Poker Road Warrior: September 2007
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Freeroll Strategies

Freeroll Strategies for Huge Fields - Online Texas Holdem Poker Tournaments
By Keith Alberts, Shark Vet “Gumby”

Playing online poker usually begins the same for every beginning rounder, the massive online poker freeroll. Sitting at that virtual poker table is where I got my first taste of victory and defeat, competition and a lack thereof, and jubilation and frustration. Anybody that has played in an online freeroll can tell you the horrible calls, over the top all in bluffs, and insane bad beats that they have faced. What I will try to accomplish with this strategy session is ways to play online freerolls to minimize frustration and maximize potential winnings.

When you first eye up and download the online poker room of your choice, there are many to choose from, most of them usually have freeroll tournaments that give away prizes. These prizes range from cash, usually small amounts, to a satellite seat to larger buy-in tournaments, to poker shirts, hats, books, and even bobbleheads. Some online poker freerolls have steps where the money doesn’t come until a later tournament that you qualify for in the freeroll. Freeroll satellites for the World Series of Poker can be played to get yourself a $10,000 buy-in for the big show.

Television freerolls have become a new phenomenon that online poker sites are using to drive players to their website. With so many poker sites out there today, sites are offering poker players more money and benefits than ever before. These freerolls can be extremely lucrative tournaments if you have the patience and ability to outlast large landmine fields of donkey players. This is where I come in. I am going to give you some strategies for huge online freerolls that you can use. One may be better than the other for you and your style of play, but all might be successful and fun to try once.

I would recommend playing in freeroll tournaments that have a prize pool of at least $100 or a satellite seat to a larger buy-in tourney. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time to win a top prize of $10. Even making the final table will only yield you a dollar or two. With these larger field tournaments, they will run a long time. So be prepared to spend four or more hours if you make it to the final table.

How to Outlast the All-In Fest
Beginning of a Freeroll

Massive online no limit hold’em freeroll tournaments are jam-packed with bad players. They are mostly beginning poker players that do not really know how to play the game, while others do not care to learn the game so they play fast and furious. I began playing in freeroll tournaments and actually began my bankroll this way. I had put in absolutely nothing and was able to begin playing in real money micro-limit tables by winning a few freerolls. If you are skeptical about depositing your own hard earned money into an online poker site, this is where you may want to begin.

The first few minutes of an online freeroll is the most ridiculous and important time of the tournament. Although you will see some awful plays later, the worst play occurs during the beginning. Usually, there are a couple players at each table that decide they want a massive stack of chips or they don’t want to play at all. These are players that push all-in from the very first hand and don’t stop until they have a mountain of chips or are busted out. I recommend against playing in this fashion, but this is definitely something you could try and must be aware of.

If you decide to play like this, I would recommend playing solid starting values, such as high pocket pairs and high suited connectors. The low pairs will not win unless you catch a set or get lucky, especially against more than one opponent which you will face almost every hand.

A Better Way to Play It

If you want to double up fast, which a lot of players do, you should raise starting hands that you normally do and be prepared to call or move all-in on the flop, where the second most action takes place. Identify opponents that will go all-in with nothing early on and hope that your best pre-flop starting hand holds up at showdown. There’s always another freeroll right around the corner. Many players will try to bluff at pots on the flop, hoping to take it down right there. They also lack the patience that it takes to be a true no limit hold’em tournament player. In most of these tournaments, a quarter of the field is eliminated within the first 20 minutes and half of the field is gone before the first break.

I believe that the best strategy for freeroll tournaments is to see as many flops as possible in the early levels with decent starting hands. With this strategy, I hope to see flops for the minimum bet with suited connectors, 7-8 and higher, and small pocket pairs. I would fold to raises out of position and especially if there can possibly be a re-raise pre-flop. I don’t want to put my chips at risk early on a draw pre-flop. My usual raise with big pocket pairs and large starting hands will apply here also.

Now, if the flop misses me completely, I fold with very little invested. On the other hand, if I flop a monster or a monster draw, I try to get some value out of my hand. I would slow-play any monster straight, flush, or trips to gain maximum value from the remaining players in the hand and once again identify players who will be willing to get all their chips in the middle with top pair. If I am drawing at a monster, then I would tread a little lighter trying to see cards cheap. In a normal tournament, I may bet depending on 1) my reads of opponents 2) the amount of money in the pot and 3) how strong the betting is. Like I’ve said before, in a freeroll, players make some wicked plays early on. If I bet at my draw, I may get pushed out of the pot with a huge overbet from one of the loose aggressive goons that riddle these tournaments.

When I make my monster and there is no betting on the flop, I would make a small bet on the turn, hoping that someone check-raises me for all I’ve got. This can be the best way to double up early in a tourney.

When and if you make it past the all-in fest early and have a decent stack of chips, then you can start playing your real game. Tight aggressive seems to be a winner and is what Dan Harrington teaches. Read his books if you actually take tournament poker seriously (Harrington on Hold’Em Volume I & Harrington of Hold’Em Volume II). I have not read the third volume yet, the workbook, but hear that there are plenty of hand examples from various tournaments that are discussed in detail. I’ll have to pick it up. Loose play can still be seen, but the field tends to tighten up after the first break. Just play your “A” game and try to amass a mountain of chips.
If you have another style that you enjoy and suits you, then play that way. There is no right or wrong way to play poker. There are better ways to winning poker and some players that never win may have the worst strategy out there. The poker world needs these players also or most players would just break even. Don’t be like one of these players and learn how to play better. Learn from asking questions of other seasoned poker players. I’m not talking dinner either. Many poker forums are available for questions and discussions, including the Shark Poker Tour forum. There are many good poker players that are more than willing to help with any questions or hand examples that you want to post. I post there as GUMBY.

I know that these strategies work. Whether they work the first time is all depending on the cards. We all take bad beats. It’s what makes poker what it is. During freerolls, take your time and be patient. You can play for free, have a decent payday and build a beginner’s bankroll that may lead you to millions of dollars down the road.

Good luck at the tables!

Keith Alberts likes to write, play poker and compete against the chip tossin’ loons on the Shark Poker Tour.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Maui. You gotta go!

I use to go often. Never a bad day on Maui. This pic was shot about 10 years ago as I was cruisin' the backside of Maui with my girlfriend at the time. We were in a Sebring Convertible and were surrounded by wild horses as we toured the desolate side of Maui that most never see. The rental car companies forbid you to go back here cause the road is horrible. Its a great trip and highly recommended. "Up Country" is beautiful farm country and concludes your trip around the island before you come back to civilization.

Get a 2 wheel drive jeep or tracker type rig for best results on this rough, unpaved pot filled road. You cannot get 4 wheel drive rentals in Hawaii since they want you staying "on road" with their rigs. If you ever see a 2 wheel drive jeep or tracker for sale in the USA there is a good chance its an Hawaiian rental. DO NOT stop to talk or barter with the ganja farmers. They often carry weapons and look rougher then the road. No legal Casinos in Hawaii. They seem to be okay with hundreds of hookers walkin the streets in Oahu though. Lots of home games if you ask around.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Exploring The Mind of the MIN rayzor

Pictured above me bud, crazy, chip launchin' madman Matt "BornSupreme". We had a nice chat on IM last night and he promised to play a donkament or 3 with me this Sunday night at UB. I also had a fun phone speak with 2 of my veteran sharkees today. Guy "pokerpadre" and Joanne "sempaijo" from So Carolina are doing fine and will be playing in a few October events with us. Look for a few forum posts from them this week and drop a post on them and say hi.


I'm intrigued by MIN rayzors in NL poker. Why would you want to play poker non-aggressive and weak? We all know the aggressive players have a substantial edge. Maybe for many it's just convenient. Nothing is easier then hitting the bet button when the MIN rayz is already posted on your screen. Or maybe they still think they are playing LIMIT and thats the max rayz.

Maybe I rode the short bus, but I like to think about what i'm doing and then bet accordingly. I mix up my bets but I never, ever MIN bet. I'd love to hear some different theories on MINny mouses. Don't be shy, if you are a MM lets us know what your strategy is. Maybe i'm goofy and it has a place in NL poker.

I think most of the time they have a strong hand. Especially if they have weak tight stats. Any see % under 23% with very weak aggro stats (under 2.0 or so) would qualify. Look up their check rayz stats and "rayzes continuation" bet stats also. If the trend is they are a weak player in these areas I usually fold if MIN boy MIN rayzes or MIN check rayzes. Of course you pound them back with a real rayz if ya got da goods or are drawin strong.

3 day weekend for me this week! Friday i'm barbecue grill shoppin, and a costco run is scheduled. Then maybe a little NL at Tulalip Casino.

I have noticed a HUGE upswing in hands played by Shark members at all our sites the last 5 days or so. Summers over in the USA, its getting dark earlier and peops are playin da pokers. If you are a real money shark player I appreciate your support. If you are a medium to large volume player email me for a kickback plan so I can pad yer roll each month.

We have the best PHO (pronounced "fuh") restaurant in town near my work. If you have not tried this tradional vietnamese noodle soup you need to git er dun.

