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Freeroll Strategy - The Last Hour

I like to play this strategy after the first 60-90 minutes or when the blinds are 100/200 or higher. This is not a final table or in the money strategy. By in the money, I don’t mean just a return of your entry fee or a small amount over, I mean winnings that are in the final table or two or three tables. You will again make an adjustment in that situation which I will go into in my next strategy post.

If you have used my ‘First 90 Minutes’ strategy you should either be out or cruising nicely in the tournament. You now need to focus on getting in the money. It means that you look at every pot and work out a way to win it. It doesn’t mean you will play wildly or make hopeless calls with bad hands. Position is important. Take advantage of it. Look for tricky players that limp with big hands.

Style of play:

- Shift your style of play to ‘raise or fold’ and survive to the money. There are only a few hands to limp with. You should otherwise not just call. Make other players beat you. Do not let them get a cheap ride. If you cannot justify calling an all-in, don’t do it, just fold. You position in the tourney is not important, but you should pay attention to it. You should also keep your eye on where the cut for the money is. Players will tighten up when the cut happens. You should also, but you can also take advantage of this if you have the chips. Stealing the pot before the flop is something you should look to do. 
 
- Standard raises are: 4 times the minimum bet, the size of the pot, the amount of the short stack or, in heads up play the amount your opponent has remaining, 10% of your stack and 20% of your stack. You can vary this as you see fit but these should be pretty effective. A note about the short stack. When he is in the pot you should make him go all-in to play when your hand dictates. While I do not advocate trying to get players out yourself, you should make a statement that you are gunning for him when you can.

- Getting out of the way is something you should look for. If several players want to mix it up and it looks like one of them will go out in the process, fold your hand. No sense in getting a bad beat put on you. I generally will fold anything to several all-ins or several giant bets that happen before me or even after I make a bet. If 2 or more players want to go at it, let them.

- Timing is important. By that I mean take the same amount of time to play each round. Do not use the pre-bet/fold check box. Wait 5 seconds or 8 seconds for each hand. It will keep you from giving your opponents a read on your hand as well as adding discipline to your game. You might even toss that K9o that you would have called with and lost the hand. It helps keep you off tilt and keeps your concentration up.

Hand selection:

- From any position regardless of anything else, raise with AA, KK, AKs. If you are re-raised you are going to have a choice to make. It depends on where you are chip-wise in relation to the opponents at the table. The AKs is a possible fold if you will go all in with calling the re-raise. If a short stack raises you make sure you put him all-in if he is not already. One option with these hands is to call a raise if you are the last to act and no other raises can happen. For instance, you are the big blind with AA and the first player to act put in a big raise. When it gets down to you there are no other raises and it is up to you to just call and see the flop.

- From mid to late position with no more than 4x the minimum raise in front of you add AKo AQs, AQo and QQ to betting big before the flop. Otherwise call a raise up to 20% of your stack, otherwise fold.

- From mid to late position raise to 4x the minimum bet or 20% or your stack for all pairs down to 88. You can also play off-suit paint this way, AJ, AT, KQ, KJ. Fold to re-raises.

- From early position limp with these same pairs and paint and add suited connectors (in any position) down to 98s. Also limp from early position with suited Aces or Kings. You might also want to consider one-gap suited hands down to J9.

Post flop play (both pocket cards play):

- With a pair and over cards on the board, a 4 flush or 4 straight bet 2x the minimum bet, call raises up to 4x the minimum bet or 20% of your stack. Fold to bigger bets.

- With top pair or 2 pair and an unpaired board bet 4x the minimum but fold to any raise more than 50% of your stack unless you have top 2 pair and there is no chance of a flush or straight. Consider re-raising all in if this happens. A special note on top pair. Your kicker is important. An ace is preferred but a king or queen will do. Just be aware you may be out kicked.

- With trips, straights, full houses, etc. try to slow play after the flop. If you don’t get any action put in some big raises and end it there. Make sure a bigger straight, full house or trips cannot beat you. If you bet and a player goes all-in on you, you may be beat with anything less than the top hand. Of course, the player could have top pair or two pair. This is common with paint on the board, so take that into consideration.

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Try not to show weakness. If you bet big before the flop and totally miss consider another big bet. Since you are playing big cards you probably still have the advantage.

A special note on all-in play. You will not be able to avoid it. It will happen at least once and probably several times during this stage of the tourney when you must go all-in. Just make sure you have something to do it with. Keep notes on the players. Refer to those notes when a player makes a move. I had notes on one player as follows ‘goes all-in with 3rd pair after the flop’. Sure enough, the flop comes down and I catch top pair. He goes all-in with K3o. The board had a 3 and no king. I called him and knocked him out. If I had no notes then I might have folded with top pair after the flop to protect my stack.

The word here is fight when you must, run when it makes sense and pick a battle you can win. This can only be learned from experience.

I welcome your comments and actual results using this strategy.  I make no warranty that it will work, but I will affirm that I have used it myself with success under the conditions I played (those specified above). Your mileage may vary.

- Fred Parker

Fred's orignal post in our forums - Please post your comments and results here.

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NEXT... Freeroll Strategy - 'The Final Table'