Everybody’s gotta start somewhere. Sooner or later, if you are interested in playing poker, you are going to be playing a live game. Whether you are new to the game, or if you have been playing online, bar poker leagues are a great way to get used to live play without risking your own money.

For the purposes of this article I will use the bar poker league sponsored by The World Poker Store in Minnesota, however there are countless bar poker leagues across the nation. To find one nearest you I can be as easy as walking into a bar that has a Texas Holdem Tournament sign. Most tournaments are held one a week at rotating bars.

The World Poker Store has created a tournament in Minnesota that is held seven days a week out of a rotating group of over 40 bars and restaurants. Each location has the option of holding either one or two no-limit Texas Holdem poker tournaments each day, whatever day of the week they see fit. Each tournament is supervised by a representative of The World Poker Store that is available to contest any play and enforce all applicable rules including blind increases and rule infractions.

These tournaments are easy to sign up for. You can sign up either online at www.theworldpokerstore.com or in person the day of the tournament. All locations are posted online as well as the state and district standings, but more about that later.

Sign up for tournaments usually begins at least one hour before play is to begin and many locations also hold a practice game in the time before play begins. Due to the constant additions to all games, new players are often accepted and most players are patient when it comes to unclear understandings of chip values and times that blinds should be posted.

If you are new to live play, these games are a great way not only to learn poker terminology, but also player interactions and acceptable poker room etiquette. Yes, I know that it’s poker, a game that was made famous by the likes of Wild West outlaws Doc Holliday and Wild Bill Hickock, but there is a certain understanding and honor amongst players that should be adhered to. Polite play is always encouraged, but getting emotional over hands is inevitable and usually overlooked depending on the circumstances.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to worry about risking your own money and dealing with harsh sentiments when it comes to real money being in play. While there is nothing wrong with learning poker in casinos, it is much more common that you will come across players that aren’t as accepting of slow play and amateur-like play.

Of course, there is an added incentive to playing in free bar poker leagues, the World Poker Store league in particular: the chance to win a free seat at the World Series of Poker valued at $10,000. Every six months there is a tournament amongst the top 200 players in each district (central, northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast) are invited to a state tournament at Jackpot Junction Casino to determine the best in state. The winner of the tournament wins the coveted spot in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker Championship and the chance to win millions in prize money (2006 winner Jeremy Gold won $12,000,000). Other places at the state tournament win prizes that range from trips to Poker Fantasy Camp, poker tables, chips sets, etc.

To earn points all you need to do is show up. Just for playing in a tournament you are given 5 points. Additional points can be earned for making it to the final table. First place receives 100; second place 90, third 80 and so on until eight place receives 30 points. Additional prizes are awarded to the top two or three places (prizes vary from gift certificates to chip sets) Points are added up and maintained online so that you can check out not only your district rating, but also your rating overall in state.

Practice, play, risking nothing, but potentially win the most coveted prize in poker, not to mention a hell of a lot of money. That is what the World Poker Store brings to the table. Other bars offer their own prizes ranging from bar tabs, cash prizes and even trips. Check your local bar for times, dates, rules and prizes. Nothing wagered? That’s okay; it doesn’t mean you can win more that you ever imagined.