Freeroll poker tournaments are one of the most popular tools among online poker room operators to draw new players and keep existing players satisfied. Therefore, the internet is full with online freeroll tournaments with prizes going up to thousands of dollars and more. The no-risk element of freerolls attracts thousands of players and more than a few fish. A professional poker player should always remember that his goal is to be as profitable as possible in any given moment. Playing massive freerolls usually takes a considerable amount of time which considerably reduces your hourly profits. Most likely you will make more money playing regular ring games. Our recommended strategy for freeroll tournaments is aiming to either turn you into a solid leader in the tournament or get you out of the game so you can move to the next freeroll. Remember that you are investing nothing but your time. Hence you must learn how to gain as much as you can with as little of it as possible.
When playing in a regular online poker tournament you are always recommended to play as tight as possible and not risk being busted in the early stages. In a money tournament you wish to progress as slowly as possible and not risk blowing your investment early in the game. Freeroll tournaments on the other hand are completely different. The key is to play smart and loose. Do not play any cards your get and fold when you get garbage but try limping into several pots with a small pocket pair or even suited connecting cards. If you lose the damage is unsubstantial and you might get lucky with the board on more than one occasion. In this occasion do not be afraid to double and even triple up. Be careful if you are going to be bluffing.
When you receive a high pair (AA, KK and sometimes QQ) try to max on it. You will surprised to see how many people will call your all-in. Players will be much more ready to risk their chips before the flop with only a K8 in their hand than after they will see the board and get disappointed. If you have a solid hand max your profits on it. If this will not work you can move to the next free tournament! Remember this little good in bluffing in these tournaments as the game is extremely loose. Try bluffing and you are certain to be called by at least one or two players. Your goal in this stage is to either accumulate a large stack or move on to the next game. Hundreds of players are going to be knocked out early and most due to beginners mistakes.
Assuming you used our strategy for the first parts of the online poker tournament you are supposed to be in a relatively good position by now or you have already lost. Try and get into every pot you think you can win. This does not mean you should play garbage cards or try to draw on the river unlikely hands but play smart and always take into account the position your in. In this part of the tournament you should stick only to raising or folding. There is no sense in calling other bets. You should play strong hands only and try to either steal the blinds or double up on tight players. Raise aggressively for most of the time but do use judgment and do not bluff unless you see a sure path. If a short stacked player gets in the pot and you hold a dominating hand raise him for an all-in. Although knocking players by yourself is not a great idea it might help you in creating an image of a bully. Make weaker players fear and fear being targeted.
Do not get in the middle of others confrontations because you more than likely to get burned. If to players are raising and re-raising each other to the point that one of them is bound to bust out you should leave it to them. Generally if there are more than a couple of all-ins and similar large bets you should stay away and fold.
Position is everything in your hand selection. When playing late positions stick to the top dominating cards (AA, KK, AK) and raise and re-raise constantly, tough you should consider folding to all-in re-raises with the AK. From mid positions diversify your play and raise with hands such as AJ, AQ and QQ suited or not. If you are being re-raised you should fold. From the early positions limp in to as many pots as possible. Add connecting suited cards all the way down to 98 and consider using suited cards with a one card gap (i.e. QT).
Play tough and do not let yourself to be pushed around. Considering you are playing only high or even dominating cards you are most likely to have an advantage for most of the time. Note that many calls should be made with knowledge and sense that are mostly reached by experience and practice.
When you have reached the end of the tournament, meaning the final table, there is only one thing that should determine your strategy onward – stack size. This is the time to start gaining chips as fast and as much as possible. Let's go over the few possible situations you can encounter at this point:
Very short stacked – this means you are going to be all-in by the next round of blinds or near bet. There are only to options open for you – folding or going all-in. Fold if you see that the remaining players are battling among themselves (and not considering you as a threat). Fold if there are more than two or three people on the table and try to wait for a more favorable hand. Go all-in with every pocket pair or high face card and if no one has gone all-in before you. At this point you have nothing to lose so bet aggressively as you can.
Short stacked – You have a couple of new options with this relatively higher stack. In this position you can afford yourself to be a bit pickier with the hands you play. Remember that any move you make will require a big raise or going all-in. Before raising see who already called the hand, the bigger stacks or the short stacks. Remember that it is easier to raise a hand in an early position than call it from a later position. With AA or KK feel free to raise with about a half of your stack or even more. If there is more than one all-in or even one and a call, fold. Limp into the fold with suited connectors but fold if faced with an all-in or a substantial raise fold without a question. Generally limp into pots only if you are trying to squeeze someone for his last chips or if there are two or more other limpers.
Medium stack – This is quite a comfortable position. You can afford yourself to either play like a maniac or play tight as a rock. If you are choosing to play tight you can use the same basic strategy for a short stack but with bigger raises and more aggression. Raise or call every hand you play without hesitation. In conclusion fold with every hand that has very few possible outs but otherwise play with aggression and bully shorter stacks. Playing like a maniac is a less favorable path but it can be very useful under one condition – an extremely tight table. If all other players play tight go wild. Play with any face card, any pair or any connecting cards (even with 1-2 gap). Stop with this strategy as soon as someone will confront you.
Large stack – Bully the shorter stacks without a shame. If you manage to get them all-in then strive to get to a Heads Up position even with bad cards. If someone limps into the flop raise with more than three times the big blind. Do not call big raises of this sort unless you have strong cards. Suited face cards, an Ace with a small kicker and any pocket pair starting with 88 or above should do. It is ideal to be either the first or the last to act and try to selectively avoid raising from the middle. You might be raised and re-raised before you notice. Either set the pace or dominate the hand.
If the other players or attacking each other, let them bust each other out. Do not get into major confrontations without an extremely strong hand (AA or KK). If there are no other aggressive players, attack without shame. You need to have a strong playing image at this time. If there is one thing you cannot afford at this point is being bullied. Play any pocket pair and even face card with raises of more than half your stack.
Article submitted by Alex Chamberlain, 12/12/2005