Late Stage Freeroll Tournament Strategy

Chris Wheeler | September 18, 2011

Freeroll StrategyGood effort! You’re through the worst of it (the early stage and the middle stage) and into the money. You’re guaranteed a cool $0.75!

This is a freeroll, remember? You’re going to have to work a little harder if you want to score any decent sort of payout. The reality is that in order for you to be happy with the amount you bank in relation to the hours you’ve now invested in this tournament; you’re probably going to have to put in an appearance at the final table.

Don’t panic – that was the goal anyway, right?

Just like any tournament, good play isn’t foolproof, and you’re going to need to dodge a few remaining donkeys who’ve managed to accidentally end up with monster stacks, but you can do it.

The blinds are sky high now, and unless you’re lucky enough to be sitting behind a mountain of chips, you’re going to have to make a few bluffs to take down pots and stay alive and competitive. The key is in being able to bluff effectively and at the right times. Play smart poker.

Try not to get tangled up in too many pots with the big stacks at your table. By that, I mean don’t make targets of them. Of course if you end up with a monster hand and you’re going to be putting your chips in the pot you may as well be looking to get the most out of it, but unless this is the case constantly calling their raises and being strung along in the hopes of hitting is going to hurt you a whole lot more than it is going to hurt them.

Instead, capitalise on the short stacks. They’re going to be under pressure and anything you can do to add to this pressure is a good thing. When you squeeze a shortstack by raising when they limp, re-raising their initial raise or raising on when they’re in the blind, they’re either going to have to fold a large percentage of their stack or push all in. They’re usually not going to want to do either, but either is a good scenario for you.

If they fold, you’ve earned a few extra chips and placed them under even more pressure. If they push, it’s usually going to be because they have to – not because they’re packing a quality hand. You’re probably going to be ahead and knock them out and if you’re not, or if you cop a bad beat, it’s going to cost you next to nothing.

As the field begins to whittle down its time to start taking note of how some of the stronger players in the tournament are playing. Sure, anything can happen from here, but at this stage you should be able to identify a handful of players who will be hard pressed to miss out on making final table.

Taking note of how they handle themselves in the business end of the tournament can only help you as you’re going likely to be facing off against some if not all of them once we get down to the final table.

Blinds are crucial. You should be looking to squeeze with any decent hand in late position unless you feel like a player in the blinds is likely to push all in as the short stack, but with a stack big enough to turn you off committing to the hand.

Aggression is key here – you’re not going to be able to win through passive play. You need to capitalise on weaker opponents by continually building pressure and forcing your adversaries to make hard decisions. Don’t allow them the opportunity to suck out on you, and don’t allow yourself to be strung along. Put your foot down and direct the play as you deem fit.

Playing the final table – Short stacked

You’ve made the final table – but barely. You’re the short stack and things aren’t really looking too good. Don’t sweat it, you’ve done an incredible job to get this far and anything more than what you’re currently guaranteed will be an absolute bonus. Having said that it’s not worth just bleeding your stack out and copping 9th or 10th place. Get your chips in.

You’re not going to have much time to wait for a hand, the blinds are going to come around eventually and in the meantime you’ve got antes to worry about. Any Ace, any King or suited connectors are automatic shove hands here. Being dealt a premium hand here is a god send, but the chances are it’s not going to happen. If none of the above reveals itself to you, you’re going to have to try and get the most value you can for your all-in bet.

For instance, you have a stack of 30,000 and you have two thirds of your stack committed in the big blind for 20,000 and you’re holding Ts 2d.

An opponent in early position raises to 60,000 and is called by two opponents. You’re going to call. The fact that you have Ts 2d is irrelevant. You’re getting fantastic odds and the fact of the matter is that your cards are most probably live. If you commit your extra 10,000 you’re giving yourself a chance of bagging a pot of 120,000 – no matter how slim that chance might be.

If you fold, you’re going to be all-in in the small blind, with no guarantee your hand will be any better. Even if you’re dealt Ad Ac, you won’t have the option of raising to isolate or narrow the field. The more people you face off against, the less likely you are to win the hand – and if you get lucky and end up heads up against the big blind, then you haven’t really got lucky at all – you’re going to win less than the current big blind back.

Playing the final table – Middle stack

Be cautious and wary of the short-stacks. The fact of the matter is that they are likely to destroy themselves, so don’t go looking to take them out. Sure, if the opportunity presents itself and you’re looking down at a great hand, strike while the iron is hot! Just don’t go trying to be a hero.

If you’re not being dealt fire just yet, you’re better off stealing blinds where you can and waiting until the short stacks end up all in against your monster or a big stack who can afford to make the call with a marginal hand.

Playing the final table – Big stack

This is where things get fun. Sure, steal a few blinds where you feel it safe to do so but you’re not going to be under any pressure to do so, so don’t get yourself into any sticky situations you don’t need to be in.

You can afford to pick your moments; you’re not feeling the pinch. The short stacks are going to be forced to make moves and you will have the luxury of calling them where you deem it fit and folding where you know you’re behind or there’s no value.

When you get down to the final five it’s going to come down to good poker and good luck. The truth is, you’ve put in a stellar effort to come this far. No matter where you finish from here, you’re going to have enough to start building a bankroll from – even if it means you’re going to have to start off grinding $1.00 Sit & Go’s.