Since the early days of online poker, poker sites have always been in competition to acquire and keep new players.
One of the most effective ways they've brought scores of new players on to their sites? BY offering free online poker games in the form of "freerolls," or online poker tournaments where you can win real money without risking a dime of your own money.
You can literally find dozens of free poker games online everyday across dozens of poker sites and if you're new to online poker it can be an amazing way to kickstart a poker bankroll.
Even if you don't ever want to take your online poker seriously, playing free online poker is a great way to improve your game and while away a few hours without ever having to download or deposit to a poker site.
Free poker online comes in a few different formats but for the sake of simplicity we'll separate it into two main categories:
Here on PokerJunkie our focus is primarily on the latter - free (and real money) online poker games provided by major international poker sites like PokerStars, 888poker, partypoker and similar.
These sites offer both real money and play-money poker games but the "freeroll" sits somewhere in between and serves as a great bridge for players looking to cross over from the free poker games to the real-money games.
The "free" poker games on any poker site are played with play money, meaning they have no actual exchangeable value (other than maybe cashing them in at the poker website's store for some branded merchandise).
Poker sites can also offer a set amount of free poker play in the form of tournament tickets or cash equivalent for real-money play. 888poker's $88 free no deposit bonus is a good example. If you create a new 888poker account via PokerJunkie you will get:
$8 FREE: $2 in cash and $6 in tournament tickets immediately credited to your player account
$80 FREE: 10 x $8 ($2 cash & $6 tournament tickets) for every 250 player points earned
Learn more and get access to this free poker money via our 888poker review page.
"Freerolls" are poker tournaments that are either entirely free to enter or require a number of player points to buy-in but the prize pool is actual comprised of a set amount of real money or real money value (eg. tournament tickets).
Typical freerolls run with guaranteed prize pools ranging from $100 or $200 but can (and do) frequently run up into the thousands. In some cases they run all the way up to $1 million - an astonishing number PokerStars offered in 4 separate freerolls in 2016 alone.
If you're hoping to build up a small poker bankroll via freerolls you'll have plenty of opportunities on every poker site.
They also commonly will offer you free roll tickets with your first deposit if you choose to put some money online.
Freeroll tournaments are a great way to work on your poker skills without having to risk real money. However, there are many different freerolls and the freerolls with the largest prize pool will be quite complicated for new poker players.
Mostly, yes, although there could be some stipulations required for some free poker events.
Some freerolls are only open to players who have recently opened a new account at an online poker site while other freerolls are again only accessible to players who have played a certain number of hands in the previous month.
In addition, there are some freerolls where you qualify for when you come from a specific region, when you follow your Facebook page or liked a known poker player. In practice, each type of poker player finds a suitable freeroll for their skill set and play level so be sure you spend enough time to find the right freeroll that fits you.
Online poker rooms normally organize freerolls to attract new players. It's also a way for poker sites to build player loyalty and strengthen trust with their existing customers.
Prize pools can vary significantly when you play free poker online. Normally freerolls have fairly small prize pools ($50-$250) but there are also freerolls that have a prize pools of $1 million.
Normally by just opening a new account at an online poker site. Most poker sites also offer daily, weekly and monthly freerolls for new players or players who have recently made a deposit.
It is also possible to take part in freerolls in which the requirement is that you have to collect a certain number of loyalty points in the previous month. If you play a lot on a poker site you been automatically reach this number of points.
Some sites even organize poker freerolls for winners of a given game when players like the Facebook page of the poker site.
If you're wondering whether freerolls are worth your time to play, the best answer is "it depends." If you're looking to make a bankroll without a deposit, then they are definitely worth your time!
For those planning on making a deposit, most standard freerolls are probably not worth your trouble since even the top prizes will only be a few bucks.
On occasion you will run across special promotional freerolls that pay a larger prize to the winners or pay out seats to major tournaments. These events are definitely worth your time as they award a more substantial prize.
Our best recommendation is to check out the prizes for the winners in the freeroll and determine whether your time will be better suited playing the event or playing in other games.
If you've just played regular poker tournaments (either live or online) with real-money buy-ins you'll be amazed by the average playing style you'll find in freerolls or free poker online in general.
Since no one has any real money invested, they have nothing to lose and don't mind pushing all in with any random hand. Or at least many, many players seem to play that way.
You can obviously use this to your advantage. If you're just slightly more selective than the random freeroll player when it comes to selecting starting hands, you'll be the favorite most of the times when you go to the flop.
However, if you sit and wait for good hands like you would in a regular tournament, chances are that a couple of your loose opponents will have built monster stacks by the time you decide to play a hand. What you should do is widen your range compared to normal play, but not as much as some of your opponents.
To have a competitive stack at the end of a free poker tournament you need to take some risks in the beginning. But the key is to be both more selective than your opponents AND start building your chip stack early.
Just check the toplist on this page where we've ranked the poker sites that have lots of daily and weekly freerolls.
Some poker sites offer a set amount of free play or tournament dollars when you sign up. On occasion you'll find sites that offer more free online play in connection with a reload bonus.
This "free play" money is usually non-convertible, which means you have to play with it in either tournaments, Sit & Gos or cash games.
When you get this type of offer don't overlook it or let those free play dollars expire. If you use these dollars wisely you can add some cushion to your bankroll.
There are a lot of online poker players and several big-name pros have used freerolls to start or supplement their online bankrolls. Depending on the game and your situation, these games could be a perfect way to start your online poker journey.
The great thing is that there are often freeroll tournaments daily and some real-money poker sites offer them at multiple times during the day. If you bust out, you can always enter another event and it won't cost you a dime. Good luck!