Poker Strategy – Playing on the Bubble
After three long hours of playing poker, you find yourself down to the last two tables of a poker tournament that started with just under 200 players. There are twenty tournament players left, but only the top eighteen are going to win any money.
Game Tightens on the Bubble
Not wanting to get knocked out “on the bubble”, or just outside the money, you notice that almost everyone at your table has tightened up their game. The exception is a player to your left who seems to be taking down pot after pot without even seeing a flop.
He makes a standard raise of three times the big blind to which everyone at the table folds, each time earning him the blinds and dead ante money, a decent chunk of change at this stage of the poker tournament. Before play started, this player had an average sized chip stack and now he’s the tournament chip leader, presently on the bubble and in position to make a big run at the final table.
Use Bubble Aggression to Build Stack
Switching to an aggressive playing style on the bubble in a multi-table tournament is an extremely effective poker strategy to pad your chip stack, in preparation for the final table. Truth be told, most players do not want to risk getting knocked out of a poker tournament after playing for hours when they’re just a couple of spots away from taking home the money.
The fear of a bad beat or the possibility of running into a superior poker hand causes even the loosest of players to fold practically everything except aces or kings during the on the bubble stage of the tournament. Throughout a poker tournament, you will make decisions based on an array of situations, rather than your cards and opponents. The decisions you make when approaching the bubble can mean the difference between first place tournament money and just getting your buy-in back.
Practice Selective Aggression
Changing your poker playing style to aggressive at the bubble stage of a tournament carries as much risk as it does reward. You should practice selective aggression with your raises, being careful not to get involved with the tournament’s big stacks, or players you feel might be willing to come over the top of your attempted blind steal. Continue to make standard sized raises in position and try to avoid stealing when one or more players has limped into the pot before you; a limper on the bubble is often trying to set a trap with a premium poker hand.
Target Tight Smaller Stacks
Focus your pressure on tight bubble players whose stacks are big enough that they will be able to fold their way into the money, but not so big that they can afford to challenge one of your raises without putting their entire stack in harm’s way. If one of these poker players does come over the top of your raise, do not hesitate to throw your hand away immediately. The possibility exists that he may have picked up on your aggressive assault and is simply making a play, but it is more likely that this player walked into a big hand and is making a stand.
Resume Solid Play After Bubble
Often times, when the bubble has been “popped,” or the last player before the money is eliminated, play will return to normal. Players will return to their regular playing styles, which means, it’s time to put the brakes on your relentless aggression and resume solid poker playing. Before you attempt to apply this technique in a big tournament, consider your goals. If you’re content with just making the money, then by all means, conform with the poker masses and fold away. But if you’ve got your eye on the big prize, raise it up!
By Garry Gates
– Poker Expert
Article courtesy of Vegas Poker rakeback program.