Inside the Poker Tournament Bubble

You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief as the bubble in a multi-table tournament bursts. Short and short/medium stacked players who have been playing ultra-tight (and ultra nervous) poker allow themselves to relax – and quite often, players who have been trying the patience of their colleagues with exaggerated waiting tactics ,cannot wait to throw their chips into the pot as the first possible opportunity.

This reversal of strategy means that you have to adopt a different coping mechanism to deal with the change of dynamics at the tables.

It can be a dangerous time for players in more healthy positions, as the short stacked players know that any chance of their progression within the tournament is based on a shove or fold policy, and it only takes one or two to connect with a good hand to see a player deep in the prize money suddenly floundering in the shallows.

The short stacked players have nothing to lose from this strategy, so anybody looking to gain an advantage by bullying them into folding their blinds runs the risk of being re-raised with a marginal hand.

The deep stacked players, who have previously benefited from the graceful surrender of blinds by less well endowed opponents, also have to change their strategies. Whereas before they ruled their domains and were kings of all they surveyed, that scenario has now become unstable, as the late stages of multi-table tournaments are characterised by the anarchy of reckless all-in moves against all laws of position and pot odds.

How you adjust to this imbalance of play is largely going to depend on your own situation.

Your initial objective has to be to make it to the final table, and if you have been able to take advantage of short stacked reluctance to play prior to the bubble, you should be in a position now to cover their stacks and discourage other players from entering the pot (thus isolating the short stacked player and increasing your chances of winning a hand) with big raises to strengthen your position further. The large blinds and antes at this stage of the competition also provide an excellent overlay for your bets.

You should also be aware of the payout structure for the tournament you have entered. At certain stages a new payout increment is reached and, just before these steps, certain (short stacked) players will start to tighten up again. You should be able to take advantage of their desire to reach the higher platform before being blinded out, to accelerate your own advance towards the final table.

As the number of players decreases, and you find yourself on the final three tables, it is important to keep meticulous notes about all of them. If you are playing at online poker casinos, you should have all three tables open on your computer screen as this will provide valuable information for when you make the final table.

In fact, to elevate yourself into a good position before entering the last lap of the tournament, there is one last bubble when the number of places decreases to 12, which you should also attempt to take advantage of.

Once you are inside the final bubble, your aim is initially to make it into a final three positions, and thereafter challenge for the number one spot.