Congratulations, you made it into the money! The bubble bursting not only symbolizes the point in the poker tournament where each player remaining gets paid; it also represents a change in mentality. The players who were previously treaded cautiously no have their minds at ease – as if the weight of the world has been lifted off their shoulders. You will notice this in their sudden change of playing style. You too should adjust your tournament game, in anticipation of their adjustments beyond the bubble.
Short stack players who were previously in survival mode have been given a new lease on life since penetrating the bubble. These players are now mostly implementing a double up or go home attitude and strategy. Short stack players will move all-in during post bubble play with pocket pairs of any size, as well as hands containing any ace or two painted or high cards. Your job, having previously been the table bully – is to isolate these players when the opportunity presents itself, putting in a reraise or all-in when you wish to play for their entire stack.
Other Large Stacks
Most other large stacked poker players will be looking to bully the table. It is best to avoid the other large stacks at the table when you lack a quality hand. Marginal plays are meant for play against short stack players, while we will look to put other large stack players to the test with our more quality hands.
Speaking of larger stacks, since large stack players such as you have been seemingly running the table over before the bubble, do not be surprised to see players of all stack sizes take a stand. Many a player will play back into you, as your relentless raising on the bubble has many a player frustrated. This time is ideal for sitting back when you are able to and selectively picking your spots while watching the table – noticing the change in tactics beyond the bubble.
Adjusting Play Based on Payouts
The payouts in the poker tournament are graduated, with the prize pool being most top-heavy. While our goal is to propel ourselves to the top, we are wise to make note of when the tournament steps up in payout. When approaching the next level of payouts, it is common to notice many opposing players tighten back up. The sudden tightening of the table is not to suggest everyone suddenly developed superior standards. These players are looking to get paid more. As a result, they are playing similar to how they played on the bubble. Adjust your tactics accordingly, willingly attacking the players who have tightened up just as you would on the bubble.
Observe your Opposition
As the tournament field thins, you are wise to monitor the play of your opposition. Try to familiarize yourself with betting patterns, tendencies and hand ranges of your opposing players. Pay attention to the remaining tables, watching showdowns to gather intelligence on hand ranges.
When you hit the final table, you are guaranteed big money. Do not let this affect your game. Feel out the final table and take the contrarian approach, adopting an overall playing style that is opposite the majority of the table. If the final table plays mostly weak and tight, you will be best served playing somewhat loose and aggressive – smartly loose, seeing many flops. If the table is wild and aggressive, you are well served taking a more passive approach before the flop, sitting back and selectively knocking players off with superior starting hands.
When playing beyond the bubble, we are looking to pick off the short stacks, while avoiding the deep stack players without superior hands. By picking our spots beyond the bubble, we strive to propel ourselves to the final table, and then victory.