The easiest way to place in a free roll is to avoid playing a lot of pots in the beginning regardless of what cards you have. Making a huge pre flop raise when you hold AK suited will only scare out the few dozen people (maybe hundred) who either care about playing good poker or know what good poker is. Your huge raise will not chase out the guy holding A7 off suit or K3 off suit for that matter. We know most players will disagree with us for saying this but you should limp in with big hands in the early rounds unless its AA or KK. Even QQ and JJ have the potential for huge losses when your opponent decides its time for him to go all in with his K5 off suit. Limping in with AA and KK though is a terrible idea. If you let them limp in they may catch 2 pair and you’ll wind up broke. We’ve seen it happen more times than we can count. As your opponents begin to drop out of the tournament and the blinds increase your chances of winning increase exponentially. Even with a stack of 600 chips in a 1000- starting chip tournament (because you were eaten away by the blinds) you still have an extremely good shot at placing. The reason behind this is that a good portion of the players with large chip stacks at this point in the tournament either A) acquired them through a series of questionable calls or B) acquired them by having AA,KK,etc early on when anyone and everyone at the table were going all in. Of course option C is they are actually a good card player and you should be able to tell the difference right away. If the large stack is either A or B , however, your all in of 600 chips when you finally catch AA will, more often then not, be called and you’ll immediately double up (if not triple up)as well as pick up all the blinds and antes that were in the pot. Let the fish kill off the other fish at the beginning. A shark doesn’t want to feed on a bunch of little fish. He wants to feed on 1 (or a couple) large, plump fish.
In real tournaments with players who have some sort of idea of what they’re doing stealing blinds and bluffing are useful tools. These tools can be used later on in the free roll tournament but should be avoided early. Keep in mind that the worst player to try and bluff is the bad player because he doesn’t know what you’re trying to do. A good player is more likely to fold his bottom pair 3’s than a bad one. Remember that the key to winning in poker is understanding how your opponents think. Even pros have trouble playing against the amateurs (this is why Moneymaker and Raymer won, although Raymer’s victory is much less questionable to us than Moneymaker’s after seeing Moneymaker win pot after pot with terrible calls.) In free rolls bad players know they’re going to lose so their game follows that mentality. Questionable calls to them are not questionable in their minds. If you plan on playing any pots in the early rounds stick to mostly speculative hands or large suited connectors/face cards. Beware of opponents who have the same strategy as we’ve mentioned (limping in with quality hands) as well. We’ve all lost a lot of pots with KQ suited when a King hit on the flop because our opponent was slow playing AK suited by not making a preflop raise. Which is another reason why we don’t suggest playing a lot of hands in the early rounds. You have to watch out for the lucky guys, the slow players, and the bad players making huge illogical bets all at the same time. The slow player who ends up involved in too many hands early on with premium hands preflop is likely to wind up losing to an early limper with 9 3 off suit who caught 2 pair on the flop when the slow player caught top pair aces.
Basically you’re damned if you raise and don’t catch and your damned if you don’t raise and only catch a pair in the early rounds. Free rolls are like war zones in the beginning. Let the bad players destroy the other bad players and pick your spots with care. KQ suited is a great hand against good players but can be a terrible hand against a bad one. As the field thins your great hands will once again be great hands and you’ll be able to play quality poker against better players but in the early rounds its best just to avoid battles altogether.