Most freerolls have restrictions on the ‘won’ money, you can’t withdraw it unless you make a minimum deposit or play a certain number of ‘raked’ hands. That’s ok! Using your winnings from the freerolls to enter ‘small stakes’ tournaments or penny ante ‘ring’ games will give you much needed practice time without risking your own money. Playing ‘ring’ games also earns you the ‘rake’ needed to eventually make a withdrawal.
The goal in any tournament is to finish ‘in the money’! You invest between one and three hours of your time in each tournament. You want to be paid for that time. In order to be a successful tournament player you will have to develop thick skin and practice patience. For the best online poker tournaments, click here.
Beginning or Starting Stage
Freerolls are full of inexperienced players. Within the first half hour you will see at least one third of the field become eliminated. Your first goal is to not become one of these casualties. The strategy is quite simple. Fold! Don’t play a hand for at least the first fifteen minutes. Let the risk takers go to it, they’ll eliminate each other! Take this time to study the players. A few of them will be around later, when you want to be in the action. Make notes.
Remember, these reckless players will be the ‘big stacks’ at the tables when the smoke finally clears. Amongst them there will be a few experienced players. You will want to know who they are later so look for them during the flurry of ‘all-in’ action. They’ll be the ones with the pocket aces or kings. These experienced freeroll players have there own strategy, they want to be the chip leader (big stack) once the dust settles.
They will take risks, with good hands, early in the tournament in order to achieve that goal. These people will also become the table bully’s later on. You want to avoid them as much as possible until the latter stages of the tournament.
So, you’ve survived the first half hour. You’re bored to death by now and want to get some chips in play! This is a critical time in the game for you, I’ll call it the middle stage. It’s time to build your stack. The ‘blinds’ are still reasonably low and you’ve still got most of your original chips, let’s go to work!
During the middle stages of the game you only want to play really good hands. We recommend sticking to these 5 starting hands; AA , KK, QQ, AK, AQ. Position is not important! Most freeroll players do not understand the importance of being in late position or being on the button. If they don’t get it, they won’t respect it.
Always bet or raise, never call. Slow playing is death, avoid it at all costs. It is better to bet/raise at least 4X the total of both blinds. You will often take down the pot then and there. At most, you will narrow down the field to one or two opponents. If an opponent pushes all-in after your raise, call! The odds are most likely in your favour. Remember, this is poker, eventually you have to gamble!
Assuming you have a caller or two, we’re about to see a flop. Now it’s time to analyze your hand. Did you catch top pair or better? If you have K K, did an ace show on the flop? Is there a straight or flush possibility for you or, more importantly, for your opponent? Always, Always, Always, determine whether you have the best possible hand!
You’ve studied your hand. You either have the best of it or you don’t. If you do, we push hard. Go all-in! Forcing your opponent to make a huge decision is your best play. By taking the aggressive approach you avoid making tough decisions later. If you get called, cross your fingers and hope that your hand holds up or improves on the turn or river. This is your strategy even when your opponent acts first and bets ahead of you, Yes, even if he/she pushes all-in ahead of you, make the call!
What if you didn’t catch on the flop? You’re sitting with K K and an ace showed up or you have A Q and the flop was 10 8 4. You may have second or third best pair, now what?
If you are first to act: Make a semi bluff, bet half the pot! Experienced players will probably respect the bet and fold or if they did make their hand, they will likely come back at you with a re-raise. Inexperienced players may call (chase) with a poor hand. This is where your notes come in!! If you have pegged your opponent as a good, solid player get out of his way, live to fight another day. But, if your notes indicate the opponent is loose, likes to chase, then stick with the hand and see the turn card. Remember that you had one of the best starting hands in poker, there is still a good chance you will win the pot.
If your opponent acts first after the flop:
1. He checks. You bet half the pot, same scenario as above. Being the agressor is always best!
2. He places a minimal bet. Call. You may improve your hand on the turn. If not, fold to any substatial bet on the river. Only engage your opponent if you improve your hand. Remember, he may be making value bets, keeping them small to entice you to call, be careful!
3. He places a big bet (half the pot or more). Fold! Save your chips for another confrontation.
The only time you will deviate from this plan is when you are the ‘big blind’ and everyone folds or calls. It’s always good to see a cheap flop! Just remember to fold to any bet if you don’t catch a monster hand on the flop!
The End Game
The end game as when the field has been reduced to the final 25 percent. The blinds will be getting fairly substantial and lucrative. There will soon be ante’s as well.
You will make it to this stage in just one out of every four or five freerolls as a beginner. Chances are, you have a moderate chip stack, enough to pay the blinds between 10 and 20 times. It’s time to become more aggressive. You need to build your stack in anticipation of the battle to come. The final table!
Now is the time to add more starting hands to your arsenal. The players who have been at your table for a while won’t be expecting you to shift gears, you have their respect by now, take advantage of it! We’ll begin playing pocket pairs more aggressively, J J, 10 10, 9 9. You’re looking to take the blinds. Betting aggressively pre-flop (5X big blind) will win you a good percentage of pots without a confrontation. In the event that you do get a caller, you have a respectable hand with potential to improve. Once in a while you will run into a huge re-raise. My advice; fold! You will win more pots than you lose, taking your lumps once in a while is expected.
It’s also time to add ‘suited connectors’ to your portfolio. K Q, Q J, J 10, 10 9, of the same suit can be lethal. Use them cautiously, Raise from the small blind, limp in from other positions. Try to get a cheap look at the flop. When you connect with one of these hands you usually end up with a monster. A straight or flush, 2 pair… deadly against those pocket kings and aces. Your goal is to steadily build your stack in order to arrive at the final table in a respectable position. You won’t be the chip leader but you shouldn’t be the short stack. We hate being short stack!!
The Final Table
You’re in the money, time to take the gloves off. Your targets: The short stacks! Look for the openings, be the bully. Sticking with your above arsenal of starting hands begin attacking the short stacks while avoiding the chip leaders. Keep working toward adding to your stack while depleting theirs.
Most tournaments operate with ten players per table. Your mission is to avoid engaging the big stacks until there are only 5 or 6 players left. This is very difficult but crucial. They’ll be picking on you. Let them! This is where your patience and thick skin will pay dividends. Once you’re down to the final 6 players, you have no choice. Begin engaging the leaders but do it smart. Tighten up, play only your best starting hands. Protecting your stack is paramount.
If the leaders can’t find a weakness to exploit in your game they’ll turn on each other. You can easily move up a couple places in the standings without risking your chips by playing this way. Keep in mind that every time an opponent is eliminated, you earn more money! Let the other players do the dirty work and risk there chips.
Once you are down to the final 3 or 4 contenders you will have to play much more aggressively. The blinds wil eat up your stack if you sit back and don’t make some moves. At this point, any Ace or any 2 face cards will do. Be aggressive!