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Forget Full Tilt: Play Poker Without Losing a Dime


Online poker has always been a risky endeavor. News today that the Justice Department has filed a civil suit against several professional poker players from the online gaming site Full Tilt for allegedly defrauding thousands of online poker players out of more than $300 million further highlights the danger. But there are plenty of free online poker sites that allow you to sharpen your card-playing skills without putting any real money on the line.

There are thousands of sites to choose from online – and 1.7 million active poker player accounts in the U.S. waging about $14 billion a year online, according to the Journal. But while there are many sites that are for play without pay, many offer links to their own family of gaming sites that do require you to stump up real dollars.

In Las Vegas, real-time poker is alive and well and, experts say, benefits from the ban on online gambling in the U.S.  Richard “Skip” Bronson, chairman of U.S. Digital Gaming, an online gaming company based in California, said in a statement Wednesday, “The emergence of this online gaming industry requires a proper licensing, reporting and regulatory system.”

Here are a few sites worth checking out:

1. The Free Poker Room is a popular no-money site. Be warned: If you can’t get into a free game, the site recommends links where you’ll need to ante up to play. “Are you winning a lot in our free poker room? Maybe you have talent for the game and should try to play a little with real money?” So it’s either a backdoor into a game where you could lose (or win) money, or it’s just for sport. It depends on your ability to resist temptation. The site was not immediately available for comment.

2. Pokerstars.net uses fake chips, but requires downloading free software. Like the previous site, you play at virtual tables with other players, but it also offers other games like black jack and backgammon. Again, the world of real-money poker is close by. Pokerstars.net was born of a Pokerstars.com where players used real money. A spokeswoman for the site says, “PokerStars is no longer offering real money play to U.S. residents, or residents of U.S. territories.”

3. Zynga Poker can be played as an app on your iPhone or Droid, or via your Facebook account. It claims six million daily users playing with virtual chips, so it’s unlikely that you won’t find a table you can join. Alternatively, there are poker tournaments happening online, too. Zynga is the same online game giant that brought you Farmville, a world of virtual agriculture. There are several other free Poker apps like 777 Poker. Zynga was not immediately available for comment.

Do you have any other favorite fun-only online poker sites?


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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.