Aug 23 2010

Playing the Bubble in Tournaments

written by: John under Poker Strategy Comments: Comments Off

The bubble is the most nerve racking part of any poker tournament. On one hand you are about to make the money, but on the other hand you may very well bust before you earn anything at all.

You are usually going to be in one of three positions as the bubble approaches: big stack, average stack, or short stack. The strategy that you adhere to will depend on how many chips you are working with. There is nothing more important than your relative stack size when you are playing the bubble in a tournament.

On the Short Stack Near the Bubble

If you have a short stack as the bubble approaches, be prepared to cross your fingers and hope for the best. For the most part, this is about all that you can realistically do. You are going to eventually have to go all in whether you have a strong hand or not. If you wait around for a big hand as opposed to taking your chances with a weaker hand, you might blind yourself out of the tournament, giving yourself no shot of cashing (or winning) at all.

You can theoretically wait until you are out of chips in an attempt to min cash, but this is hardly the ultimate goal of any tournament player. Instead of aiming for a min cash, you should weigh the risk and rewards of busting vs. potentially making a deep run. If you don’t go all in and hope to take down some pots with or without a showdown, your best outcome is going to be a min cash. If you are playing a satellite tournament, first is as good as a min cash, but in any other tournament you should be looking to accumulate chips and go for a big cash.

On an Average Stack Near the Bubble

Playing an average stack is a tricky situation when near the bubble. You can take some chances and look to steal blinds, but you shouldn’t get too aggressive. There is no point in taking unnecessary risks if you have yet to even make a min cash. Instead you should look for comfortable spots to add chips while your chips are facing a minimal risk. For example, stealing the blinds against a shorter stack can be OK, but a big stack could come back over the top. Never take big risks that will potentially ruin your chances of not only min cashing, but also making a deep run.

On a Big Stack Near the Bubble

A big stack is generally easy to manage no matter what phase of a tournament you are in. You don’t have to worry about busting (for the most part) and can afford to take some risks that smaller stacks can’t. With a big stack you should be looking to steal the blinds whenever possible. Smaller and short stacks are going to be very afraid of busting against someone who has them cover, and many players will be gun shy even if they have a decent hand. Plus, if someone re-raises after you attempt a steal, you always have the option of folding. Be aggressive with a  big stack, but you should still avoid any reckless moves.

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