Playing the Bubble in SNGs
When you approach the money bubble in any game, it's the point in time where every player feels some excitement or rush. This is the portion of a game where the time you've invested now pays off with a monetary figure. The key to getting through a money bubble and into the money is to not play too reckless. If you play too reckless, you'll bust right before the money bubble and not be satisfied with your play.
Picking Your Spots
Near the bubble, it's important that you are playing pots in optimal spots. The best spot to look at is from the button or cutoff position. If you play hands from the button or cutoff, you'll apply pressure to other players as opposed to them doing it to you. If you make a raise from the button or even shove from the button, depending on how big the blinds are, you are putting a ton of pressure on the blinds. The blinds will either shove all-in or fold the hand. Around the bubble in sit and goes there isn't much room to do anything else or get too creative. If the blinds decide to flat call, this is a strange play and you can most likely continuation bet the flop and force a fold, but you should also look out for a trap. Some players will do this with a hand like aces, but that is pretty rare.
If you are playing out of the big or small blind at the bubble you can force a number of folds if you represent a strong hand. Position raises are very common as the bubble steadily approaches and most of the time the raise before the flop will work. If you are in the big blind and notice a player taking way too many hands down before the flop, you can make a re-shove in to try and win the pot. At the bubble, this is the most risky time for it, but, without a hand your opponent cannot make the call. Your goal should always be first to make the money and then to go in for the win. Once you make the money you can open your game up more and play more hands.
How Many Players Cash
If you are playing a six handed sit and go the top two players will cash in the game. If you are three handed, it's crucial to make no mistakes. One mistake will cost you cash and a possible win of the match. To avoid making mistakes you should look at stack sizes around you. If the other players have bigger stacks than yours, it's time for you to start shoving and hope you double up. Your goal from the first hand to the last hand is to win, and if you are short stacked you have to put pressure on the big stacks and gamble.
If you are a big stack, it's tough to call off with weaker hands in spots where it will change the complexion of the game. If you are big stacked or in first with three players left you want to stay in first. Ideally you want to see the players in second and third play a big pot with each other. If you already have the stack, there's no sense making thin calls and gambling to possibly lose your stack. You can go from the big stack to the short stack in a matter of one hand or a few bad calls.
Six max sit and goes are aggressive by nature and the money bubble shouldn't change that. If you have been playing aggressive by attacking blinds, this is the time where you can build up your stack and go in for the win. If you have gathered a lot of chips and have twice as much as your other two opponents, you should run them over and put pressure on them. You can win the game essentially by having a stack at the money bubble. If you have the stack you should shove with hands that are a favorite over a random hand or two random hands. There's no sense to put in a raise, because it will commit you to the pot anyways. If you raise and proceed to fold as the big stack, you are losing valuable chips.
The money bubble in full ring sit and goes is tougher to approach, because almost all players in these are playing passive throughout the game. As the bubble approaches you should have been able to identify who has been playing tight and exploit that by shoving on their blinds. Of course you need to pick up some cards if you are four handed, but, you can also steal a number of pots with marginal hands.
Full ring money bubbles are tough to approach because there are two situations that will happen. All of the players at the table will have close to even sized stacks or one player will have a big stack with three smaller stacks. If every player has an even sized stack, it's more or less a waiting game between the players. One player will shove and get folds, then the next hand another player will shove and get folds. It's really tough to play with four even stacked players, because it's all about patience. If you have enough patience eventually one player will shove in and bust their stack.
The best way to go in for the money or a win with four even stacked players is essentially to wait it out. If there's one big stacked player at the table, this player will most likely look for every spot to apply pressure on the others by shoving. If you are one of the short stackers, you should avoid the big stack unless you have a big enough hand to play with them. What you should do is try to pick on someone who has the same stack size as you do. If you are shoving on them most of the time the player will fold without a big enough hand to call. You'll apply far more pressure approaching the money bubble against someone with a small stack as opposed to a big stack.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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