TV shows showcase poker pros battling for six-figure pots, though online poker is now enjoyed free by millions of players. You can find games on social apps for play money chips and compete against people from around the world. You can also set up games for friends and family to enjoy at online poker sites. Best of all, some sites give you no deposit poker bonuses. These allow you to enjoy free poker online and win real money to start a poker bankroll.
Whether you play poker on your iPhone or Android smartphone or prefer the bigger screen of a desktop/laptop site, there are free poker options for you in Canada.
This page shows all the options for free poker games online. First, outlined below are the best poker sites and apps available. You will find the pros and cons of free vs real money play, how to take advantage of those no deposit bonuses, and information on the many different poker formats available.
Types of free poker sites
There are three main types of poker sites where you can enjoy free online poker:
Social poker sites
If you enjoy playing poker for fun either with strangers or friends, you will find a wide choice of social apps with poker games. Examples include Zynga Poker, PokerUP, and Pokerrr 2. None of the games on the social apps are for real money.
You play for gold chips (play money). You can win tournaments, unlock badges, and post your achievements or leader board victories. Social poker sites have in-app purchases, though they are not needed to enjoy the games. Social media tie-ins, free daily bonuses, and those poker wins will keep your chip stack topped up. Most social poker apps are designed for phones, while others work via Facebook or can be played in a web browser on your desktop.
Sweepstakes poker sites
Sweepstakes poker sites are growing in popularity in Canada. These sites offer free poker games and also allow games with real prizes. They turn tournaments and cash games into individual sweepstakes contests. You can play free to learn the games using play money chips which you get free. If you buy additional play-money chip packages, sites including Global Poker will give you Sweepscash (or other premium chips), which can be used to enter games with big real money prizes.
Free premium chips are available at Sweepstakes poker sites. You can get them via sign-up bonuses, sending a paper letter to a registered address, or via contests on social media sites. While the poker formats are limited compared to other online poker sites, you can enjoy Texas Hold’em in both tournament and cash game format.
Online poker sites
Legal Canadian online poker sites let you enjoy their games free in two ways. First, you can hit the games for play money. While the social features of apps are not available, these games are closer to real money poker games than you will find elsewhere.
The second option is to take advantage of no deposit poker bonuses and hit the real money games free. These are small bonuses. With some luck and poker skill, it is possible to use them to start a real money poker bankroll. Some online poker sites also offer freeroll poker tournaments with real prizes. Others allow you to set up ‘home games’ so you can play free online poker against friends or family members.
How does a no deposit poker bonus work?
Before you enjoy free poker games by taking advantage of no deposit poker bonuses, it pays to understand how to tell a good deal from a bad one.
A typical no deposit bonus gives you between $10 and $25 for registering an account. This comes in the form of bonus chips, or tokens that you can use to enter tournaments.
They are useful to check out the games at different sites. If you get lucky, then you might turn a free poker game into a big (and growing) poker bankroll.
The catch with no deposit bonuses is that you need to ‘clear’ those bonus chips before you can withdraw any money. Depending on the site, this can involve a lot of playthrough, especially at the lower buy-in tables. You should look out for offers that have time restrictions. Note that this type of bonus is one per player and per household.
Free online poker tournaments with real cash prizes
One of the best ways to get involved in poker is to enter freerolls. These are free tournaments that have real money prize pools. Free poker tournaments that are open to play money players are popular — often attracting thousands of players.
Prizes will be on the small side when you compare them to pay-to-enter poker tournaments. They are a way for free poker fans to break into the real money games with no risk.
Note that large fields of inexperienced opponents mean you will need to adjust your strategy to be in with a shot. With multiple players seeing each flop, bluffing is far less effective than usual. Hands like small pairs and suited connectors — that can make well-hidden monsters — go up in value.
Real prize freerolls are more likely to be available at larger international sites. As well as regular tournaments, some sites will offer freerolls as satellite qualifiers, or free entry into one-table tournaments or jackpot Sit and Go games.
The advantages and disadvantages of playing free poker
Advantages of free poker games
The obvious advantage of free-to-play poker is the fact you can enjoy the game without risking any of your own cash. This takes away any pressure — for example facing a huge river bet with a large proportion of your bankroll on the line if you make the wrong decision.
There is a social aspect to free poker games that simply does not exist in real money online poker. You can chat with other players, cheer one another on, display badges and achievement awards, and interact on social media.
On the social poker apps, there are entertaining challenges and missions. The more you play, the more badges and achievements you can unlock and display proudly on your profile. These added extras keep the competitive juices going, as well as providing a lot of variety.
Tournaments play a big role at the social poker sites, as they give you a chance to pit your wits against other players. These games are competitive as well as entertaining, with some huge play money prizes to be won. Free tournaments can also have real money prizes, giving you a risk-free way to get a poker bankroll.
The final advantage of free-to-play poker sites is they offer an opportunity to practice and fine-tune your poker strategy before you make the jump to real money. For new players, it’s an introduction to how to play poker in different formats. For those who already know the rules, you can learn how to adjust to different types of players and optimize your starting hand selection.
