So we were talking about online play before, and AdamD brought up a great point.
You can't simulate real money play on a free poker site. I have no argument with this. Although I tend to play exactly the same with both, I am playing against people who...
a) have never played poker before
b) only play free poker
c) don't care about the results in free poker
This being the case, why do I play free poker then? The only answer is "patience training". I honestly believe if you can play a free site, and be patient enough to regularly win, you will be more successful in tournament play.
I do not believe that free poker teaches you to play real money cash games though. Patience is not a virtue in real money cash games. In fact, patience will break you in real money cash games.
Perfect example from Saturday night.
$1/$2 No Limit Hold Em cash game. I'm big blind with 8-9 offsuit. One player raises to $11. Small blind calls. So $24 in the pot, and $9 for me to call. Not quite 3-1.
1. I have to put my opponents on a hand, so I try to figure out what the possibilities are. Original raiser could have anything from 2-7 to A-A....so I settle in the middle and think middle pair or A-K. Caller is quite loose, so I put him on "two random cards", with one probably a face card.
2. I do not call on pot odds. They're not right.
3. I DO call on the potential odds if I hit my hand. They are HUGE. A stright flop wouldn't be as huge, because it is visable. Trip flop is also dangerous, because he could put me on A-9. So what do I want? Two pair. Yeah. That would be sweet!
And what comes? A-8-9. The heavens open, and God speaks directly to me, telling me to "TAKE THIS GUY FOR EVERY CHIP HE HAS".
Now, I listen to God when he speaks, so after the small blind checks, I bet out....$8. Into a $33 pot. I basically scream "I'M PRETENDING TO HAVE AN ACE!!!"
Original raiser....of course....raises. $30.
Small blind....folds. As I knew he would.
And JP bets....(don't do this if you don't know the other player very well, because it doesn't always work)...ALL IN. $148 more. So...$11 in the pot, $30 to call the bettor, $189 total.
And I KNOW he won't believe me. He'll have to call me if he has A-K. He'll fold if he has Kings though. And what does he do? He turns over his cards for me to see A-K, and starts talking. And I pick up the fishing pole, and start reeling.
And of course, he eventually calls. "I just can't let it go".
As I'm raking the pot, he asks the normal question "How do you call a bet with that". And I grab a few of his chips, toss them onto the table, and reply "Like that".
And that, in a nutshell, is how you play a cash game different than a tournament. I am fairly sure I would have folded that hand in a tournament.