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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Poker Plus - Freeroll Mania

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Players who are trying to build a bankroll for free have one option; to play in Freerolls and hope to win. Sounds easy right? Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds. If you don’t believe me, go read the Chasing Chris Ferguson Blog, especially the adventures of “MaxieCat” and see how hard she struggled trying to win a Freeroll.

Freerolls are great fun, the downside is it is harder and harder to find any that have a cash prize pool. Many of the Freerolls offered, like on PokerStars, are satellites to Freerolls that do pay cash. In a Freeroll like the Hubble’s NLH on PokerStars, if you are in the top 99 finishers, you will win a ticket to a Round 2 Freeroll, where the prize pool is $2,000 and first place is $276.00. Not bad at all for a free tournament right? The real challenge is winning it of course, because to get that $276 you will only have to beat up to 4999 other players.

Freerolls are just that, FREE. And, because they are free, anyone can, and everyone does enter them. This means you will be playing against a huge field full of players who are playing luck, trying to either amass a bunch of chips early or bust out. With this kind of play from up to 12,000 players, you can see the obstacles looming in front of you. Your pocket Aces will very seldom stand up and most pots are capped all the way through with several players in them. The Freeroll player thinks, “Any 2 will do!” and proves it by playing every hand, no matter what they have. This of course makes your odds of winning with a good hand even slimmer.

The good news is there are hundreds of Freerolls to choose from, Freeroll mania is alive and well at all poker sites online - check out Full Tilt Poker. The bad news is they are hard to win because they are full of Freeroll maniacs.

How can you beat the Freeroll Maniacs and win a Freeroll then? There are as many theories as solid advice on that subject. Myself, I have been successful by playing my usual game and trying not to risk all of my chips against the maniacs early on. Of course this is easier said than done if you get A-A on the button, in which case you have to fly blind on instinct. Just don’t be surprised when they get stuffed by pocket fives!

Players try different tricks when playing Freerolls, one is to “sleep” through the first small blind levels. They sleep by sitting out until they think the maniac mania has calmed down, and then they sit in and play. This tactic doesn’t appear to work, as by the time the blinds are 200/400, the sleeper now has maybe a 1200 stack to do battle with. He ends up all-in within a few hands trying to take a shot at a pot, often with a hand that is barely playable. Rarely this works and he doubles his stack, more often he busts out and is on his way to another Freeroll, just around the corner. Just because the blinds increase, doesn’t mean the quality of play increases along with them. Players short stacked are taking fliers at pots trying to build some chips up. These players are as likely to show you 9-7 off-suit as pocket Kings.

Playing in Freerolls can be fun, maddening, irritating, exasperating and profitable. They are also exhausting and LONG! If you are fortunate enough to get past the bubbles and hit pay dirt, you may have spent five hours getting there. This is why towards the end, especially on week nights, it is common to see many “sleepers” at the end just like you saw at the beginning. Some players simply have to go to bed because they have real day jobs they have to get up for. Few employers would understand if you were late for work because you had been playing poker on your computer until midnight!

Other sleepers however have a different reason for sitting out at the end; they hope they have enough chips to sail into the money by not playing. They don’t want to risk their chips, so they sit out and hope for the best. I have only done the sleeper thing once, when I was sick and had to go to bed. I do admit it was fun to get up in the morning and see where I placed while I was asleep, but my code of poker etiquette normally won’t let me quit until the game is over. When playing in a Freeroll that pays a ticket for 1st-99th, continuing to play is a senseless waste of time though, as there is no more to win. It would be nice to see poker sites pay maybe $1 to first and a few cents to the last 9 players, anything to give players an incentive to keep playing. As it stands, the only thing to achieve at the end is Tournament Leader points, which I will never have enough of to make collecting them worthwhile anyway.

Remember when playing in Freerolls, don’t expect stellar play or even tournament savvy, because they are rarely seen. For an experienced tournament player, lack of basic tournament knowledge by the other players can have you shaking your head until your ears ring.

The most common mistake I see in Freerolls is a player betting into a dry side pot, one or two off the bubble, when they have nothing but a draw. They have no concept that the object is to bust players and to do that means you don’t bluff an all-in player. I can’t count how many times I have been in a pot with one all-in and 1 or 2 other players, when one of them bets nothing and knocks us other players out of the pot. The bettor makes nothing, one of us who folded would have won, but now the player who was all-in shows a hand that beats the bettor and is back in the game instead of being busted out.

Most Freeroll players have no clue that the proper play is to check, hoping one of the players makes a hand to send the all-in player packing. Of course if you make a monster nut hand in this situation, by all means bet it to build a side pot, but only when you are positive you can beat the all-in player. And, just so you don’t think I am knocking Freeroll players, I have seen this same thing done time after time in cash buy-in tournaments as well. This happened to me recently, in a $22 buy-in Stud H/L tournament, at the final table of all places. Which proves again, just because a player can afford the buy-in, doesn’t mean they play any better than they do in a Freeroll.

When playing in Freerolls, like other games, you have to play your game, what works best for you. But, if how you play is not working, consider changing gears and styles of play. Personally I hate hands like small suited connectors, I never have any luck with them, but maybe you do. If so, then you should play them in the right spot of course. What works for one player doesn’t necessarily work for another, which is why you have to play YOUR game, not try to emulate someone else.

Yes, you can win Freeroll tournaments; all you need is a million pounds of patience, hours of free time, unlimited perseverance and the incredible luck of the Irish! Like the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, TRY, TRY again” which is so true when playing in Freerolls.

Give Freerolls a try, Download one of the poker sites here on PokerWorks and see if you have what it takes to win one!

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