Disadvantages of free poker games
The main disadvantage of free poker is that it will not make you any money — at least in the short term. That big tournament score on a social poker app might get you a badge to display, though no cold hard cash to add to your account.
While it is an advantage that free play sites are useful as a place to practice, you need to understand that your opponents play differently compared to real money games. Many players in free poker games will simply never fold pre-flop, or with any hope of making a hand after the flop. There will be many hands when you get to the river with a handful of players still involved.
A real money game plays differently — when cash is on the line, anyone that calls too often or plays every hand to the river will be parted from their bankroll almost immediately by experienced poker opponents. This means that you need to be careful when making the transition. Even someone who was crushing the free poker games can be a ‘fish’ when real money is involved.
Finally, free poker players do not get the opportunity to take advantage of rewards and loyalty schemes offered by the major online poker sites. They miss out on deposit bonuses, loyalty point collection schemes, promotions, reload bonuses, and more. Of course, once you sign up for the free games at the big sites you will be offered these rewards, often for a minimum deposit.
Playing free poker using mobile and desktop devices
Historically, the most popular way of playing poker was to download the software onto your desktop or laptop. With the software installed, you have a stable and fast platform, with no wait for graphics to download each time you play. Many of the larger real money poker sites that offer free play alongside paid games still operate this way.
Poker apps for mobile devices are now available for all the main sites offering free poker games. There are apps for both Android and Apple devices. Social poker sites are app-first and will not have the traditional software downloads. International poker sites have apps that can access both the play money and real money games.
You can access free poker games via your browser window. These games use responsive design, adjusting automatically to fit your screen. The final format is inside popular social media sites. Facebook offers a wide choice of free/social poker games.
What types of free online poker games can you find?
Both cash games and tournaments are available to play free online. While they are the most popular formats, poker can now be enjoyed in many different ways.
Main free poker options:
- Cash games: The default poker format for most of the history of the game is simply to bet with money. Cash games work for play money too. In this format the blinds do not increase like they do in tournaments. Players buy in for 100x the smallest bet and can top-up their chips or leave the game at any time. Cash games can be two-handed, six-handed, or nine- or ten-handed.
- Poker tournaments: Many players enjoy the excitement of tournaments. This format lets you buy in for a set number of play chips, with big prizes for those lucky enough to reach the final table. Free tournaments can have real money prize pools, or simply come with achievement awards and a place on a social poker site leader board.
- Sit and Go tournaments: Sit and Goes are small poker tournaments, ideal for when you do not have an entire evening to play. In most cases, these events take place on a single table of nine players. Multi-table variations can also be found. A big difference between these events and tournaments is that Sit and Goes start when the required number of players register, while tournaments have a scheduled start time.
- Jackpot Sit and Goes: These games are played at hyper turbo pace and see three players compete for a random prize. Prize funds start at 2x your buy-in and can go up to 10,000x. These real money games are frequently given away as part of no deposit bonus deals for new players.
- Fast fold poker games: If you like to play poker at speed, fast fold games are an entertaining option. Every time your involvement in the current hand ends, you go to a new hand. Fast fold poker works by placing players in pools at different buy-ins. It can be used in cash game and tournament formats.
Online poker variations to play for free
Most players enjoying free poker games head straight for the No Limit Texas Hold’em tables. You will find that this is only one poker game among many. Here are the most popular types of poker found online:
- No Limit Hold’em: Called the ‘Cadillac of poker’, as it is easy to learn and has a depth of skill that can take a lifetime to master. Each player gets two cards, which they combine with five community cards (the flop, turn, and river) to make the best possible poker hand.
- Pot limit Omaha: Each player receives four hole cards in this entertaining poker variation. There are five community cards in this format, though the rules for creating a hand are different. You use two (and only two) cards from your own hand, plus three (only) from the board. Variations include Omaha Hi-Lo.
- Stud poker: In this format everyone gets their own ‘board’ of cards, with no shared community cards used. The classic is Seven-Card Stud. Other games include Stud Hi-Lo, Razz and Five-Card Stud.
- Draw Poker: Classic Western movies use draw games, where players get five cards and either stand or draw cards between betting rounds. Variations include the 2-7 Triple Draw and the lowball game Badugi.
Some poker sites offer mixed games, where you move between formats after fixed intervals. Examples include Eight-Game and HORSE Poker.
Wrapping up: enjoying free poker online in Canada
Poker has become a mainstream hobby, with many different ways to enjoy a game free or for real money. You can access free poker games in Canada via social apps on your mobile devices, through social media sites, via sweepstakes gambling sites, or in the ‘play money’ areas of international real money poker sites.
While the standard of your opponents is poor compared to real money games, free poker lets you learn the rules and practice the core strategies. Social sites include missions, challenges, and leader boards, giving them a social element.
Check out the no deposit bonuses available at real money poker sites. They let you take a shot at real tournaments or cash games, without risking any of your own money. With a good run of cards, and some poker skill, you might be able to build this into a big real money poker bankroll.