Freerolls - worth playing in?This article was posted on July 20, 2007
Online poker freerolls are enjoying a huge popularity nowadays, and they may be partly responsible for the huge poker boom of recent years. A freeroll is basically an online poker tournament to which there are no real money buy-ins or entry fees. They can be of two types: completely free (everybody can participate in these, regardless of whether he has a real money account opened or not) and member freerolls. Freerolls for members are only accessible for those players who have a valid real-money account with the given poker room, and most of the time, they're not completely free either. Entry usually costs Frequent Player Points (FPP's), or there are certain criteria that have to be fulfilled by players in order to gain access to these freerolls.
Depending on which type we're dealing with, playing in a freeroll can be a more or less lucrative undertaking.
The freerolls that are completely free for all comers are some sort of "poker Oktoberfests". Everyone's there, the whole spectrum, starting with absolute newbies, all the way to the best online professionals. Such freerolls naturally draw huge crowds too, so you might want to consider registering for one of these, for several reasons.
For one thing, the fact that there will be around 2500 players in it, drastically limits your chances to reach the money stages, no matter how good a poker player you are. Even if you're among the best, with that kind of opposition and with the high luck-variance, characteristic of online Texas Hold'em, chances are, you will not win a tourney like that in your lifetime.
Another problem is the prize-pool. With $50-$500 available in guaranteed prizes, I'm not sure whether it is worth for anyone to spend 4-5 hours playing poker and giving it his best. Even if you reach the final 10, you'll win something in the range of $10-20, and, at the end of the day, that is just not lucrative enough.
Another issue is the chaotic game-play, which - given the nature of Holdem - can be terribly frustrating for good players. Add all that up, and you'll get a pretty relevant clue as to whether it is or it isn't worth playing in such freerolls.
Member freerolls are a different matter altogether. No longer can just anybody off the street register and play. There are certain criteria players have to clear, in order to be allowed in. There will be fewer opponents here, the time that you'll need to complete such a tourney will be drastically reduced, and the prize-pool will probably be heftier as well. In a word, it'll pretty much improve on every aspect of the game.
Despite this fact, freerolls shouldn't really be more than a stepping-stone in your poker career. You shouldn't really make it your goal to generate significant sums of money playing in freerolls. Sure, they're great for training, but if you constantly manage to make it past the first break in the more massive ones, you are probably ripe to move on.
Real money tournaments are where the money is. Whether single-table tournaments or multi-table-tournaments are your choice, make sure you play in real money buy-in ones. The competition will be seriously reduced, and since everyone shall play on their own real money, the action will be quite different too. Even though you're bound to come up against a more skilled opposition than in freerolls, that shouldn't really be a problem for a good poker player.
At the end of the day, freerolls are quite useful. You can train for the real deal there, mostly tuition-free, plus, if you're only in the game for the sake of having some fun, freerolls are going to deliver well in that respect.
Be aware however, that the real money is in tournaments where you have to pay to play.