By Jake Koch
What is a freeroll?
A freeroll is a type of poker tournament in which participants do not need to pay a fee to enter. They are primarily played to gain knowledge about the game of poker and for players to improve their skill. Freerolls can be found at almost every poker site on the net with all differing amounts of registrants and prize pools.
Sites can also reward players for their loyalty to the room with special freerolls. These normally have a much higher prize pool and much lower field of players.
Regular poker players often have a perception that poker freerolls are worthless as they are filled with bad players and bad play. Of course if the play was like this in any other game, they would say how fantastic it is, so why is any different for freerolls? The answer is its not, freerolls are a great way to start your bankroll and fairly easy if you know the way to play. So next in the article, is the perfect strategy to beat freerolls. The type of freerolls this strategy should be used for are the general tournaments which are open to anybody and not those that require player points or raked hands etc. as these games have much better standard of play.
Poker Freeroll Strategy
So to place in poker freerolls, you have to have a strategy which ensures you stay the distance but still have enough chips left to be able to go for the win. As freeroll payout structures are generally very top heavy, you need to go for the top positions as you will only be winning pennies if you finish anywhere outside the top 5. Although to reach these positions you will need a chunk of luck, a lot of skill is required. The biggest challenge is to just outlast the first hour in a freeroll, so to start we will go through your opening hour strategy.
In the opening hour, play is at its very worst. You will be facing numerous opponents, happily risking all their chips each hand as they know they have nothing to lose. At this point in the tournament, you need to keep it tight and play much fewer hands as you normally would when you are out of position. Only call an all-in with one of the top 5 hands as it is likely you will be facing more then one opponent which dramatically slashes your odds of winning the pot. You should also try to call as many cheap flops as you can but only when you have position on the rest of the table. Optimum position is the dealer button, where mediocre hands become fairly strong and worthy of a call as long as the pot hasn’t been raised. Hands are more worthy of a call at this stage as if you hit a monster hand; you will more then likely be paid off. I would especially call suited connectors in late position, as any straight or flush is very likely to double or even triple your stack. Around 30 minutes into the tournament most of the bad players will have been eliminated and play should be of a higher standard. Blinds will be higher and may even be worthy of stealing depending on the blind structure. You want to be collecting as many chips as possible coming up to the break as they will be crucially needed in the next stage of the tournament. You can start to loosen your play when you are in earlier positions now and hands such as AJ are playable. As you are nearing the break you may find play on your table becomes much tighter as players do not want to be eliminated just before the break. This is the point in which you need to become the aggressor of the table. Start raising more pots and try bullying players with less then average stacks. You will find your stack increasing all the time and you will also be heading up the leader board. When the break approaches, take a rest and refresh yourself. The next part of the tournament really makes or breaks the game and you need to be fully focused if you want to reach your aim of the top 5.
The middle stage of the tournament starts after the first break and finishes on the bubble. This part decides whether you will be making money from the tournament or be leaving empty handed. You will notice play directly after the break is much looser the that immediately before it. You may want to settle down and be prepared to fold hands and watch the other players battle it out. Of course you still need to be taking down pots, but you need to be much more skilful and not jump straight in. Steal pots whenever you can and by now you should know the weaker players on your table. Use this to your advantage and try to exploit them. You want to be above the average players chip stack.
As the bubble approaches play will change very much like when the break was imminent. US Poker Players will tighten up and pretty much stay out of all hands giving you a great opportunity to steal more pots then usual. I would advise you steer clear of stealing a pot which involves the highest ranked player on your table as they wont be bullied off a pot as easier as others and you will likely become unstuck in your efforts. Lower stacks will practically fold any hand deal to them and they are the premium target of your strategy. Your stack will take a huge boost from just a few pots due to the limit the blinds will have reached in this stage of the tournament. You will find yourself shooting up the leader board and it will not take many hands to put you into your goal of the top 5.
After the bubble has been passed all the players with low chips stacks will be ready to go all-in with almost any hand. This is a complete turn around from their pre-bubble strategy as they are happy to have made the money but know they will need to double up in order to finish in a position which pays a decent amount of money. You again need to tighten up and only play your premium hands, but also picking your spots and using your position to take down pots. This then will take you up to the final table which is the final stage of the freeroll.
Final Stage @ The Final Table
If you have made it all the way to the final table, congratulations your hard work has paid off. Of course you are now here to finish as high as possible. Continue your play from the earlier stage until you are down to the last 5 or 6 players. You then need to play super aggressive and start raising and stealing pots whenever possible. You may also need to pick a spot to double up if you are drifting away from the top 2 players. If you are still in the tournament when play is 3 handed you should be in a great position if you have followed the advice and found your spot to get your chips in to the middle. Your play now really depends on your personal preference. If you are happy to finish second, let the other two players battle it out and knock each other out. If you are going for glory, get involved in the pots. When there are only 3 players left, average hands become much stronger and even worthy of a raise. You should get your money in with any sort of Ace and you are likely to be ahead. If you played to finish second, once down to heads up you are likely to be at a huge deficit in terms of chip stacks and you will need to push with any half decent hand. If you went for glory and managed to knock the other player out, you can now use your chip stack to bully your opponent. Make sure you are forcing them to risk all their chips when you have any sort of hand and it is likely, eventually you will knock them out. They may double up once or twice but unless you get incredibly unlucky, you shall win the tournament.
So, there you have it. Follow the steps for each stage and you will be making more money then ever from playing freerolls.
Jake Koch Professional poker player
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