Online Poker Freeroll Strategies That Don’t Work

Stack of chips. Ethan Miller / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

Last week in this space, we looked at the different ways poker players can approach freeroll tournaments and use them to their advantage. But as with everything in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things; this week, we’re looking at strategies that don’t work for freerolls. 
The good news: It won’t cost you anything to make the following mistakes – at least when it comes to tournament buy-ins and entry fees. But there are other costs to consider, like opportunity costs, and your mental health. With that in mind, here are five things you should generally avoid doing when you’re in a freeroll tournament. 


From a purely strategic standpoint, if focusing on value is the right way to play freerolls, then bluffing has to be the wrong way. Your opponents in these tournaments are far less likely to fold their hands than they are at any other stakes. What looks like a great semi-bluff opportunity in principle is probably not worth the risk; check-raising the flop in Texas Hold’em with three cards to a straight flush (including both your hole cards) will look pretty silly when you get snapped off by someone holding just Ace-High. 

Calling Down Tight

At the same time, when someone puts in piles of chips ahead of you, their range is going to be much weaker than it will be in other tournaments. You definitely don’t want to be folding decent value in these spots. As I mentioned last week, you should have a wider calling range when you play freerolls. Folding tight might help you stay out of trouble, but it’s the kind of trouble you want – a chance to mix it up with players who have napkins for hole cards. 

Playing GTO 

Even if you try to calibrate your bluffs and calls so that you’re perfectly balanced, you’re still not doing it right. The only good reason to play GTO (or make any of these non-recommended plays) in freerolls is for practice. You don’t have to worry about over-exploiting your opponents, and the adjustments they might make in return – they’re almost certainly not thinking at that level. Besides, chances are you’ll never see them at the tables again, given how many thousands of players you’ll typically find at these tournaments. 

Tilting Your Opponents 

There’s a time and a place to drive your opponents insane. Freerolls aren’t it. The vast majority of the players you’ll encounter will be “recreational” players who are there to have a good time, nothing more. Putting them on tilt will only discourage them from coming back. True, as we said before, chances are you’ll never see them again either way, but why upset a potential future customer? Save it for when the stakes get higher. 

Bankroll Building 

In theory, you can build a bankroll without ever making a deposit by starting with freerolls – and you can move up the ranks, knowing for sure that you have what it takes to beat each level along the way. There’s some merit to that approach. However, if you’re actually any good at poker, this is the very, very, very long, and roundabout way to do it. Time is precious; use yours wisely by playing freerolls for fun and practice, and build your bankroll by investing money from your day job instead. You do have a day job, right? Oh, dear…