Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How to play freerolls

So in my quest to duplicate Chris Ferguson's feat, I've been playing a lot of freerolls. It's been awhile since I've played so many, and I've had a few thoughts on changing my game plan to accommodate the craziness involved in these types of tournaments.

The main thing about freerolls is that they're freerolls. This means people have no recourse for losing. Many players believe they need to build their stack very quickly. This is wrong in many ways. In general, there is little to gain from building up a quick stack. If you tighten up after building it up quick, the blinds will grow too quickly for you to make use of those chips you just got. If you continue your reign of terror (playing big pots aggressively with weak hands) players at the table will catch on and use you to build their own stack. Yes, you may suck out on AA every once in awhile with 95s, but that doesn't mean you should make it your game plan.

So, here's some things I've been doing. We'll start of with how to play when the big blind is less than 150.

  • Don't raise with anything other than AA, KK, and AKs. The normal reason for raising with other hands is to reduce the field and protect your hand. You can't do this on a loose freeroll. Almost any ace is going to see a flop.

  • Limp a lot with mediocre hands. If you can see a flop cheap with things like J8s and K9s, then do it. Be prepared to dump them with a weak flop, but play them hard if you flop a monster. You will get payed off.

  • Be prepared to fold your big hands when there is too much action. If you are sitting pre-flop with QQ and 5 people have gone all-in, and it costs you all your chips (or most) to make the call, you are better off folding. Sure, you are still going to win around 30% of the time, but that's not enough to make it worth it. Likely, you will lose. Even if you win, those chips wont be worth the risk you took to get them.

  • Be patient. The all-in-junkies will be gone soon.

  • Don't limp to someone who is pushing in every hand if you aren't willing to call.

  • Take advantage of the action players. If you see someone making a move at every pot, trap them with your big hands, and monster flops.

  • Don't bluff. This includes huge semi-bluffs (open-ended straight-flush draws for example). Most times you will get called and have to hit your outs. I would only suggest semi-bluffs where you think you have 12 or more outs and are short stacked and needing the chips badly. Sometimes you can try a minimum raise on the flop against a single tight player to see a cheap river, but most of these players will call and bet on the turn

So, now you've made it to the bigger blinds. You've outlasted the jokers, now on to the poker. Usually at this point, the field is already down to less than a third of where it started. But that's way off from payday. However now that you have gotten deeper into the tournament, normal game plan starts paying off. Closer to the money (or prize) makes people less likely to take risks. The big stacks, however will be calling with mediocre hands to try and eliminate the short stacks (e.g. calling an all-in with A5o).

Hope this helps! Good luck, and see you at the tables.


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