Poker freeroll tournaments represent a great way to learn about the game and potentially kick-start your poker bankroll without risking any of your own cash.
As the name suggests, these tournaments are free to enter and often offer real cash prizes or entries to tournaments with cash prizes, so they are an excellent way to enter the world of online poker with minimum risk.
The thing about freeroll tournaments is that you’ll need to adjust your strategy to do well in them.
Many of the general poker principles and strategies still apply in freerolls as well, but making certain adjustments and understanding how these are different from paid tournaments will help you improve your results.
Early Strategy For Freerolls: Tight Is Really Right
You’ve probably heard it before that “tight is right” in poker. However, as you move through the limits and start playing with more competent players, you’ll learn that you can’t just play tight and expect to win. You’ll become too predictable, and good players will know how to take advantage of that.
But in freerolls? Yeah, you need to be super-tight early on.
Everything you may have learned about bluffing and picking your spots won’t apply in freerolls.
It doesn’t matter if you are playing on PokerStars, which is one of the biggest UK poker sites or anywhere else, during first levels, you’ll be playing against many players who are just starting to learn poker and maybe don’t even know all the rules of the game. So they will be looking you up with all kinds of hands.
Additionally, these players will tend to make ridiculous raises before the flop. If someone is raising 10 or 20 times the big blind pre, you can’t afford to play anything but premiums.
So sit tight, wait for big hands like AK and big pocket pairs, and when you get it, go full ham with it. You might even open shove over a 10x raise and get looked up by 45 suited.
The fact of the matter is, a bulk of your edge in freerolls will come through superior hand selection before the flop. Don’t expect to outplay your opponents after the flop unless you flop a monster and are going for the value.
Stay tight, play your big hands strong and straightforward, and don’t try to get fancy – it will usually blow up in your face. If you are not sure how to select those hands, you can take a look at these poker cheat sheets and take full advantage of this information.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Your Chances
Since these MTTs are free to enter, freerolls will often feature big fields. You’ll have to get through hundreds and even thousands of players often for a shot at a relatively small payday. In every big tournament, you’ll need to get lucky to win but especially so in freerolls.
If you see a good spot to build your stack, don’t be afraid to go for it.
For example, if you have a strong flush draw and there is some action in front of you, don’t overthink it. You can jam your stack in and try to realize your EV, by either picking up the pot or have a good gamble to build your stack.
It is especially true during the early stages of a freeroll while there are still many people to go before you reach the money.
While you want to be tight and conservative before the flop, you really can’t afford to be missing on excellent opportunities to chip up.
Unlike in high buy-in events, in most freeroll tournaments you’ll find have fast structures, so if you aren’t building up your stack, you’ll soon find yourself in a danger zone. If you bust, there is always another freeroll.
Apply Pressure on the Bubble in Poker Freerolls
While people tend to be loose and crazy in the early stages of these events, you’ll notice a significant shift as the money bubble approaches.
Since there are usually not many experienced players in these fields, a majority of those remaining will switch to a much tighter style to try and squeeze into the money.
The bubble is a good opportunity for you to ramp up the aggression and steal some chips without any resistance.
You should be raising a lot of hands from late positions and trying to win pots either preflop or by firing a c-bet on the flop. More often than not, people will be happy to let you have it unless they connect with the board.
Making a min-cash in a freeroll tournament shouldn’t be your primary concern. These amounts are usually so small that you’d have to make the money 50 or 100 times to have anything resembling a poker bankroll.
One win or a couple of final table finishes, on the other hand, could have you all set up and ready to rock.
This isn’t to say you should completely disregard the money bubble, of course. If you’re on the short stack or there is someone else playing extremely aggressively, there is no point in just giving your stack away.
But if you have an opportunity to play the table captain for some hands, definitely go ahead and do it.
Arm Yourself with Patience
The final advice about playing freeroll tournaments is that you’ll need a lot of patience to make any meaningful money from these. With people playing it loose and crazy, you’ll see and experience some tough bad beats, and you’ll bust more than a fair share of these events.
If you’re committed to playing freerolls to build your poker bankroll and sharpen your skills, there is nothing wrong with going for it. But be prepared for what’s ahead of you.
You must understand that most players won’t be treating freerolls as “real” poker.
They get in for free, play for a bit, and then they might get bored or decide to try a “creative” play they saw on TV. A lot of it won’t make sense if you know something about the game, but that’s how it goes in freerolls.
If you’re expecting quality play and want to understand your opponents, these aren’t for you.
Freeroll tournaments will teach you discipline, solid preflop hand selection, and how to apply pressure on the bubble. So focus on the positives and don’t worry too much about results or variance.
It’s an essential part of tournament poker in general, so at least you’ll be well-prepared for what comes next in your career.