Updated on July 12, 2023

Explanation of Freeroll

The term freeroll in poker is used to describe a situation where a player does not have to pay to play or a situation in which there's no more downside risk involved. It's an opportunity to play at no cost, but yet with the possibility of being rewarded. Specifically:

1. Many poker networks offer regular poker freerolls for their customers. It serves as a good incentive for new player sign-ups and also allows players to build a bankroll from scratch if they don’t wish to deposit their own funds.

2. Imagine you're all-in with a straight and a flush draw against an opponent with the same straight as you. You can't lose the hand (no risk), but there's still a chance that you beat your opponent by improving to a flush. In this case, you may say you're freerolling

How to Use Freeroll as Part of Your Poker Strategy 

1. There is no real drawback to playing as many freerolls as possible aside from the time investment. Most professional players won’t play freerolls since the potential reward is often not compensated by the time invested. For hobbyists though, and for players starting with a $0 bankroll, freeroll tournaments are a fantastic resource.

2. Let's look at a Texas Hold’em example of a situation where a player may say they're freerolling:

Board: JK9

Hand 1: TQ
Hand 2: TQ

Both hand 1 and hand 2 hold the nut straight in this case. Despite holding the nuts, hand 2 has a mere 31.8% equity since hand 1 also has the flush draw to go with it. Hand 1 can never lose this pot, but it may potentially win if it catches a flush. We can hence say that the player holding hand 1 is “freerolling”. 

Although this type of situation is unfortunate in Hold’em, it is at the same time unremarkable. Unless the stacks are extremely deep, it’s rarely going to be correct for hand 2 to fold the nuts just on a hunch that he might be getting freerolled. In other words, hand 2 is simply getting unlucky, and there is not too much he can do about the situation.

Omaha is a completely different ball-game. Many Omaha players would even go so far as to say that a large part of the underlying meta-game in Omaha is to deliberately engineer situations where there is a high possibility of freerolling our opponents. 

Board: JK9

Hand 1: TQKJ
Hand 2: TQ54

This Omaha example is similar to the Hold’em example but there is a big difference. Hand 2 while holding just the bare nuts, should be concerned and alert about the possibility of getting freerolled. It’s not necessarily a cooler to get the stacks in this dominated, especially as the stacks get deeper. 

Note that not only does hand 1 have the redraw to the club flush, but it also has full house redraws. Any King or Jack on the turn and river improve hand 1 to the best. 

As a final pointer, note that hand 2 technically has some redraws that hand 2 doesn’t have. It’s possible in this example that hand 2 could win outright if it were to catch the runner runner spade flush. Both hands are hence freerolling each other to some extent, but since hand 1’s redraws are stronger overall, we describe this situation has hand 2 getting freerolled.

Similar concepts can be observed in the split pot version of Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better. It’s possible for two players to be chopping for the high hand while one has a live low draw. The player with the low draw is guaranteed to chop but may sometimes “quarter” his opponent (winning one pot but chopping for the other) when he catches his low.

See Also 

Low hand, Split Pot, Qualify, Draw

Originally Published on November 24, 2018

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