Freerolls are, as the name suggests, free-to-enter online poker tournaments which are laid on to attract casual players and to help you to build a bankroll.
Most big poker sites will offer daily or weekly freerolls with $1,000 or $2,000 prizepools up for grabs. You might be required to use some player points to enter, but generally they're open to anyone with a real-money account.
Freerolls are great as they offer little risk, you can get used to a new site's software, and practise your Hold'em strategy before attacking the real-money games.
So, how can you best optimize your freeroll play and ensure you're hitting the money places every time? Let's take a look at some key tips you can utilize next time you're in the freerolls.
Assessing Your Opponents
The first thing to understand in online freerolls is that the a) the quality of your opponents will generally be worse than in a real-money game, and b) they won't be taking the game too seriously.
While we'll accept for now that those are two big generalizations, on the whole you will come across an awful lot of 'fish', newbies to the game, and players just killing time until the next tournament starts.
So, how do these players affect your game? Well, they may not respect your raises too often, they'll open with a ridiculously wide range of hands, and they may call you down to the river in the hope of hitting an unlikely two-outer.
Starting Hands in Freerolls
While freeroll opponents can be the worst fish with the smallest attention spans, it's still important to practise some good hand selection early on. As long as you play solid, ABC poker, the skill factor will always come out on top over those outrageous bad beats.
Early on, stick to a tight range of starting hands. That means raising, from any position, A-K, Q-Q, K-K and A-A. In late position, consider throwing in K-Q suited, J-J or 10-10, depending on how aggressive the players at your table are. The rest of the hands? Just fold.
You want to be isolating players on the flop, so avoid getting into situations where you're 3 or 4-handed seeing a flop. If you have two or more players who ARE playing any two rags, it's difficult to know where you are post-flop. So, stick to strong premium hands, and play them strongly on the flop if you connect.
OK, so you've raised pre-flop with A-K, get three callers, and hit top pair on an A-3-9 board. What now? If one player bets and receives a call, consider an aggressive raise. Don't mess around with standard 3x or 4x raises, think about tossing your entire stack in
The aim, remember, is to take as big a stack as you can to the later stages. Most freerolls will be played Turbo (4 or 5-minute blinds) and you won't have a lot of time to survive with an average stack.
In freerolls, an aggressive 10x or all-in re-raise won't scare off everyone; you'll always get one joker who's willing to risk it all. So, if you have the nuts, be the one getting aggressive.
Later on in the freeroll, when the blinds are getting big in comparison to stack size, you'll have much simpler options: fold or re-shove (re-raise all-in). The re-shove is a great weapon as it puts players to tough decisions late on and also ensures you get a few valuable blinds and antes to add to your stack.
A good re-shove stack is about 20-30x the big blind. Any less than this and you can continue with a 3x-big blind raising strategy, with a fold if someone shoves over the top of you.
Final Table Play
If you're into the money, you'll notice that the play will loosen dramatically. Payouts will often be staggered pretty thinly, meaning everyone in the money gets paid something, and that's when you see plenty of crazy moves.
However, once it gets to the final table, and the bigger payouts, the play will slow up somewhat.
Look out for players raising in early position (EP); they may have the goods. Similarly, restrict your starting hands in EP to the premium hands we discussed earlier: A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, A-K etc.
In late position (LP), in unraised pots, consider widening this to include suited connectors like J-10 or Q-J and smaller pocket pairs. Don't bother with small re-raises if you have a good hand in late position; just go all-in.
Remember the time constraints: by the final table stage everyone will be on an average stack or worse so there's little value in being tricky with opponents. An all-in move is the play straight from the off.
Building Up a Bankroll
Freerolls are great for getting a feel of an online site and testing what the site traffic is like. For players new to poker they are great for practise, and you may even find freerolls in disciplines you're coming to for the first time (Stud, Omaha etc).
Do a little homework on where the best prize freerolls are, and set an online diary with the best ones through the week. In no time you'll have a nice little bankroll with which to attack the SNGs, bigger MTTs and cash games.
Top Freeroll Tips
Find the Best Prizepools
Every decent poker site runs regular freerolls for its players. Find ones with the biggest prizepools and keep a diary of the best ones.
Open Up Several Accounts
Why stick with one poker account when you can open a dozen? Check our list of the best sites and open a real-money account with as many as possible.
Watch Out For LAGs
At the start of a freeroll, consider that ALL your opponents are aggressive and don't have a clue; it will make taking them on so much easier.
Avoid Bluffing and Tricky Play
Don't try to represent too many hands in a freeroll; there will be so much aggression that bluffs will rarely get through. Stick to premium hands, play them properly in position, and get all your chips in if you've hit.