The world of freeroll online poker is akin to walking through a mine field with a ten-foot wooden pole. You might have the tools to avoid losing your life, but it's still a mine field you're walking through. You might want to be cautious and possibly win, but those other players in the game (i.e. the mines) have nothing to lose, so many risk everything. This is where a plan of attack in a PokerStars freeroll becomes very important.
What Strategy to Use in a Freeroll
PokerStars is far and away the largest online poker room in the world which means any and all freerolls attract hundreds and even thousands of players all vying for some free cash. Players have nothing to risk in a freeroll except for their time, which means most people will go all-in on the first couple of hands to double up and start out in a bullying position as the table chip leader. The best tactic isn't to play completely cautious. Play tight, but only be willing to bet aggressively with only the best hole cards, especially if the player field is enormous, and even then your opponents are usually willing to gamble with very weak cards early on and bad beat you.
Playing cautious is a good way to possibly get into the money in a tournament, and even in a freeroll, but if just getting into the money means winning $0.50 then spending 3 hours of hard and cautious play isn't necessarily worth it. When beginning a freeroll that attracts hundreds of other players choose your time to strike very strategically. Wait a few hands to see what your table is going to be like. If there are three or four players going all-in constantly stay back and wait for the action to subside slightly to start to build a table presence.
The key to a freeroll is to increase your chip count in the beginning stages of the tournament, without putting all of your chips in the pot while holding weak cards. As the all-in action dies down continue to play tight but aggressively to build a chip stack, especially as the tables start to be switched around. By then you should be nearing the second hour of the freeroll. Play tight from this point on. Your goal is to cash and cash high.
How to Battle Back in a Freeroll
If you find that you're short stacked even with tight-aggressive play in the opening stages of the freeroll and passive play from there on, you are short staked you need to act on premium hands. Play hands like TT-AA. Be sure to push all-in before the flop is shown, otherwise those limping in might catch a better flop and you find yourself out of the tournament or at best left with only a few chips. It isn't good to assume that the person calling an all-in at this stage in the freeroll is just playing any two cards. They want to win too.
Final Stages of the Freeroll
As time goes by and the player field becomes smaller, most of your opponents—even the ones who were going all-in at the beginning stages of the freeroll—will start to play tighter as everyone has already invested a lot of time in cashing in the freeroll. Towards the end of the freeroll begin playing "raise or fold" tactics that will help get you into the money by playing more aggressively towards players who are just trying to squeak into the money.
If at the final table you find yourself short stacked you have 2 plays: fold or all-in. It's really as simple as that. If you're in a decent stack position you can play a lot of hands or fold anything but premium hands and maximize value. If you become the big stack at the table, challenge the short stacks for all their chips with any good hand. Once players start to be eliminated be sure to raise and re-raise with good cards. Never limp in unless you find yourself in middle position of the table. The final table might be extremely difficult to get to, but good play there can result in excellent payday that cost nothing to get to except your time.
For players looking for the best freeroll tournaments out there, Pokerspace is full of them. Pokerspace hosts thousands of dollars worth of member exclusive freerolls every month and the player field is usually limited to under 100 and not in the thousands.
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