Freezeout Tournament Strategy – How to get the Job Done

freezeout tournament strategy

Open up any poker lobby online and you’ll be overwhelmed and how many tournament formats running. They range from hyper turbo to bounty to rebuy. All have their pros and cons but our favourite is the old fashioned freezeout. In this format, you have one shot at it and that’s it. If you bust, find a cash game or register for a new tournament.  

In this article, we’re going to give you a simple, easy to understand strategy guide on how to play freezeout tournaments online. It’s not guaranteed to win money every time but if you follow it closely and use the tips for low stakes tournaments you will have a great chance of increasing your tournament win rate and earnings. Not only that, at the end of this article, you can become a member and see a recent tournament win in our library. Let’s get into it!

Early Stages of Freezeout Tournaments

The early stages of a freezeout are a divisive topic among experts. Some believe you should come out the traps super aggressive and battle for every chip. Others feel a tight approach is better and wait for people to make the mistakes. We suggest a balanced approach where you speculate with hands that offer great implied odds but don’t invest too much in them. By staying active you will have a chance of busting the fish and increasing your stack and also enhancing your table image and getting paid from regulars.   The reason it’s profitable to be involved early on is there are loads of fishes about early on. They play deeper stacks poorly so this is your opportunity to bust them.

Stay active as you can bust a bad player and also get paid later from the regulars!

By the latter stages, many of the bad players will have been eliminated and guess what, it’s the tougher players that now hold their chips. Therefore, we recommend playing hands like suited connectors, suited aces and small pairs to raises. All it takes is one good flop and you could double up and put your chips to work.

Whilst we think speculating for a few big blinds is profitable, don’t run the risk of getting too involved if you miss or hit little. You are only investing with the aforementioned hands in the hope of breaking a bad player who overplays top pair or an overpair. Tournament survival is still paramount and you don’t want to stack off lightly and ruin a chance to make the money or go deep.

Early Stage Summary

  • Stay active to enhance table image
  • Speculate early on with deeper stacks to bust fishes
  • Don’t invest a high percent of stack with average hands
  • Don’t stack off lightly

Middle Stages of Freezeouts: The Tricky Part

Once you’re past the initial levels, we hit the middle stages of a freezeout tournament. This stage can be quite tricky for many. Some don’t know whether to maintain their same mentality as the early stage or start stealing chips.

We urge players to ramp things up at this stage. By now, everyone is sitting between 25 and 60 big blinds and there may even be antes involved. Many players will continue to plod along playing nitty so it’s an opportune time to steal the blinds.

We advise player to open up their raising range from hijack to the button. A small raise between 2.1 and 2.3 big blinds is sufficient to take the blinds or play heads up against a big blinds defence.  

If you have LAGs to your left that like 3-betting, you will need to be wary of them and either widen your 4-bet range or tighten up pre-flop though. The worst thing you can do is open too wide then start calling 3-bets out of position. That will eat up your stack and leave you short.

Middle Stage Summary

  • Steal more frequently from later positions
  • Resist the urge to call 3 bets out of position lightly
  • Adapt to who is to the left of you

The Final Stages: Beating the Bubble & Battling

After the tricky middle stages are past, you will be near the bubble and entering the final stages. By now, the average stack may only be 25 big blinds. You will need to pick your moments carefully and battle for every free chip you find. There will be a mix of tough opponents who know mtt strategy well and nitty tournament players who hang on for each level of cash so there is dead money available.

Avoid speculating at this stage as stacks are shallow. You also need to be defending your big blind wide as people will be raising small and you’ll be getting amazing odds to defend.

Don’t call raises with suited connectors or small pairs anymore as stacks are too shallow so poor implied odds.

In the final stages of a tournament, we recommend battling for any pot that is available. That may seem like generic advice and not specific enough so we will detail a few common situations where there are moments to win a pot that will enhance your stack.

Blinds Battles

These are very important as you go deep into a tournament. The 2 blinds and antes represent a decent amount so be prepared to fight for them. We recommend you attack as much as possible from the big blind. The small blind will frequently open raise or limp/fold so put them to the test as much as possible. This means 3 bet shoving hands like Kx, Ax and pairs and raising over limps with practically any two. From the small blind, a balanced approach of limping and betting any flop or just open raising before the flop if your opponent is tight works well.

Limped Pots

Amazingly, you will find yourself in limped pots in low stakes tournaments. If you happen to be involved from the blinds, attempt a check raise or a flop bet of 50% pot on dry flops. They have a high degree of success and can be effective weapons to win pots uncontested. Every chip is worth it at this stage!

3 Bet Steals

By this point in time you should be observing opponents closely and making notes. You will know who is likely to fold to a 3 bet and who only raises hands they intend to stack off with. So, armed with this information you can execute some well timed 3 bet steals.

A 3 bet steal can be an effective tool of chipping up when timed properly. We suggest you doing with hands that have a good blocker e.g. Ax and doing it in late position or from big blind against a late position open. The key in this play is to ensure your opponent isn’t pot committed and to size your bet accordingly. In position, you can 3 bet 2.5x their open and out of position you want to make it around 4x their open raise. Trust us, this move works very well if you use it sporadically and against the players who open too much and shown they will fold to a re-raise in the past.

Late Stage Summary

  • Defend your big blind
  • Steal at every opportunity
  • Win your blind battles

Playing the Final Table: Binking the Win

Now you’ve made the final table, you may feel like the hard work is done. You’ve probably made more than 10x your buyin and happy no matter what. Wrong! That is not the attitude to have at a final table. Final tables are so rare that when you make them, securing a top three is essential as that is where the big money lies. Therefore, you should view a final table almost exclusive and separate from what has gone on so far. You should be eying up the other stacks and looking who is to your left to understand what pre-flop strategy is best.

For the initial part of the final table, we recommend a solid TAG approach. You need to feel confident your steals will go through so there is no use going crazy just yet. By playing solid, you will garner a decent table image. You will also be able to preserve some chips while you see how others are playing the final table. From experience, we notice a few players always try to be table captain and this results in them either busting quickly or chipping others down. Either is fine for us, provided we are not the short stack.

Once you have played a few orbits, you can now decide what is best moving forward. Generally, you want to attack the players blinds who are not defending or less likely to 3-bet you. This means looking at the HUD and seeing who has a low VPIP on their poker stats.

Don’t fear busting out in 5th or 6th. Your goal is to win so take measured risks to increase your stack.

By the time you reach the final 4 or 5, its time to step up the aggression. Everyone will be shorter stacked and the pay jumps will make some people go into a shell. This is the perfect time to attack relentlessly. This means raising very wide in attempt to increase your stack.

Ultimately, the final table should be a fun experience. Attack those who are weak and avoid those who love to get their stack in unless you have 10s or better.

Final Table Summary

  • Start off playing very solid
  • Get aggressive short handed
  • Enjoy it

See How It’s Done: Watch a Tournament Win

After completing a GGpoker review recently, I played a deep stack $5 on a Sunday and won it for $365 using the advice given in this post (see screenshot below). It was the first tournament I ever played on the site. I recorded all the key hands with commentary and uploaded into our video library. Why not become a member (£49.99 per year) and watch it to see how you can bink a tournament win too?  

freezeout win

Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: