Playing The Bubble - The Essential Guide
Playing on the bubble means keeping your raises consistent when you have a hand to raise with and not calling or re raising when you have a situation that is 60/40.
If you play this way you will make the money 80% of the time you are playing on the bubble. You are hoping, wishing, praying that the other two stacks go to war and an elimination takes place.
Patience is a virtue. Off they go to war again.
Be content to maintain your chip stack. Be content for the other players to occasionally steal your blinds. You can go for two or three orbits without playing a hand here and this will not go unnoticed. When eventually you do raise you will take down the blinds with no quibble.
Keep maintaining your play in this fashion. It takes a lot of practice to be a good bubble player and this is where the player who consistently plays the six seater SNG has a huge advantage over the other two players.
That advantage is the rising blinds and the fact that you have been in this situation many times. If you stick to playing this game format then you will see the pattern of play constantly repeating itself.
Eventually one of the other two players will crack. It always happens.
It's usually the short stack who moves all in when they really had no need and gets looked up by someone with a monster hand.
You have to play measured and considered poker on the bubble. It is not good enough to keep raising all in when you have a big hand and folding when you don't. This is the crass and classless way to play.
When you play on the bubble you should get an adrenaline rush. A good bubble play can last for many hands if you have several good players as they take down blinds and maintain their stack without taking excessive risk. It is this play that characterises the good players from the part timers.
The poor bubble player is normally the same player that played many pots when the blinds were low and aggression won the day. In this bubble situation they are completely out of their depth and comfort zone.
The good bubble player is the player who only played three or four hands to get to this situation and maintained their stack through the four player phase. Now that we are three handed they start to crank up the raises.
This is not a "raise fest" by any means. They are just raising one or two more hands with a nice 8,9 suited here and a nice 10, J offsuit there. Hands that would normally have been discarded in the early part of the tournament now become a vital weapon in the bubble players armoury.
The fish does not know this and they sit there wondering how come the other two players started to get great hands all of a sudden!
He doesn't realise that they are moving up a gear to keep their chip stack intact.
And this is why he cracks and moves all in, because he doesn't know any other way to play.
Becoming a great bubble player holds the key to building your bankroll. It's very easy to make the last three players, essentially you are playing three or four big hands to get a 2000 chip stack (anything else is gravy) and then maintaining that stack whilst we play down from four players to two. Your goal is to make the last two players without ever putting your whole stack at risk.
Now, if you are of the opinion that you should play aggressively in this situation as many people advocate then what happens is that eventually you will run into someone with a big hand and your junk is no match for it.
You can not take risks when playing on the bubble, you need to play in a fashion where you maintain your chip stack and avoid all in confrontation.
What you are hoping for in this situation is that either the other two stacks bust one or the other or you pick up a nice big monster hand like KK making your standard raise and gettting a caller.
Of course here it is likely that all of the chips are going to be going in but you are a massive favourite and if you win this hand you should go on to win the SNG. This is a risk that you can't avoid. Gambling is part of poker and whilst skill makes up the major part of a consistently winning player, you also need to have the big hands go in your favour to win. It is also a good idea to maximise your stake with a poker sign up bonus.
However, if you play in the manner described above you will nearly always be getting your chips in the middle with a huge lead and it is going to take a big suckout to beat you.
Unfortunately this can happen many times in a row and it is why we practise bankroll management and always play with at least 30 buy ins in reserve.
If you find yourself bubbling out often then you need to examine your play. Did you have to make that move in that spot? Were the blinds really so high that you had to make that call or move all in?
If the answers are yes then you need to look at the hands you pushed with and what you were up against. If you are constantly getting your chips in with the best hand then it's just a fact of life that the best poker requires luck as well as skill to win. Over time the luck evens out.
What you should begin to get a feel for from this article is that playing on the bubble requires a lot of patience and concentration and it is your play in this situation that determines how much money you are going to make from the game.
Now, what if you raise and get moved all in?