For The Forum - Transitioning from Freerolls to Cash
By Aaron Thompson
Aug 22, 2010 7:38 AM CDT
How to make the switch from freerolls to real money tournaments
For this edition of For The Forum we're going to talk a bit about making the transition from Freerolls to real money tournaments.
888 has always been very generous in way of freerolls. They were the first (and perhaps only), site to offer freerolls with no strings attached. Simply register an account and join the tourney to have a shot at winning some free cash. Because of this, 888 has a fairly significant freerolling population, so this topic should have quite a bit of relevance.
First thing is first, we need to define some freeroll strategy. We can't talk about transitioning to money games if we don't know where we are coming from.
For the purpose of making this as beneficial as possible, I'm going to talk about exploiting these tournaments in ways that simply don't exist in real money games.
1) Attack the "Away". Because these tournaments are free, there is no urgency to show up on time, or even show up at all. So many people register for freerolls and forget about them, or can't be bothered to show up. I'll tell you right now, I'm registered for a freeroll that starts in 90 minutes, and there is a very good chance I will just close the table and let it blind out.
These people are very easy to spot. Since they haven't shown up for the tournament, they haven't clicked the "take my seat" button, and are automatically sitting out. This means they will rapid fold any hand that is dealt to them. So when you have multiple people at the table sitting out in succession, they fold very quickly around the table. These are the people who aren't there.
Minimum raise them to steal their blinds uncontested. Sometimes other people at the table won't notice this until you have an aggressive chip advantage. Utilize your position to exploit the people sitting out as much as possible, and punish other players at the table who are trying to do the same. If you catch someone minimum raising to win the blinds, reraise him. He'll fold.
2) Just because the game is free, doesn't mean you're free to play every hand. Many players treat freerolls as games without any monetary value. While you didn't pay anything to join the tournament, the tournament still has value since the money you are playing for is real. Choose your starting hands with the same respect that you would in any other game (unless attempting to exploit people sitting out as talked about in #1).
3) Bet Aggressively! Since many people fall into the trap of playing too many hands, we can exploit them by charging them a little interest on every hand we are going to win. For example: If we have the nut straight, in a real money game we may only bet 2/3 the size of the pot because anything more realistically won't get called. However because our opponents in the freerolls are stubbornly playing as many hands as possible, they will call bets that are unusually large. So perhaps we bet 1.5x the size of the pot with our nut straight, and our opponents will make a sloppy call with top pair and we get a bit of interest on our good hands.
This can be extended to preflop as well. If we have a huge hand preflop and are facing a raise, go ahead and shove all in. You'll be surprised who will call their entire tournament stack with J9s against your AA preflop if they have already put in a raise. Sure we will lose sometimes, but most of the time we've picked up a very easy chip lead.
4) Exploit the Bubble. It's safe to assume that most players in a standard freeroll won't have cashed in very many tournaments. Therefore when we get to the bubble, feel free to play as aggressively as you possibly can. Your opponents will be trying their hardest to win some real money (often for the first time), and won't want to tangle up unless they hold a real hand.
Be careful though, since many beginners are playing in freerolls, they may mistake hands like QT to be a "Monster," and call your steals lighter than you might expect. Learn which opponents are still playing hands on the bubble, and which ones are folding.
Transitioning to Real Money Strategy
I'm going to use this section to talk about making the changes from freeroll strategy to real money, rather than discuss tournament strategy in general as that would be far too much to cover.
1) First thing to note, when a player pays money to play the game, he or she will more often than not, show up. So our free blind stealing at the beginning of tournaments is over. A generally accepted strategy for tournament play is to play tight while the blinds are low, and as the blinds increase, increase your aggression.
While there may not be players sitting out, there are always, at every level, players looking for an "early exit." Carefully, but quickly, find out which players are spewing chips and try to get in as many pots with them as possible (with reasonable hands and position).
2) Play the starting range that makes you feel the most comfortable. Whether you're aggressive or tight in nature, this is up to you and how you find success. Which ever it is however, it should be the same from a freeroll, to a $1 game, to a $1000 game. Your opponents may change slightly from game to game, and you can make adjustments accordingly, but for the most part your starting hand requirements should more or less be the same.
3) Pay attention to your bet sizes. Many people raise too much preflop, or don't raise enough. These are critical mistakes made by beginners, as well as every day players. Raising too much preflop, can build pots beyond your control, as well as put more money in the pot than is necessary to accomplish certain goals.
For example: Making an open raise of 5x the big blind from early position with 88 is drastically exploitable. You may chase out the odd player with 99 etc, but you're losing so much more against the AA KK QQ that will call you anyways. As well hands like AK aren't folding to 2.5x bb raises, or 5x bb open raises.
The other major fault is raising too little. Minimum raising scares nobody from playing any type of hands. As well it offers fantastic odds to anyone wanting to draw to any type of draw.
It is essential to strike the balance of a proper preflop raise amount, and post flop continuation. If you're overbetting the pot too often, you'll only get action from players holding the nuts. If you're minimum betting the flops, you'll get called by anything.
4) Exploit the Bubble! Whether you're about to make the money in the freeroll, or make the money in a tournament with a real dollar buy-in, the bubble is still the bubble. People are still afraid not to cash, and you can still pressure them into giving you alot of small pots for free.
Again, as previously advised, there are some that will call you lighter than others, so you need to sniff them out and make sure not to overplay your hands against these opponents. Pick you spots aggressively.
Last words of wisdom. Don't be afraid to take the plunge. There are all kinds of cheap games to play. The skill level is almost no different from a freeroll to a .50c game, so don't let the fact that it's a real money game intimidate you from trying.
Just remember, if losing the money starts to affect your mind-set, it might be time to step back to the freerolls for awhile and rebuild some of that bankroll, risk free.
Thanks to Rmalcom from the 888 forums for the topic suggestion.