more
Looking for a place to try some free games? Here’s a brief sampling of popular
sites that deliver quality practice play.
of the Caribbean
Players can choose from a wide selection of games including table games, slots,
and video poker. All games played in the free (fun) mode feature the exact same
graphics and payout percentages as with the real player games. To make things
even simpler only a user name is required to play free games—full registration
InterCasino has made a science of online play. The site features over 100 games
playable in both practice (free play) and real player mode. Both download and
no-download games are available. The site also offers free play games in their
associated poker site and bingo hall, both of which are accessible from the
Over 200 realistic interactive games are available for both real and free play.
In the free play version, players need to open a “Guest Account” and download/install
the selected software to receive $2,500 in practice credits.
Party Poker features all of today’s favorite poker versions in both free and
real player modes. These include Texas Hold ‘em (limit and no limit), Omaha
and Seven Card Stud. Single and multi-table free play tournaments are also offered.
Offers one of the best sections of free play poker on the Net. Games include:
Hold'em, Omaha High & Hi/Lo, Seven Card Stud High & Hi/Lo, Five Card
Stud, Draw and Pineapple.
Their lobby features an easy-to-follow free games section where new players
can go to experience online poker firsthand. Selection includes: Texas Hold
‘em, Omaha, Stud, Omaha 8/better, Stud 8/better, Pineapple and Triple Draw.
Offers over two dozen bingo games for free including almost numerous 75-ball
and 90-ball bingo games. Both manual daub and auto daub rooms are available.
To play any free games, players must fill out a basic registration form.
Features a wide variety of free and real bingo games in both downloadable and
Flash formats. The site also features a limited selection of free slots, video
poker, Keno and pull-tabs. If you’re in the mood to be sociable, some chat features
are also available.
A comprehensive online bingo hall, CyberBingo provides a nice variety of games
for both real and play gamers. Free games are available throughout the week
and come with the added bonus of paying cash and prizes to winners.
J. Phillip Vogel