First I will ask some important questions and throughout the article I will answer them to give you a full understanding of freeroll tournaments. Who can benefit from playing freerolls? How does your strategy differ in a freeroll tournament from a normal cash tournament?
Let’s start with the most important question: Who can benefit from playing freerolls? Freeroll tournaments are no buy-in tournaments where usually hundreds or thousands of players register for a very small price pool. Sometimes you see 2 000 people fighting for $50-$100! (About 5-6 years ago, when many players have started online poker, the freeroll possibilities were a lot better and the poker rooms provided better freeroll options for new players.)
These freerolls can give you a free chance to play poker if you are a new player and want like to get some experience. You can play these freerolls and get a feeling of what the process of the game is. You can learn how the hands are played from the beginning until the end, the importance of position; see how the blind levels change the playing style of people etc. Freerolls give you a great chance to start your poker career without depositing any money, or put another way: it is a risk free way to play poker for money. However until you fight your way to the end of freeroll tournaments, you have to play tens or hundreds of freerolls and maybe you do not have the time for that. I mean you can imagine how hard it is to be in the top 20 of 2000 people to win $5-$10. Not even mentioning that with such a small amount of money if you get a bad beat on a NL$10 table, you lose all your winnings and you can start your freeroll tournaments all over again. (This whole process can take months or even years!) This is why bankroll management is a key factor when you win. You should not throw away your freeroll winnings but consider seriously how you want like to invest it.
Now comes the most important part of the article: How does your strategy differ in a freeroll tournament from a normal cash tournament? You have to play a completely play a different strategy. As it is a free registration tournament, many players do not want to wait for premium hands and they go all-in with all kinds of hands in the first hour. This means you have to play a lot tighter strategy than in real money tournaments as the bluff factor does not work well. You should play premium hands only, and when you get them, do not try to be tricky, play them hard and fast because often someone will call your bets and pay you off with second or third pair.
You also have to think about the advantages of other players going all-in with all the time. In a $150 buy-in tournament it does not make any sense if to go all-in in the first blind level. Someone makes a call with a TsTh or JsJc type of hand and risks the elimination from the tournament. In a freeroll it will happen often that your opponents push with small pairs, unsuited aces with small kicker like Ad7s, or simply with two high cards like KsJh. Even if AQ is not my favorite hand, in a freeroll tournament I would call an all-in with it if I had the right pot odds.
It is also important to mention that freerolls are usually not deep stacked or slow blind level tournaments. If you find one where the level change and the blind structure are slower and deeper, then you can be a bit more patient and not make calls with AQ type of hands.
Even in freerolls there are time when there are not too many loose players even in freerolls and you can take advantage of your skills and start bluffing successfully. When the field is close to the money (or to the bubble), most players start playing their best poker and try to reach the price. During this period the tournament looks more like a small buy-in real money tournament than a freeroll.
This is the right time to build your stack and give yourself a chance to win the tournament. Of course do not be eager and enter every pot. Although in late positions you can try to steal some blinds and antes. Once you reach a high enough stack (after you steal 4-5 times the pot) you can even increase it even easier in the following rounds as the other players realize that you have so much money that it is not good to mess with you and they rather fold their hands. With this strategy sometimes you run into huge hands and eliminate yourself from the tournament but other times you will give yourself a chance to win the tournament with the largest price pool.
This will compensate for all your losses in other situations when you would always reach the money but with so small stack size that you would not have a real chance to give yourself the opportunity for the first place.
I do not know how many freerolls you have to play until you have enough money to play at real money tables but if you follow these guidelines you will get there eventually. I wish you a lot of patience and luck in your journey!
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