Sage Advice from The Poker Counselor
I was checking out The Poker News for the first time and caught this article by John 'Poker Counselor' Carlise. I identified with the question because I started out the same way at Tiger Gaming by setting myself the goal of winning $1 million in play chips before I started playing for cash. Now hopefully I get better before losing $1 million in real money. :)
"By using the free play tables to learn and practice the basics of posting blinds, understanding the basic strategies of position and betting, and just knowing the 'flow' of the game will certainly increase your overall experience remarkably. It is my hope that you do know that playing for play money and playing for real money are two distinctly different worlds. Even players at the smallest micro-limits online take the game seriously and are looking to grind out profits."
This next part definitely made me feel better. Either that or it's a clever plot to make me feel it's alright to keep putting in money. Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you! :)
"...winning consistently in the play money realm probably has very little correlation with the rate of success in real money game. As you venture into the real money games, be sure that your goals are set appropriately. I urge you not to gauge yourself and your success on the money won or money lost. Instead, keenly focus on your game and your overall improvement. Use a journal or online tracker to see your play in an analytical light."