Freeroll Overlays Explained

Craig Klinski - March 16, 2012

Freerolls are very popular with online poker players because they are a great way -- in addition to bankrolls and winning at the tables -- to grow your bankroll. In fact, many players use freerolls as the primary method to build their bankroll. With all the freeroll choices available to players, the question becomes “Which ones should you play?”

Not All Freerolls Should Be Treated Equally

Everybody loves free money, so all freerolls all have their own worth, but if you need to make a choice, where do you play?

A vital aspect of choosing freeroll is that you don’t focus too much on the size of the prize pools themselves, but instead look at the number of players to enter the freerolls in relation to the prize pool.

Let’s take a look at two freerolls that ran on Party Poker on March 15th:

  • $25 Exclusive YourPokerCash Freeroll Fever at Party Poker, 104 Entrants
  • $250 Freeroll at Party Poker, 10,477 Entrants

The $250 freeroll certainly looks more appealing from the prize pool. You definitely have a chance at a bigger score in the $250 freeroll. The flip side is that you have to plow through thousands of others, taking countless hours for even a small chance at that score.

These tournaments clearly have two different prize pools with a number of entrants that varies considerably. So what’s the best way to determine which freerolls to spend your time on?

Overlays: A Basic Measure of Value

Through a very simple calculation using basic information from the freeroll, you can determine the value of the freeroll, called an overlay, by using the following formula:

Overlay= Total Prize Pool/Number of Entrants

In the above example, the overlay of the YPC tournament would be $0.24 ($25 divided by 104 entrants) whereas the $250 Party Freeroll would have a $0.02 overlay ($250 divided by 10,477).

Yes, the YPC tournament is 10 times more valuable despite having a prize pool that is 10 times smaller!

By using this calculation for all your freerolls, we can illustrate why exclusive freerolls are so attractive even if the size of the prize pool isn’t. The reason for this is that the number of players who sign-up through YPC are a very small percentage of the total Party Poker player base. This is a major advantage of these freerolls for YPC members and why you should seriously consider playing them if you aren't already.

Freeroll Overlays: A Conclusion

One way to look at freeroll overlays is that if the tournament was a buy-in event, the overlay would be the cost to buy-in. So in the case of the above tournaments, it’s like you are entering $0.24 or $0.02 tournaments for free. This is the best way to determine what freerolls are best for you.

Some players like to place value thresholds on freerolls to determine if playing a particular freeroll is worth their time. This can be helpful when you have a lot of different freerolls to choose from. For example, perhaps any time an overlay of a freeroll is $0.50 or more you play it no matter what. When the overlay is $0.25-$0.49, maybe you will play it most of the time, at $0.10-$0.24 you "rarely" play and anything less than $0.10 you never play. Your thresholds may be very different based on the type of player you are, how much you enjoy poker and how much time you have, among other factors.

Freerolls are a great way to build your bankroll without risking any of your own money. For this reason they are an ideal way to learn the game of poker while providing you a similar level of competitiveness to real tournaments. Ask anybody that has spent time at the play money tables. When their is no money at stake there is little incentive to play "real" poker.

Ideally, you will play every freeroll that is available to you and that you have time for. If you need to choose between freerolls, make sure to do some basic calculations to determine where the value is for you.

If you are interested in Freerolls, we strongly recommend you take a look at the Freeroll Fever freerolls available through YPC -- over $30,000 per month!