Tournament Strategy on the Bubble

So, you have managed to get yourself far enough into an online poker tournament to be in the dreaded bubble situation and that deserves congratulations. Playing around the bubble is an interesting and completely unique beast to tournament poker and the approach to the bubble can vary from person to person. There is nothing worse in a poker tournament than being the “bubble boy.” For those who do not know the term, the bubble person is the last person who finishes out of the money. Playing through the bubble is the most important thing when the tournament starts getting to that stage.

Your poker chip count in relation to the average stack and blinds will determine the most ideal bubble strategy. For a player that is short stacked, the first thing you should do when you start getting close to the bubble is start playing extremely tight. Do not let any chips out of your stack that you do not have to let go of. Unless you have a premium hand, or you have to double up to survive, a short stacked player should play conservatively, moving all-in or folding.

If, however, you have a deeper stack, the bubble plays a much less important role. Being further up in chip count means you can continue to play without fear of being knocked out as the bubble person. Instead, you can use the other players bought of conservatism to increase the size of your chip stack. It is every poker player’s biggest fear to be knocked out on the bubble, so playing on that fear can net you a lot of chips and give you a lot more strength than you would otherwise have.

Depending on the number of people in the tournament, the bubble phase can last quite a while. As soon as the game approaches the point where the bubble person will be decided in the near future, all risky betting is shut down and everyone who is in danger of being knocked out is doing everything they can to wait it out until they can finish in the money. The number of people folding almost every hand they get is staggering and if you are in a deeper stacked position, you can use this to your advantage. After the bubble person has been knocked out, most things return to some semblance of regularity at

Playing during the bubble phase can be extremely nerve-racking or extremely enjoyable depending on the depth of your stack. Being the first person out of the money is a terrible feeling and it is the goal of everyone not to be put in that position. As such, if you are short stacked make sure you morph into a total nit and do not open up until the bubble has passed. It is even better if you have just paid the blinds, as you will last at least another round all the way around the table.