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Bubble Play in Multi Table Tournaments

The bubble is when things start to get tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to bust out before you cash, but on the other hand, you want to be able to make a deep run and a big cash. This are the two sides of the bubble play equation.

Of course, your standing in the field is going to make the difference when it comes to how you approach the bubble. Needless to say, a short stack is going to play much differently than the chip leader. There are a lot of variables that come into play when you are hovering around the bubble, with some of them being more obvious than others.

Not only is it important to identify how your stack sits in comparison to the other players, but it is also important to consider where the other players fit in. The short stacks will generally be afraid to make moves for fear of busting. In fact, a lot of players will try their best to fold their way into the money, even if it means sacrificing all chances of a deep run. One of your biggest assets will be the ability to identify who is scared to play, who is comfortable, and who is over anxious. These are the three types of players that you can expect to find and will need to beat.

The nature of your particular tournament should play a large role in determining how you want to play. For example, a satellite tournament’s bubble play is going to vary greatly when compared to the play in the Sunday Million on PokerStars. In a satellite, everyone who cashes earns the same prize, making a deep run irrelevant.

In the Sunday Million, however, even a small cash could be a significant monetary win. When the buy in is $200, a $400 cash will be a net gain of $200, something that a lot of players would be very satisfied with. As a result, a lot of players will be very scared of busting out when a min cash is so close.

Another example would be any tournament with a lower end buy in. When you are playing $5,000 or $10,000 guarantee tournaments, there just isn’t a whole lot of value in min cashing, if any at all. The only real money to be made is at the final table. These are the types of events where players will play more recklessly in hopes of accumulating a big stack. You need to know your situation at all times - but especially when you are near the bubble.

Playing a Small Stack

Though the variables are virtually never ending, your stack size is one of the most obvious. An easy way to form a game plan is through assessing where your stand in comparison to the rest of the field. Small stacks are on the brink of busting out. This means that you are either going to put it all on the line in hopes of regaining some composure, or that you will instead try to slide into a min cash. In the long run, going for a big cash is going to be much more profitable. You can earn five min cashes and still make a lot less than what you would with one significant final table run. It all comes down to how much variance you are willing to handle.

Actual strategy for small stack play, again, is dependant on your goals. If you want a shot at scoring a big cash, be prepared to shove all in whenever you have the opportunity. These are the situations where ace high is as good as gold. You can’t be afraid of busting out any more than you are hopeful of compiling a big stack.

There is always a good chance that you are going to lose, so you have to be willing to accept this in exchange for an opportunity to win. If you are not comfortable making big plays and hoping for the best, you could always sit back and hope that you coast into a min cash. Don’t count on it, though, and realize that you may very well run out of chips before the bubble actually pops. This is the risk that you will run when trying to take the easy way out.

Playing a Big Stack

A big stack is always infinitely easier to play with in a tournament, whether it is in the early stages, middle stages, or right around the bubble. When you have a big stack, the concern is not so much whether you will make the money, but instead how you can take advantage of the other players left in the event.

You can effectively bully around the other players so as to give yourself an even better opportunity at a very big cash. Look for the players with average to small stacks who are clearly trying to earn nothing more than a min cash. These are the people who will back down from you and will also inflict minimal damage if they happen to fight back.

The only thing to worry about with a big stack is that you do not start to play over aggressive. Big stack players will sometimes cross the line from aggressive to reckless, and will destroy their chances as a result. Selective aggression will be the winning strategy when you are playing a big stack near the bubble.

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