Thursday, April 16, 2009

Playing the Tournament bubble

The bubble can be one of the most uncomfortable situations in a poker tournament. People become very serious, play tightens up, and all the players realize that they do not want to be the one to bust the bubble. In a poker tournament, the bubble is what is known as the point at which the last player gets knocked out before prizes are awarded. If twenty people get paid, then the player that goes out 21st would be considered to have “bubbled” the tournament. You will see play change drastically at times when on the bubble and approaching it with some specific strategies will have you staying around well into the money.

What you need to decide as a player is if your goal is going to be to simply make the money in the tournament, or if you are going to play to win. While you always want to cash in the tournaments you play in, you also want to make the ones you cash in count. Due to the high variance and structure of tournaments, playing for first prize once is going to be more profitable than playing to barely cash in several others. One thing to consider is the monetary size of the tournament you are playing in. Playing in a $100 poker tournament and finishing just inside the bubble may only net you a small profit, however winning that tournament can gain you thousands. Playing in a $1000 tournament and finishing inside the bubble may earn the same profit.

If you are coming into the bubble with one of the bigger stacks in the tournament, you want to kick up your aggression level. Take every opportunity you can when in position to steal the antes and blinds. Attack the medium stacks holding on for dear life, and force them into tough situations. While it will be worth to call some short stack all-ins, making them your prime target is not what you want to focus on. Short stacks are dying to double up, and you don’t need to be the one giving them that courtesy. When you are close to the bubble though, you will find the medium stacks playing very tight, and folding all but premium hands to you. Short stacks will call your raises a lot more often than a medium stack will.

If you find yourself on the bubble with a short stack, you are probably just looking to get that cash, unless you have just suffered a bad beat in which you lost most of your chips. If you want to advance up the payout chart, then you need to get aggressive here. If you are satisfied with just trying to make it past the bubble, then you need to protect your chips, as even the blinds will dent you greatly. If you feel like you are going to get blinded out, you need to pick a spot and make a move, and hopefully you can double up. Your hand range here cannot be to selective, as you are short on time and money. Hopefully you can double up, and wait for another short stack to burst the bubble for you.

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Big D said...

Thanks for the post. I hate being on the bubble. I play my worst poker when I'm on it. I let the situation get to me and tighten up missing out on pots and hands I should be winning. You need to stay focused and capitalize on the fact that so many of the other players are also tightening up.

Adrian said...

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