Playing the poker tournament bubble



I like a good bubble. It makes me feel alive. I get giddy just thinking about it. A lot of poker players get a little tight on the bubble. They may get nervous or apprehensive because they don’t want to bust out and get nothing after being so close.

I like to punish these people, and you should learn to enjoy it, too. These players give away tons of chips in the form of blinds and antes. I like to see how many times I can open preflop without getting played back. I like to push the envelope. My fist ends where their nose starts. Be bold and you shall be rewarded. Overdo it. Just be blatant and raise every hand without looking at your cards until they play back at you.

Once they play back, then we can move on to Plan B.

Most live multitable players will just fold into the money. Once you get shoved on you must ask yourself, “Did he get annoyed by my aggressiveness or did he just have two kings?” You might have run into a real hand, which means you can just fold your 8-4 and raise the next hand. They will assume you can’t be stealing again.

I advocate a level of hyper-aggressiveness on the bubble that’s over the top. In a recent World Series of Poker Circuit event (where I finished second), I opened 13 hands in a row on the bubble and won 12 preflop. The last one I c-bet an ace-high flop and he check-folded. Keep in mind where the real money is in tournaments: the top-three spots. If you’re playing for the min-cash you’ll eventually go broke in the long run. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re approaching a tournament bubble:

• Be aggressive. Open a lot of pots and reshove over timid players who open. Believe me, they will fold most of the time.
• Take control of the table.
• Be bold and fearless. Remember where the money is.
• Play for first and don’t be afraid of busting out of the tournament.
• Don’t open shove with an effective stack of more than 12 big blinds at a passive live table. It’s almost always better to open raise to 2-2.5x and fold to a jam.
• Bask in the power and chips that people hand you. Enjoy being dominant; it’s always fun to run over people.

— Mike Wolf is a team pro at Email him at and follow his adventures on Twitter @mikewolf7.

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