top corner

Keeping the Bubble Alive in SNGs

Keeping the bubble of a SNG alive is a tactic used by some players so that they can continue to abuse the bubble. This is generally done by keeping constant pressure on the bigger stacks at the table all the while giving the shortest stacks walks regardless of the cards you're holding or the odds you may be getting. That way, when the bubble finally bursts, everyone is so short that it's only a matter of a few hands before everyone busts and you win.

When to Keep the Bubble Alive

There are a few factors to consider before deciding whether you should be trying to keep the bubble alive or not.

Your Stack Size

You should already have a stack capable of abusing the table. I suggest having at least a 1.5 to 1 chip lead over the player that's 2nd in chips.

You want to have a stack capable of abusing the table because it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep the bubble going if you can't abuse it. In other words, if you and 3 other players in an 18-man had 6.5k chips each, you're not going to be able to "abuse" them. So it makes much more sense to knock out the 1k short stack as soon as possible so you don't have to worry about the bubble anymore.

Your Position in Relation to the Deep and Short Stacks

The best position to be in is where the short stack is to your immediate right and the deeper stacks are to your left. That way you can fold to the short stack when he shoves blind vs. blind and then open-shove the next 3 hands abusing the deeper stacks. This is assuming it's folded to you when you're not the very first to act.

If the stacks are reversed, you can still keep the bubble alive and abuse it - it's just more difficult. See, the short stack would be to your immediate left, which allows you to fold your blinds to him keeping him in the game. However, when you go to shove the next hand, he's going to be one of the players you're counting on to fold. And that's not guaranteed since he is the shortest and the player needing to gamble the most.

Table Dynamics

The biggest dynamic to consider is whether you're given the opportunity to abuse the table.

For example, say you have a maniac to your immediate right. Every time it folds to him he open-raises or shoves. When he does this, it means you can't (abuse). So with a dynamic like this, I'd much rather end the bubble right away so I can get into the money. I'm just not sure I'll have the opportunity to abuse the bubble if I decide to keep it going.

The biggest question that you need to ask when deciding to let the bubble continue is if you can abuse it afterwards. If not, then it's probably best to end it as soon as possible. Remember, just because you can keep the bubble going doesn't mean you should.

Hand Example of How & When to Keep a SNG Bubble Alive

Below is an individual hand history from a game I played where I dominated the bubble of an 18-man SNG. If you want to view this in a hand history replayer, just copy/paste this into a .txt file (notepad) and drag/drop into the replayer.

PokerStars Game #49287767574: Tournament #308951400, $6.00+$0.50 USD Hold'em No Limit - Level IX (300/600) - 2010/09/07 16:01:55 PT [2010/09/07 19:01:55 ET]
Table '308951400 2' 9-max Seat #2 is the button
Seat 1: ijzercart (3394 in chips)
Seat 2: El Stricho (7176 in chips)
Seat 5: NTL89 (875 in chips)
Seat 7: MATTGEER (12160 in chips)
Seat 9: Pipe E.M. (3395 in chips)
ijzercart: posts the ante 50
El Stricho: posts the ante 50
NTL89: posts the ante 50
MATTGEER: posts the ante 50
Pipe E.M.: posts the ante 50
NTL89: posts small blind 300
MATTGEER: posts big blind 600
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to MATTGEER [Kd 9d]
Pipe E.M.: folds
ijzercart: folds
El Stricho: folds
NTL89: raises 225 to 825 and is all-in

As you can see, this is a great set-up to keep the bubble alive. The shortest stack is to my right and the deeper stacks are to my left. You can also see that I'm getting 7.4 to 1 odds with K9s which is a snap call in almost any other situation. However, I elect to fold because I can shove the next 3 hands. I would even fold pocket aces here.

I realize many of you are probably like, "What, you'd fold aces here?" And yeah, I would. You need to think past the cards, past this one situation and think about the benefits of keeping this player around.

I can call here with aces or K9s and bust this player. But then I'm in the money with only a 1.5 to 1 chip lead. That's not that much and it's far from a "lock" for first place.

However, by folding and keeping him in the game, I use him as leverage to abuse the players to my left. I do this as much as I can so that by the time the bubble bursts, they have maybe 3-4 big blinds left and it's pretty much a guarantee that I win the game.

More Sit and Go Strategy
bottom corner