I'll post my table selection blog I mentioned ASAP. I'm hangin out on IM more the last few days, drop in and say howdy ya laggs.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MINny Mouse, Table Selection and Bourbon Samplin'

I hope all my USA friends had a great summer. If you live in Australia (howdy Matt) or Surinhammar Sweden (Hi, Goran and family) I hope you had a good winter or fall?

Here's an update on what me and my lovely check rayzin bride have been up to.

Its been a crazy, busy summer and it's been hard to find time to blog, play or run any tourneys. I'm sorry I have not been a better tourney host and leader of the feared “Shark Army”. A loose band of poker degenerates whos sole purpose in life is to empty the online accounts of everyone they meet at their respective tables.

What have the warden, shark and lab Cody been up to? We almost got a deevorce but she decided on just giving me a few weeks off in a nice (haha, 39.99 a night) motel. We almost moved to Vegas but thats gonna have to wait till later. The 18 yr old (Sam) still needs us in the vicinity so I took one for the team and we didnt move.

I found a nice dealership to sell cars at (Volvo) close to home (traffic is so bad around here job location is key). After selling there for 2 weeks they promoted me to run their used car satellite lot which is still nice and close to home (10 min.) . Its a “project store” which means I have a big job here to make it profitable. I have 5 good sales dudes and another 9 at our main store selling off our lot so it should be doable.

The warden (Patti) has been remodeling like crazy at our home. New tile in the laundry room, new baseboard trim, new paint everywhere, carpet coming this week, and many other plans to get our 20 year old home up to date. She does beautiful work. I'm jealous since I can barely change lightbulbs.

I'm powerwashing the deck and getting ready to prune the whole yard for winter this week. As long as I have the garage fridge full of Pacificos, Kirin or Sapporro, i'm good to go with the yard work.

Our goal is to keep this house (for the great summers here) and get a small townhouse in Vegas. We'll see if we can swing it in about a year or so. My mutt Codyster has been a lil grumpy since I have not had time to take him to the beach much the last few months. He's pretty busy keeping the cats in line and sniffin their butts though. Does your dog love the alluring aroma of cat sphincter as well? I did not teach him that. I did teach him to hump legs though and hes a riot at dinner parties. The UPS guy doesn't wear shorts anymore either.

Some guys teach their labs to hunt. Unfortunately, I don't hunt.

Okay, a little POKER update. I'm having a blast just playing when I want, with no pressure to pay bills with the proceeds of a 4000 hand allnighter grind. Thats the great thing about working a “real” job again. My Poker BR doesnt have to go anywhere. I can build it and move up when i'm rolled for the next level.

I love this game but the computer headaches, sore wrists and back full of knots can be tough on an old dude. You 20 somethings might not have back problems yet, but let me know how yer doin' at 47 like me. I want to play shorter sessions and less tables now. So my tude is good and i'm playing great right now.

I'm off to bed. Tommorrow:

MINny Mouse!

This is the weak player that doesn't have a brain. All he knows is hit the MIN button to raise. Usually this means a weak player has a monster. They have been waiting to trap you and now they go to MINI mode. I love to repop this player but ya better have the goods if ya don't have a ton of stats on the villain.

Table Selection:

Players are improving. Many weak USA players have decided its best to stick to blackjack. This is a good plan if ya don't have strong skilz. Online poker is not easy to beat. BJ is a better way to blow a few bucks for many.

This is funny to me but some are actually scared to deposit and play. Its always the same story. I say "do you know that NO ONE in the USA has been charged with a crime for playing online poker?" They always say something weak-tight like, "ahh I enjoy just playing playchips now or I never really played much anyways". Huh? IMHO, these players needed a reason to quit. They were gettin their asses handed to them. It got old. No winning player is going to quit.

More are playing 6, 8 or 12 tables and making a living at low limits (NL200 and under, 4/8 limit and lower). Many are just ultra tight non-thinking grinders that can break even and make 3K in rakeback (or more) in a month grinding long sessions. I have a good plan to help you against these guys. Look for a long post tommorrow.

Bourbon Slurpin':

I found a superb Bourbon that is not to spendy. I'll post a review tommorrow and tell you where you can buy it for 30% off with no tax.

I appreciate all 3 of you sticking around to see whats up with the sharkee family. I'll get some tourneys fired up soon and a new newsletter and we'll play da pokers this October!

I'll put the IM on more in the upcoming months so if you are one of my many pals let me know how yer doing. Suggestions on upcoming events would be great also.

Good Luck at the tables this week!