Getting my PokerStars fix in U.S.
I'm currently in Day 3 of the 2014 WSOP Main Event and having a pretty good run so far. It feels good to be playing.
There have been a lot of developments with PokerStars recently. It's got me thinking: it would be so nice to be able to sit at my house and play the real money games at PokerStars again.
Of course, I have to say I've been enjoying playing for play money on PokerStars. I've been trying out a lot of the different games and I'll admit I've gotten some satisfaction in running my play money "bankroll" up to 14 billion dollars!
I'm playing at the highest "stakes" where even though it isn't real money a lot of the players are genuinely playing competitively. Since you can purchase play chips, a lot of those playing at those stakes are definitely playing to win, because they've either spent real money on the chips or have earned those chips through their play. The ring games do play similarly to low-stakes cash games, and tournaments play a lot like your average $11 tournament or other lower buy-in events on the site.
When people think of play money games online, they think of players shoving all the time and never folding, and in the past that really was what you'd encounter pretty much without fail in those games. People wanting to learn how to play couldn't really rely on those games to give them something worthwhile. It's hard to improve when no one ever folds and everybody is shipping stacks with any two cards.
But now that players can purchase the play money chips, the games have changed. Even when playing "mid-stakes" in play money, players are really competing because they are trying to move up to the higher stakes and play in the bigger games and tournaments. You get a kind of cross-section of players who resemble what you find in low buy-in tournaments (both live and online) -- some very good, some new to the game, and everything in between. Because they actually play like real money games, the play money games become a good tool for improving your game inexpensively -- or for nothing at all.
PokerStars has also been running some play money tournament series, such as the one they had going alongside SCOOP back in May. In fact right now there is another one, the Play Money Masters which continues through July 13. I'll be trying to play in that one, in fact.
Another option for U.S. players currently is to organize Home Games on PokerStars in which they can also play for play money. I've been playing in one a lot recently with my friends in Nashville, guys I used to play with regularly about 10 years ago. A buddy wrote me and said he'd started a group a few months ago, and it's like I'm back in my old poker game -- it's great.
I know a lot of people when they get older and get jobs and families, can't necessarily play in weekly games with their college buddies or friends with whom they used to play, so the Home Games on PokerStars can be a great way to do that. You can get on there and have fun playing tournaments and trash-talking your friends in chat and play against some legitimate competition, too -- depending on how good your friends are, that is.
Anyhow, there are a lot of good options for U.S. players wanting to get on PokerStars right now. And hopefully in the near future there will be even more.
Chris Moneymaker is a member of Team PokerStars Pro. Photo by Jayne Furman/Poker Photo Archive