Bubble play

Marcus Bateman RSS / Marcus Bateman / 24 July 2008 / Leave a Comment

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140 Marcus Bateman

How you play on the money 'bubble' of a tournament is critical to long term tournament success.

As the first money places start approaching, players tend to tighten up their play considerably, desperate to get some return for the numerous hours they have already invested in the tournament. Although this feels the right strategy at the time, the fact that so much of the prize pool is given to the top three places means that this is the time you should actually be playing a much looser game, desperately trying to accumulate chips to enable you to make the final three.

As this strategy has become more talked about and well known, skilled bubble play has had to be steadily refined. In the past it was pretty easy to run over most players on the money bubble - not so anymore. There will usually be one or two players on your table who will loosen up their game considerably, and these players have to be noticed and adjusted to. These players (unless they are extremely good and willing to re-bluff all in) can often be more profitable to have than regular tight players. As they are opening so light, they provide excellent targets to re-steal from - a technique which wins far more chips than a regular blind steal.

They key to maximizing profit on the bubble is the identification of players. You don't want to be attacking the blinds of decent loose players, as they will often re-raise you quite light and leave you facing difficult choices. When opening, you want to be attacking the players blinds who seem quite passive and tight on the bubble, as they will only call or raise with very strong hands. In an ideal world, you would want the loose players on your right, so that you can re-steal from their loose opens, and have the tight passive players on your left, where you can attack their blinds whenever it is folded to you.

The final key point about bubble play is a general psychological one. Although usually the bubble makes players tighten up, this is not always the case. It is critical that you try and identify not only the psychological state of the players around you, but also the general mood of the table. Sometimes, people hardly seem to notice the bubble, other times you will be able to raise hand after hand without anyone playing back at you. Usually though, the bubble will change how people play: either by making them loosen up or tighten up.

Watch for which type they are and take advantage.

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