Have you ever wondered why you never win any of those poker freerolls you play?
For new players they’re called bankroll boosters, exclusive ‘New Player’ events and similar. They look like you could make some easy money but they can end up a source of frustration and bad beat stories.
The reason is you’re doing it wrong!
Read on and ask yourself if you can find your play in any of these categories. If yes, you have something to fix; if not, we’ll take everything back and say you’re just the unluckiest player in the world.
Here are 3 main poker freeroll strategies you’ve seen a hundred times — but still shouldn’t copy.
1) Going All-In All of the Time
How often have you been busted by that terrible player who just moves all-in every single hand? Too often, right? Why do you think this happened? Because the guy is Russian?
If you believe a poker room makes you lose on purpose to favor a worse player — while at the same time trying to make you come back — there’s something wrong with your analytic thinking.
You might think the guy does that because he’s drunk (and he might well be) or maybe he just doesn’t care. But that guy isn’t going to win the tournament even if he gets lucky to bust you.
And that’s why you shouldn’t adopt that strategy. It’s simple. The math is against that strategy and it will catch up with you at some point. The more often this works, the closer you get to the end of that streak. It’s never going to last all the way.
Also, you’re not losing as often as you think. Jot down the hands where you call a random all-in with a better hand. You’ll notice you’re pretty close to what equity expects.
If you let yourself get frustrated and just push in all the time, it won’t take long until you’re picked off by a big pair and that’ll be the end of it. If you don’t believe it, try it a couple of times. After all, it won’t cost you anything.
When you play in a freeroll, don’t bluff. Don’t even think about it. Why? Because of the nine people at your table right now:
3 don’t know how to play 3 are playing in all the freerolls they can find and 2 don’t care at all what they’re doing
Each and every one of your bluffs will be called by a random hand from someone who doesn’t realize he shouldn’t call. And he’ll still have the better hand.
Don’t expect common sense because you won’t find it. The button you clicked on to play in the freeroll shouldn’t read “register.” It should read “you agree to forget common sense.”
In fact the only reason it doesn’t say that is probably because the phrase is too long for one button.
3) Playing ABC Poker
Didn’t you read the paragraph above? You’re trying to apply common sense again. Don’t forget that people do. not. care.
Forget all the poker strategy articles you’ve read because the freeroll world works differently. It’s like a place close to a Black Hole where physics doesn’t work as usual.
Do you think a 3x raise with a good hand will win you the pot if no one else has something? Not gonna happen.
The concept of “raise and take” is also absent from this world. Try it, you’ll see.
Checking it down with someone else to bust a small stack? Not happening either. You’ll face an all-in on the river. Brace yourself.
The Strategy That Works in Freerolls
As we have now established that all traditional strategies don’t work and we’re mostly facing careless and bad players under the influence, we’re going to use that to our advantage.
A few rules of thumb will get you started:
1) Do a Lot of Limping
You won’t find that in a strategy article but do it anyway. Any hand you raise from early position, you’ll probably be faced by an all-in — even in Level 1.
So, you can raise your A-K and J-J+ but you’ll always be up against at least two players. Check a poker odds calculator to see your equity against two random hands; it’s not very good.
Instead, limp with a lot of hands and play the flop. The later your position, the more hands you can limp.
If you flop two pair, push. If you flop a set, push. There’s always someone calling with top pair or even just overcards like A-Q.
2) Call with Top-Top
Even so, you shouldn’t play good hands too aggressively. You should always call something like A-K on a board like A-T-9-5-3.
You’ll sometimes look at 9-5 or even 4-2, but much more often at A-Q, A-J, K-K, Q-Q, J-J or even just second pair. Top pair, top kicker will be the best hand most of the time.
3) Push Your Monsters
If you find pocket jacks or better, don’t slow play. Don’t try to trap; don’t try to be smart.
Just push all-in and wait. Worse hands will call you and, although they will sometimes win (they have to as you never have 100% equity pre-flop), you’ll often build a big stack very early on.
All in all, loose-passive play will get you going. Quite the contrary of what you expected, no?
Return to ABC Poker
When you make it to the deeper stages of a freeroll you can apply ABC poker again as all the punters will be gone. If you make the final, you’ll have to get just as lucky as at any other final table.
Keep these simple rules at heart and you will spare yourself a lot of frustration. Oh, and if you want to play some real poker? You’ll have to put up some real money.