The schedule for the 2016 World Series of Poker has just been released. This is the granddaddy of all live poker tournaments and the one set of tournaments that amateurs players dream of playing.
While the ultimate dream of many players is to win a WSOP bracelet, it is still a nice brag to say that you have made the money in a WSOP event. In order to do so, you have to get through the dreaded bubble period. Today we will take a look at the bubble period in poker events and how you can best position yourself to make it to the money in a poker tournament.
What is the Bubble Period?
The “official” bubble period in most tournaments is once hand-for-hand play begins. This is often once play is anywhere from 2 to a dozen players out of the money. However, the reality is that the bubble period begins long before that point.
In most tournaments, you will start to see the bubble period begin once you get roughly 100 players or so out of the money. This is the point where players start to pay attention to how many players are left, how many are needed to be eliminated to the money and so forth.
Once you get to around 50 or 40 players out of the money, the pace of play will really begin to slow down as players are looking to avoid putting themselves in a situation that will send them out on the bubble.
The reality is that if you play enough poker tournaments, you will go out near or even on the stone bubble. If you want to avoid becoming one of the players donating to the prize pool, here are a few tips on how to play through the bubble period.
Players to Target
There are three types of players you want to target heading into the bubble period. These are your tight players, your short to medium stacks and your “clock watchers.”
You should already be attacking your tight players at the table but now is a great time to maybe turn up the heat even further. Your tight players tend to get even tighter once the money bubble start to approach and will likely only go to war with the Top 10 hands and some may only go to war with Jacks through Aces.
Your short and medium stacks are also players you’re going to start raising a bit more frequently. These players are looking to find a way to stay in the game and make it through the bubble period. They’re likely not going to risk their tournament life on a mediocre hand at this point.
Pay special attention to the players at the table that are clearly watching the clock, regardless of their stack size. These players are going to be constantly looking to see how many players are left, how much time there is until the next level and how that’s going to thin out the field. These players are beginning to lock it down in anticipation of the money bubble and you can pick up a few chips from them.
Players to Avoid
There are three types of players that you want to avoid as you approach the bubble. They are the chip leaders, the “4 pm’ers” and the “nothing to lose” stacks.
The chip leaders are clearly the ones you don’t want to tangle with unless you have a premium hand. Unless you have a stack that can do some damage to theirs, they aren’t going to be too afraid to look you up and maybe try to get lucky and knock you out. You want to pick up easy pots approaching the bubble and the chip leaders are not the players to give them to you.
Next, don’t get too cute against players that we call the 4 pm’ers. These players are those that are getting short and are looking forward to getting into the evening bracelet or second chance event. It is “double up or enter the next one” mode for these players, so don’t call these players overly light unless you have a monster stack or they have a micro stack.
Finally, you have the “nothing to lose” stacks. These are your players that are barely hanging on and likely will not be able to blind their way into the money. They are looking to find a hand and go to war with it. If you’re going to play these folks, make sure you have at least reasonable holdings. Usually it is better to let the big stacks and the loose players try and send them to the rail.
What if You’re the Short Stack?
There are times where you’re going to be the short stack when the bubble is approaching and this is a time where you want to pick your spot to try and pick up chips or to double-up.
If you still have a stack large enough to afford you some fold equity, try and get involved in pots with other short stacks and even some medium stacks. The short stacks are not going to want to risk doubling you up and becoming crippled at the bubble. Your medium stacks are not going to want to risk becoming a short stack at this point and will only call you down with a solid holding.
When you have a stack that doesn’t allow for fold equity, get your stack in as quickly as you can but with something that can work for you. Outside of your big hands, you are going to be looking for any ace or any reasonable holding with a face card. A couple of suited cards aren’t totally unreasonable, especially if you are heads-up against one opponent.
Should Your Ride It Out?
Is there ever a time you should consider riding it out and blinding your way to the money? A “winning mentality” would say “no” and that you should always go for the win. However, what if you won your seat into a $5k event for $125 or $250? A min-cash in this case is going to be around $6,000 to $7,000.
What if you managed to get your seat into the Main Event via a $525 satellite? A min-cash is usually around $15,000. While that isn’t big money to a pro, for the average amateur player that could be a down payment on a house or a nice used car.
In a case such as this, if you feel that you can blind your way to the money, we are not going to discourage you. After all, poker is about making money. If you can turn $525 into $15,000 and you’re happy with that, go right ahead. There are plenty of other players willing to gamble for the big money.