When the poker tournament nears the bubble, the tournament players begin tasting the money. Because poker players wish to cash by nature, many tournament players tend to go into self-preservation mode. Instead of playing to win the tournament, the players attempt to last through the bubble, almost pausing their game plan in lieu of cashing. When play tightens up in this manner, it is time to turn the heat up in the kitchen.
Play the Bubble to Win
The objective of a poker tournament is to win. If not playing to win, then one should not play in the poker tournament. Players tend merely to survive when approaching the bubble. Playing in survival mode will not result in long-term profit. If you look at the payout structure of a poker tournament, there is good reason that the bulk of the prize money is contained in the winner’s share. Because the prize structure is top heavy, it is of paramount importance to adopt a strategy designed to get to the winner’s share of the purse. One such method is to exploit the mistake players make when they engage in survival poker. The money you will make when taking down a tournament will far exceed the amount you win by treading water until the bubble burst.
Ruthless Aggression on the Bubble
Playing as a contrarian is often the correct approach to a poker table. When playing the bubble at a table full of newly passive players, one should turn the volume way up on the aggression pot. Raise preflop. Raise early, and raise often. Attack the blinds with seemingly endless raises. Force players tasting the prize money to fold, fearing the end of their meal. Notice which players seem proud to lay down pocket jacks to a minimal bet on the flop, and attack them with reckless abandon. The players who fold hands like pocket jacks before the flop and on the flop are ideal candidates to attack during bubble play. These players will nearly fold before bet into if an ace occurs.
You will also notice players who seem to take flops, but fold once they are bet into. Players such as these, as well as the players who fold premium hands proudly are exactly the players you want to attack and sometimes even manipulate into taking flops with you. If these players get involved in a hand, get right in there with them. However, be mindful of whether they play back into you. A player of this type typically does not play back at an opponent near the bubble unless they have the best of it.
Non-Stop Aggression on the Bubble
Bringing non-stop aggression on the bubble is a most effective method of going deep in a poker tournament. When playing the bubble, we want to exploit the fear of not reaching the money our opposition exhibits to cause them to fold weakly and unreasonably, pushing more and more of their chips our way.