As a complete novice to online poker, you’ll no doubt be bombarded by your chosen online poker rooms with free poker tournaments to enter. Within the industry, free poker tournaments are known as freerolls, as they give you a free shot at winning prizes without having to risk any of your own money. Sound good?
As with everything, there are pros and cons to free poker tournaments. If you’re just starting out on your poker journey or working with a small bankroll, read on as we delve deeper into the dynamics of freerolls.
How do freerolls work?
Freeroll poker tournaments look and play exactly like a standard online poker tournament. There’s just one simple difference – there’s no entry free!
You’ll all start with the same chip stack in free poker tournaments. As with real-money poker tournaments, freerolls will have blind levels that rise at set time intervals. It’s your mission to outlast the competition and bag a free prize on the house of your online poker room.
Speaking of the prizes, the prize structure is one of the main differences between freerolls and real-money online poker tournaments. In some cases, freerolls will be a winner-takes-all affair. It’s also possible that the final table will cash out. However, that’s still a drop in the ocean compared to most real-money multi-table tournament structures.
What types of free poker tournaments exist?
Online poker rooms have become very creative with their freerolls, so much so that there’s now a wide variety of free poker tournaments open to players like you, including:
- New Player Freerolls
Exactly as they say on the tin, these free poker tournaments are usually reserved for new players who have signed up for an online poker room in the last month.
- Satellite Freerolls
Think of satellite freerolls like a qualifier poker tournament. You’re essentially playing for direct entry into another, more exclusive free poker tournament. Sometimes, online poker rooms may even offer satellite freerolls to try and enter the next qualifying stage for major poker tournaments like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.
- Weekly Freerolls
Some online poker rooms schedule weekly free poker tournaments for the same time and day. They don’t have extravagant prizes, but there’s enough of an incentive to play for most newbies and low-rollers.
- Seasonal Freerolls
Some online poker rooms may celebrate upcoming occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas by hosting a seasonal free poker tournament.
- Rake Freerolls
Regular online poker players who generate a substantial amount of rake – usually from cash games – are reserved entry to exclusive rake freerolls.
Pros of free poker tournaments
Risk-free way of practicing your tournament strategy
The best way to embrace free poker tournaments is to see them as a low-hanging fruit. It is an easy opportunity to test the water and hone your poker skills risk-free. None of your money is committed, allowing you to focus solely on the game. It even allows you to practice new strategies or techniques or perfect your playing style in certain scenarios like the bubble.
Real-money prizes usually on offer
Freerolls are great as you can win real money prizes with zero risk. Some poker professionals have even managed to grind their bankroll from scratch using freeroll prize money alone.
Most players have limited poker experience
If you’re new to the online poker scene, free poker tournaments are a great way of having fun and learning without feeling completely out of your depth. Most of your opponents will be in the same boat as you – just trying to figure out the game of poker. Good luck with that one!
Anyone trying to take the game seriously should stick to ABC poker throughout any freeroll. It will be hard to bluff complete amateurs and push them off their A-K suited, even if your bottom pair is good. Some freeroll players will pay less respect to poker hand values!
Cons of free poker tournaments
You’ll have to play for several hours to win small prizes
Freerolls can be a real grind. Most of them will have similar blind structures to a real-money multi-table tournament. This means you could find yourself playing for several hours, all for the chance of scooping a $5-$10 payday. Still, if you view free poker tournaments as a bit of fun on your journey to improving your poker game, it’s merely an added bonus to win some cash.
The standard isn’t representative of what you’ll face outside of freerolls
This is one of the biggest negatives of playing free poker tournaments. If you have aspirations to eventually play cash games or tournaments for real-money prizes, many poker players would advise you to steer clear of freerolls and grind your bankroll at the micro-stakes levels instead.
As there’s no risk in freerolls, many entrants will treat it as a crapshoot, which is not what you need when you’re trying to master poker strategy and theory. There is heaps more poker variance in freerolls than even real-money micro-stakes poker.
You might run into the odd experienced player fishing for easy money
Another red flag for free poker tournaments is that you’ll sometimes encounter experienced players masquerading as ‘novices’. They may enter as an ego boost more than anything, looking to hoover up some easy money.
So, at one end of the spectrum, you’re likely to encounter a bunch of loose-aggressive maniacs. At the other, you may face some experienced players who really know what they’re doing. This makes it hard to safely negotiate these types of tournament fields.
In summary, the world of free poker tournaments is a weird and wonderful place. It’s full of poker misfits and newbies looking to find their way. In truth, it’s hard to play ‘proper’ poker in freerolls, where players are so willing to take coinflips and put their tournament life on the line with regularity.
Nevertheless, if money’s tight and you don’t have any other way of grinding an online poker bankroll, it’s the most obvious route to playing poker and winning some money risk-free.