You know how it is. You meet someone and one of the first things they ask is, “So, what do you do?” In my case, people are always surprised when I tell them that I work in the online poker industry. Fortunately, they usually think it’s really cool and proceed to tell me they saw the “Poker World Series” on television. One of the next questions I get is, “Do you play?”
When I answer in the affirmative, those whose interest is sufficiently piqued often follow up by asking how I got started playing poker. Honestly, it’s not the most fascinating story in the world. I wasn’t schooled in the fine art of Texas Hold’em at the kitchen table by my grandfather (actually, my brother and I played gin with both of our grandfathers). My mother did’t pay her way through college hustling frat guys out of their inheritances. Like many people, poker first entered my consciousness when I saw some of Chris Moneymaker’s run to fame on ESPN in 2003.
It’s not that I had never heard of poker. I had played video poker before. I even have a picture of me playing poker with my friends when I was kid, although I can’t imagine we had any idea what we were doing. But I think the 2003 WSOP was what made me really think about poker. Then, one day, I did some searching for poker on the internet and came across the old I was wary of downloading poker software at that time, but I thought it was great that had a no-download version of its client. So, I started playing, hand ranking chart right next to me. I got my brother involved, too. It’s funny to think back on how much of a noob I was – A-2 suited was my favorite hand and my brother and I routinely chatted on the phone about our hands when we were in the same game (it was play money and we weren’t actually cheating, but just talking – we didn’t have enough of a clue about the game to cheat).
As I searched around some more after a couple weeks, I found The Gaming Club, a former Microgaming network room (I believe it folded into Poker Time), which was offering $10 for free to anyone who downloaded their software. I took the offer and played for real money for the first time. Somehow, I ran it up to $100 (thank you, horrible Omaha players) and I have never had to deposit a single dollar of my own money since.
The days of online poker rooms just handing you free money for visiting their site are gone, but for those of you who are at because you are interested in poker, but are still a bit leery about depositing your own money, there are still options out there. The most popular option was introduced a few years ago by our friends at in the form of free poker money.
Originally called “Instant Bankroll”, the free poker money promotion is just what it sounds like. Free money. All you do is visit, sign up for one of the eligible poker rooms, and Poker Source will deposit money in your poker account. The promotion’s initial room was Party Poker and if I am guessing correctly, Party Poker is still probably the most popular. My aforementioned brother actually took advantage of this promo, getting $50 deposited directly into his new Party Poker account for free. All he had to do is play a certain amount to cash out the money. Party Poker isn’t the only poker room available – Full Tilt Poker, Titan Poker, and Absolute Poker are amongst the other offerings.
In addition to free money offers, I suggest checking out what freeroll tournaments (tourneys with no buy-in) are available. The selection of freeroll tournaments that have cash prizes is not as great as it once was, but the freerolls are still out there, if you are willing to devote hours for the chance to win only a few bucks. If you sign up for an online poker room through an affiliate website, that affiliate might also have private freerolls with much larger prize pools. For instance, Tight Poker has a monthly $6,000 freeroll for people who sign up with Party Poker through this site and earn 100 PartyPoints per month. Other sites have similar deals. It’s a great way to add to your bankroll with no risk.
If all else fails, just go table to table begging for a buck or two.*
*Just kidding.  Please don’t do this.

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