Increase Your Chances Of Winning a Freeroll Tournament
Freeroll tournaments are a great way to build a bankroll without any risk to your bankroll. Most freerolls have tiny prizes pools, but the Trails of Fortune promotion at 888poker has led to you being able to play for a slice of $1,200 every day and a free shot at a freeroll with a $30,000 prize pool. These are no ordinary freerolls.
There are no guarantees when it comes to poker tournament strategy, I wouldn’t e sat here writing this article if there was! What you can do, however, is approach tournaments, freerolls included, in a manner that gives you the best chance of succeeding. Play your best, avoid the potential pitfalls, and hope Lady Luck is shining down on you.
The first thing to realise about freeroll tournaments is they tend to be frequented with lesser skilled players. That’s something of a sweeping statement because freerolls have good players involved, but there’s a larger percentage of weaker players in them.
It makes sense that this is the case if you think about it logically. Why would you play against a massive field for a small potential prize if you had the skills and bankroll to play in a higher stakes game?
Tight Is Right In the Early Stages
The fact freerolls usually has more than its fair share of players means you should adopt an ABC playing style. This means you keep things simple, limit (if not completely eliminate) bluffs to a minimum and bet your strong hands like your life depends on it. That’s not to say you have to be a complete nit and only place aces and kings, but you should stop three-betting with preflop.
There’s a saying that tight is right when it comes to the early stages of a poker tournament. Well in a freeroll with thousands of entrants, tighter is righter! Yes, that’s proper English, honest.
The first couple of levels of a freeroll are akin to the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan: they’re an absolute bloodbath. Players will be open shoving with all sorts of rubbish and others calling with even worse. You just need to hold your nerve and wait for that monster hand.
Feel free to call an individual or two-way all-in with super-strong hands like aces and kings, but it’s probably worth your while folding even the strongest of hands if there are multiple all-ins and calls. You’ll get plenty of chances to get your chips into the middle as a substantial favourite later on.
Now We Can Play Poker
Congratulations on surviving the first few levels. Have you noticed that around half the field or more has busted? I digress to the earlier conversation about freerolls being frequented by lesser skilled players. What we’re left with now are players who got lucky during the earlier shovefest, and those who are taking the game more seriously and actually playing poker. We can now start to play poker ourselves, now that we’ve weathered the storm.
Take notes on your opponents, especially on the two players to your left and the two to your right. This is because the left will be in the blinds when you have the button and vice versa. You can pick up some easy chips from this selection of players.
Keep an eye on the effective stacks to ensure it’s still mathematically profitable to call with small-to-medium pairs in an attempt to set mine. Freerolls tend to have faster structures so you can quickly go from a playable stack to short in a few orbits.
Continue to push your strong hands, including top pair, because many of the remaining players will call you down with a plethora of draws and much worse hands. What you’ll realise is freeroll tournaments have massive variance attached to them. Be prepared to bust and try again another day.
READ MORE: $100K GTD for a $1 buy-in! Yes, really
Pop Goes The Bubble
You’ll find plenty of opportunities to accumulate chips as the money bubble approaches, just like in any other tournament. Try to attack the stacks who have the most to lose by busting, i.e. those with similar or smaller stacks to you.
There will be players who you can tell from a mile away that are attempting to scrape into the money. You may as well target these players while you’re bullying those other stacks.
A famous tournament pro once told me that when you’re on the bubble you should attempt to burst the bubble yourself because the other players at the table won’t let you. By that he meant be very loose and aggressive and you’ll find your opponents fold like they’ve never folded before because they want to stay in the tournament.
The only exception to this rule, if you’re playing at 888poker, is when the bubble’s approaching in the $1,000 Blast Heights Freeroll. This is because the top 200 places all win the same $5 Blast Ticket. It doesn’t matter if you finish first or 200th, you win the same prize. Hopefully, you’ll have enough chips to fold your way to a prize, if not, this stage of the tournament is all about survival for you.
It’ll be another free for all once the bubble bursts due to the freerolls having a top heavy payout. The short and nano stacks will be pushing all-in like crazy, fingers crossed you get dealt hands that allow you to call and build your stack. Big pairs are good, as are strong aces and similar, but it is often player dependent.
Now we’re in the money it’s time to start building towards the biggest prizes. Just like on the bubble, you want to be putting the most pressure on the players who you can bust. The chip leader at this stage is either running hot, playing great, or a combination of the two. Only one of the reasons for their big stack is enough for them to call you and potentially decimate your stack.
In summary, you want to:
- Play very tight in the early stages
- Avoid any fancy play completely
- Avoid all-in confrontations without a very strong hand
- Remember that chips saved as as precious, if not more so, than chips you win
- Change gears in the middle stages, but still be rather tight
- Take advantage of the bubble dynamics
- Don’t pick unnecessary battles with the chip leader