How to play on the bubble - the essential guide.
The six handed guide to making the money.
So, now we have discussed how to play four handed and another player has busted out leaving just the three of us left. This is "squeaky bum time" and is where strategy becomes an important part of your game.
Your goal at this stage of the game is to make the money. Nothing else matters. You've invested time and your poker skills to get this far and so making the money is your priority. Busting out is not an option.
Seat one declines the race and keeps seat six feeling the pressure.
Under no circumstances do you start doing anything silly. Many people claim that this is the time to get aggressive as the others will fold to your constant raising because they are scared of bubbling out.
In this game this is not the case. If you start doing this you will keep failing to make the money.
In a ten handed SNG there are ten players who each start with 1500 chips which means that when we get down to four handed play (the bubble in this game) out of the 15000 total chips available it's quite likely that one player has half of them - around say 7000. The other 8000 is divided between three players who all have roughly 2,500 chips each.
Now, in this situation, if you have the chip lead then it's very feasible to maintain a high intensity of raises to keep the other three players from making any progress. After only two or three orbits you could be out of sight and the other three are fighting between themselves to stay alive on the bubble.
So in a ten handed SNG aggression can indeed be made to work on the bubble.
However six handed we have an entirely different dynamic and this is why you can't play in the same way when we reach the bubble.
In six handed we have 6 players each starting out with 1500 chips giving a total chip count of 9000.
When we get down to three players it's most likely that one player has 4000 chips and the other two have 2500 each.
So, as a generalisation, in a ten handed game once we reach the bubble it's likely that the chip leader has nearly three times the chips of his nearest rival. Whereas in six handed it's closer to twice the amount.
This is why it's not possible to turn on full aggression mode when you get to the bubble six handed.
One important point to make here is that in bona fide tournament play by the time you have got down to the last three players they are all in the money already and so the only question for them is how much money they are going to win.
With the payouts greatly increasing with each place rise you can indeed raise people off of a hand as there is so much money at stake. But we have a different situation here as we haven't made the money and it's still three handed.
Your play in this situation is controlled by the relative blind level to your chip stack.
In the above example all three players have a roughly equal chip stack.The small blind raises half their stack and we move all in.
Well actually we don't make that play here and this is where strategy is such an important part of the game.
The correct play here is to fold.
Whatever two cards seat six has they have a good percentage chance of beating us. It's absolutely core to the SNG strategy here that you preserve your chip stack at all times.
We are probably favourite in this spot but the idea is to make the money and not agree to races where we could be well behind.
Keep that player in the heat! Don't make it easy for them by accepting a race for all of their chips.
Players move all in on the bubble - don't make this big mistake.
If you lose this one hand you are crippling yourself and your chances of winning just took a massive hit. There is absolutely no need to take this risk.
Even if you have AQ here in this spot you should consider making a good fold. You do not want to suffer a beat here or run into aces and get eliminated. You absolutely have to make the money.