BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: TUESDAY, JANUARY 5, 2010
Texas Player Questions Honesty of Online Play-Money Hold’em Games
A reader this week in Dallas is curious about whether play-money hold’em games online are on the up and up. Let’s check it out.
Q: I play a lot on PartyPoker – just the play-money games — and it seems to me that these games are somehow controlled, not random. It’s like the other players can read my cards! Has anyone else ever questioned this game? – Martin R. in Dallas, Texas.
A: I have heard similar complaints about online games – both play-money and cash – but the results you report almost certainly are just a function of the loose play prevalent on the computer.
You wrote: “If I fold cards that the pros say you should (A-2, 7-2, 5-9 etc.), those cards come up on the flop. It all seems to be set up!”
I played on PartyPoker early in 2006, Martin, before the site pulled out of the U.S. online poker market (for cash games). To start, I tried their play-money games for a week or so, just to get a feel for the action.
While I had no suspicion the games weren’t completely random, there’s no doubt one of the great frustrations of hold’em is that a player ALWAYS knows what hand he would have made with that lowly 7-2 or 5-9.
Keep in mind, though, that even when you hit something on the flop while holding poor starting cards, there’s a good chance your hand won’t hold up. That’s why you usually dump them.
This situation is magnified in play-money games because a greater percentage of players see flops. Even premium high pairs aren’t a favorite against the table if three or more opponents see the flop.
Indeed, beating the play-money games is tougher than beating cash games because of this. It’s just not possible to reduce the field enough to create good winning odds for strong starting hands, much less weak ones.
That doesn’t mean the play-money games aren’t fun, however. You just have to do whatever you can to protect big starting hands.
In no-limit, this usually means bigger-than-normal raises preflop, but you should mix in a few slow-played big hands, hoping to catch a monster flop and surprise opponents. In limit games, you have fewer betting options but the same principle applies — mix it up.
Also, while I don’t recommend playing really weak starting hands even in play-money games, you should usually stay in with connectors, both suited and unsuited, down to the 4-5. You might catch a perfect flop and win a huge pot; if you don’t, it’s easy to dump the hand.
I haven’t heard of any cheating scandals on PartyPoker, such as opponents being able to see your hole cards. It seems very unlikely anyone would go to that length for an advantage when no money is at stake.
To ease your mind about the games at PartyPoker, try these two things:
* Keep a ledger showing the actual percentage of times you muck really bad starting cards AND they would have won the pot if you played the hand. The frequency may be much less than you suspect.
* Try the play-money games at other major sites with clean reputations. If the same things are happening there, then you can chalk your results up to normal randomness and dispel negative thoughts about the wackiness you’re seeing at PartyPoker.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
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