The Bubble

January 12, 2010 |

When it comes to sit ‘n’ go tournaments and multi-table tournaments the ‘bubble’ may be the most popular term in the poker dictionary. The bubble separates the players who finish outside the money from those who finish in the money, and no one wants to be referred to as the ‘bubble boy’. In case you are new to the game then let me explain what I mean. Let’s say 153 places pay in a multi table tournament. The player who finishes in 154th place will be known as the ‘bubble boy’, and the bubble is no more meaning the remaining players have successfully made the money for the tournament. Now that we have discussed the meaning of the bubble we can now move on to ways to exploit the ‘bubble play’. A good way to increase your chip stack while bubble play is taking place is to become more aggressive by opening more pots.

When playing in a multi-table tournament the bubble presents a perfect time for players to increase their stack by pushing their table around. If done correctly a player can create a healthy chip stack heading into the money. Let’s use the numbers I used earlier. For this case we will say that 153 places pay, and there are 160 remaining players left in the tournament. This is a time when the bubble plays kicks in and players become ‘scared‘ of busting before the money. Players who have roughly 20 big blinds are more sit in a quality position to increase their chip stack. It makes it tough when players only have 10 big blinds, because they really only have one option which is to move all-in. If you are the large stack at the table then you can start to open more pots specifically on medium and short stack players. When on the bubble you want to stay out of confrontations with other large stacks at the table. By picking on medium and short stack players then you are able to get a better read on the quality of their hand if they decide to come in with re-raise. If players are low on chips then they will be hesitant to enter a pot unless they have a strong starting hand. Next time you are on the bubble try opening more pots to steal the blinds and antes. Become the aggressor at the table but don’t become too predictable either.

When playing sit ‘n’ go poker the idea behind the bubble is still the same as a multi table tournament, but it can be played slightly different. Much like the multi table tournament I think it’s a smart idea to open more pots and to become the aggressor when sitting on the bubble. If you are a frequent player of sit ‘n’ gos then it is extremely important to continuously make the money (obvious right) to sustain a bankroll. Let’s say that you are playing in a 6 max sit ‘n’ go (two players make money) and there are three players remaining. Chip count goes as follows: Me: 3500, Player A: 1500, Player B: 1000 and blinds are at 100/200. If I was in this situation I would open 80% of the hands by simply moving all in. Players A and B will be each be hoping that the other player will be eliminated so that they can make the money without putting their chips into the pot. Player A will play for second place, because Player B is at the table with less chips. Player B will fold his hands until he is forced into the pot or he picks up a strong hand. Yes sometime you will get picked off and lose the pot. By becoming the aggressor in these situations you can increase your chip lead giving you a better opportunity to finish in first place. This is very crucial if you want to stay positive EV when rake back isn’t an option. Next time you sitting on the bubble during a sit ‘n’ go or multi table tournament try becoming the aggressor, and see how this technique works for you.

Craig Fleck

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