I am a perennial MTT freeroller. Any opportunity to pick up a few cents or dollars, a Skill League prize or a ticket to a real money tournament for FREE is such a bargain. But these games tend to be very large field MTTs with thousands of players competing and only a small percentage  winning a meaningful prize. Perhaps the ultimate of this format is the weekly Online Poker Show Freeroll.

To register for this game you need a password, for which you need to watch the Online Poker Show at Pokerstars.tv.  The show usually lasts about half an hour and has commentary on highlights of the previous Sunday Million final table. I really like watching this show so I play it regularly. The freeroll takes place each Thursday and gives out one Sunday Million ticket for the winner and 8 x $7.50 Step 1 tickets for the rest of the final table. Thousands of runners and only nine prizes. But every time it runs somebody wins it. On Thursday 17th April 2014 in a field of almost 23,000 entrants, I was that somebody.

To win a huge field MTT the stars really have to align. Whatever skill you can bring to the table will need to be augmented by a big slice of luck and generally fortunate circumstances. A lot went in my favour in this tournament, but I like to think I made just about the best I could of the luck I had, and even though I made several mistakes, they were not critical. So I thought I would review the tournament from my point of view in several stages.

Early Stages

My first bit of good fortune was my table dynamic in the early stages. After just one hand I was moved to a table where one player was very loose aggressive, gambling often and getting lucky, busting players and building a stack with oversized raises or shoves. After an orbit at this new table I played my first pot heads up against this villain with KQ offsuit. They made a 6x raise over a single limper and I called in position from the cut-off. Just the two of us saw the flop, where I hit top pair with my queen, called the continuation bet, turned an open ended straight draw and bet it when they checked. They check folded the river and I took the pot.

Two hands later I called their 6.6BB open raise with AT suited, flopped second pair and turned trip tens. The villain check-called my half-pot bets on all three streets with A8o which gave them only ace high. My stack increased to 3,355 still at 10/20 blind level.  My friendly villain still had a 6K stack so I needed to be wary, but I felt if I could find more good spots they would pay me off.

However it was a different villain that paid me off when I got my first premium pair, pocket Kings in the small blind at the 15/30 level. There was a limp and the button min-raised. I 3-bet to 240 and the button shipped their stack of 2,030. In Freeroll early stages I will almost always go with KK in this type of spot and I held here versus A7 offsuit.

Now my stack of 5355 was not far behind the original villain’s table chip lead of 5800. At 15/30 that was an effective stack of 178 big blinds if we got involved. Although I hoped I had a skill edge over my main opponent, the big advantage was they were a couple of seats to my right and I had position most hands. However they did not slow down and with nothing playable I watched them take out a few more players and keep increasing their stack. They were playing very loose aggressive, with final stats of 76% VPIP and 63% PFR, so it was a case of being patient and picking my spots against them.
My next pot was a speculative hand with A8o against a new villain with a 2K stack. I flopped an 8 and bet, turned an ace for top two pairs but with three hearts now on the board and a fourth on the river that also paired the board, I just checked the turn and check-called the river to see the opponents 35 of clubs had missed a low straight draw. I don’t like my play much but it was another pot won.

At this point one of those odd circumstances occurred which worked in my favour. I got heads up against the LAG big stack every time I opted to play a hand, because the rest of the table were now ALL sitting out. This was an active period with small and medium pots going back and forth before I made another big chip up from my now favourite villain. To say I had a speculative hand would be generous. I had T5, but it was suited. My opponent had a legitimate hand for a change, which helped me get a big pot when I hit trip tens on the turn and a full-house on the river.

I now had the table chip lead with 12K to my main opponents 10K. Showing down my lucky T5 might also have made me look a poor player. I felt I could safely battle this opponent with our deep stacks. My next big win was another monster made hand. KQ hole cards making Kings full of Queens. The opponent called down to the river with A7 having hit only a seven on the flop. Another good sign.

I now had 15745 chips at 40/80 – almost 200 big blinds.

At 50/100 I picked up AQ suited in the cut-off and three bet the villains opening raise. Flopping an ace I bet all three streets. Somehow the opponent found their fold button on the river when I put them all-in. That took me above 20K chips for the first time.

My first setback came with QTo v another big stacked opponent. I flopped two pairs on a QT3 all hearts board. I should have slowed down when a fourth heart came on the turn, as the opponent called all my bets with pocket fours and the 4 of hearts for a weak flush that crushed me.

That setback helped me refocus. We were only just over an hour into the tournament and I was still in good shape but I didn’t want to needlessly blow additional chips like that when I could have got to showdown cheaper. I made my next move against the original LAG opponent, again playing a very speculative J7o in position on the button. I flopped top pair on a drier board, then hit two pairs on the river. True to form they once again called my river value bet with a single weak pair.

It was about this point my early chip donor bust to another player, and then I was moved tables. There were now several big stacks around, similar to mine, and I was mostly readless. I picked up some chips with KK preflop then with my AK beating 69s from the player directly to my right for another decent size pot. Then I won a huge pot with suited ace four of clubs, making the flush on the river, on a paired board not the nuts, but good enough to bust a 16K stack to boost my chips over 40K at the 75/150 level.

I was card dead for a while and had lost some of those chips when around two hours into the tournament I got my first pocket aces. I made a big preflop raise over several limpers and got two calls. For good measure I flopped top set and when my half-pot bet on the flop got reraised in one spot I shipped. Unfortunately they folded but I chipped up to over 55K.

There was still an awful long way to go in this tournament, but that seems like a good place to end Part One. I will post subsequent parts as I find time.

Cheers for now and good luck all PSOers.

Ed from Edinburgh - EdinFreeMan