Most single table tournaments pay the top third of the field.  When the tournament thins out to four players remaining, every SNG concerns themselves with getting into the money.  The bulk of the prize money appropriately sits within first and second place for most single table tournaments, as payouts for the SNG are usually structured in a manner awarding half of the prize pool to first place, while second place receives 30% of the prize money and 20% going to third place.  Because eighty percent of the prize money is contained in the top two places, one should aspire to thrust themselves deep into the money when playing the bubble.

What to Expect from the Bubble of an SNG

During bubble play, SNG competitors typically hold a disproportionate amount of chips.  Usually one player is the dominant chip leader, with two players sitting somewhat short-stacked, and a fourth player hanging out around the average stack size.  One can reasonably expect the big stack to bully the table, while either the short stacks will attempt to out-fold one another in survival mode, or they will attempt to aggressively double-up.  The level of blinds makes it difficult to sit back when on the bubble of a SNG.  Blinds are typically at such an amount that sitting back in anticipation of a good hand will kill even the large stack.

How to Play the Bubble of an SNG

When on the bubble of the Single Table Tournament, the objective is to propel yourself through to the top two positions.  This often means the method of sitting back is not a prudent strategy.  A player should adjust his strategy based on chip count.

When playing as the deep stack on the bubble, constant pressure should be placed upon each short stack player.  Most specifically, a player lacking a large chip count should be tested for his entire stack as often as possible.  It is profitable to raise in such a manner that the short stack player will be placed all-in if he or she chooses to call.  Often, this will result in a successful stealing of the blinds – which serves to add to your substantial chip stack.

When playing as the deep stack, another effective technique is putting the average stack to the test.  By doing so, we are raising an amount to commit a significant amount of chips from the middle stacked player.  In his mind, he is proceeding with caution, as he would prefer the shorter stacks to bust out before committing too many chips personally.  Thus, the middle stack typically looks for reasons to fold.

When playing as the short stack, we are looking to simply double up.  When first to act, we will shove all-in with a hand valued at ten-eight offsuit and above.  When a player has raised in front of us, we will often look to call or reraise if possible with any pair, as well as two high cards.  By doing so, we will smartly look to double up to the point where we can effectively compete for top prize.  By pushing all-in preflop, we refuse to allow other players to bully us.  This places the guesswork solely on the shoulders of our opposing players, thus our decisions are easier, while theirs is more difficult in nature.

When playing with an average stack, we will additionally look to pressure the short stacked players, while selectively playing at the deeper stack.  While we do not want to play passively against the deep stack, generally speaking, we should not fear taking the aggression to him by putting him to costly decisions by using the threat of a crippling big bet.

When playing a single tournament on the bubble, our tactics should suggest we are attempting to win the tournament, as opposed to merely surviving.  Adjusting our posture in the SNG is paramount to propelling ourselves deep into the money.