Online Poker Freeroll Strategies That Work

A Casino card dealer talks with a guest during a game of poker. Octavio Jones/Getty Images/AFP

Imagine playing tournament poker with a guaranteed infinite return on your investment. That’s exactly what you get when you play freerolls – okay, technically, you can punt every single tournament and have zero ROI, but you’d have to lose on purpose. You want to win, right? Good, because in this article, I’m going to show you how to crush these incredibly soft tournaments and build a bankroll from scratch – no deposits required.

Freerolls for My People

Before I do, a quick note about freerolls: They’re not as widely available as they used to be. Some online poker rooms have decided to shift their emphasis towards getting players to deposit, so they’ve severely restricted their freerolls – you might need an invitation, usually in the form of a free ticket given to depositors.

But if you open accounts at multiple rooms, as you should, you’ll be able to access plenty of these free tournaments. You also don’t have to use freerolls to build a bankroll. They’re great practice on their own, especially for newer players; for zero risk, you can try out all sorts of crazy strategies at the table.

Do you still get a little antsy anytime you bluff-raise? Play some freerolls where all you do is raise, no matter what cards you’ve got. Do you have trouble folding? In a freeroll, you can fold the best pre-flop hands, like pocket Aces in Texas Hold’em. You can even fold them face-up if you really want to flex on your opponents.

Wide Right

Now let’s assume you really want to win one of these tournaments. As a general rule, the lower the stakes, the easier the competition will be – and there aren’t any lower stakes than zero. Most of the players at your table will be splashing around with sub-optimal holdings, so you can take advantage by avoiding bluffs, and widening your value range.

Here’s an example from No-Limit Texas Hold’em, the format for almost all the freerolls out there. In a regular NLHE tournament, there’s pretty much no way in heck you should be calling an open-shove in the early levels with something as poor as Ace-Ten off-suit.

In a freeroll? It’s still a bit risky, even more so if you’re calling from an early position, but Ace-Ten will be ahead a lot of the time. The fact that you have an Ace in your hand makes it less likely your opponent will have Ace-Jack, Ace-Queen, Ace-King, or a pair of Aces.

Only Shallow

While you’re concentrating on value hands, note that the stack sizes in freerolls are usually pretty shallow, even in the early levels, so you probably won’t have too many opportunities to play speculative hands like small pairs and suited connectors in Hold’em.

If you can get in cheap (remember the 20:1 rule for how big the effective stacks need to be in comparison to your bet size), great, but don’t keep chasing your draws if you don’t connect on the flop – unless you can see the next street for cheap again.

Finally, make a note of the prize distribution for your freeroll. If the prizes are all tournament tickets, and you only need to finish “in the money” to get one, treat your freeroll in much the same way you would a satellite tournament – the one place where folding pocket Aces can make strategic sense if you’ve already accumulated enough chips to earn your prize.

Again, the best thing about freerolls is that they’re free, so in the end, you can use whatever strategy you want at no cost to yourself. Take advantage, stretch your poker envelope to the maximum, and you’ll be a better player for it when the stakes go up.