Cafrino is a free site, but it isn’t really a play-money site. Play-money sites are useless. You end up with people who play very poorly, if not all-in every single hand. Why bother to grind it out, if there’s no pain involved in losing? Just try to hit the jackpot every hand.
Cafrino is different, because there is something at stake. They offer real-money prizes, even though it never costs you anything to play. Instead, there is a constant stream of video ads playing at the right of the page while you’re playing. That’s how they earn their money, and that money goes into prize pools.
To get started, you play a series of ladder tournaments, which usually have to have three people to begin. You start at level 1, and Cafrino has seemingly acknowledged that those tournaments are a joke. They start as soon as two players sit at the table. Both players win tickets to level 2, although the “winner” receives one “Cafrino chip.” At level 2, they get a little more serious. There has to be a minimum of three players, and only the winner advances to the next level. The remaining tournaments are the same setup, with first place advancing, second place staying at the same level, third place going back one level, fourth (if playing) going back two levels, etc. Climb through the levels and win level 9 and you earn a ticket to a weekly $500 freeroll, played on Sundays at 3 p.m. Eastern.
Winning also higher level tournaments also pays higher and higher amounts of Cafrino chips. You can also get free Cafrino chips once an hour by pushing a button at the top of the screen. What are those chips good for? They are your entry into multi-table tournaments that pay real money, anywhere from a $1 prize pool to several hundred dollars.
The added element of there being something at stake in the games causes most (but not all) players to take them more seriously. There are, of course, always bingo players moving all-in at the drop of a hat, especially at the lower-level ladder tournaments or in the early rounds of the multi-table tournaments. Sometimes, of course, they get lucky and put together big stacks. And some otherwise serious players seem to adopt a “go big or go home” attitude early in the multis, looking to get an advantage early on, rather than grind out a small stack for three or four hours.
All in all, it’s a decent place to play. It allows me to get some practice against unpredictable opponents and to try out different styles of play. If you’re missing online poker, like I was, check them out at http://www.cafrino.com. There is no cost to join and never anything to buy.