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Poker Strategy

August 5, 2008

Full Tilt Poker Sit N Go Bubble Play

Last night I was playing a 90 player knockout Sit n Go on Full Tilt. I had been having a very good tournament, knocked out 8 players, collected their “bounties”  and was in great position for the final table with about $22,000 in chips. There were 18 players left and only the top 9 are paid. This is the point in the tournament where it gets tough. You have basically 3 things going on:

1) Small stacks are going all in every chance they get to double up. They know this is the only chance they have to make the final table. Otherwise they will be blinded off.

2) Super aggressive players with fairly big stacks will be trying to steal the blinds every chance they get in order to build up a big stack for the final table.

3) Mid-sized stacks are just trying to hang in there to make the final table. These are usually more cautious players who want to keep from doing something stupid in order to make the money.

How you play in these situations depends a lot on your position relative to these other various sizes of stacks, and also the cards that you get. I happened to find myself in this tournament sandwiched between very big stacks (double my chips stack) and smaller stacks that were just big enough to hurt me (1/2 my chip stack or better) To complicate things, at this time I went on an incredibly bad run of cards. This is no exaggeration. The best hand I had was a pair or deuces in late position facing 2 raises from other players.

The blinds were now in the $800-$1600 range, so my situation was becoming grim. At no time was I presented with a hand I could play and my position plays were taken away 100% of the time with all-ins or big raises from big stacks. You cannot call these bets with 6-2 off suit, no matter how much you would like to. When you find yourself surrounded by players who make  a move every single hand, you have no choice but to pick a hand that you are comfortable playing and push back. Be careful, however. With blinds and antes this large, the hand that you pick should be one that you will not mind going all in with.

You are not going to be able to limp in with suited connectors or something like that in these situations. If you make a call before the flop, be prepared to have the other player move all in post-flop. Keeping this in mind, you do not want to make pre-flop calls unless you have a decent hand, enough of one to call an all-in. I don’t mean that you should wait for A-K or pocket Q’s because they may not come, but if you decide to call with K-7 you had better want to play it until the end because you will be forced to. If you do not, you will end up folding with a huge dent being put in your already small chip stack, and then your options become even more limited.

In my case, I just could not get anything to play, or any room to make a move of my own. So, I ended up holing up and limping into the final table with about $2k in chips instead of $22k!

You can call this a stupid move if you want to, as many players would have gone all in with anything before they got this far down in chips. Truly, though, 4-6, 7-2, 3-7 is just not going to be good enough to get you into the final table most of the time. Busting out on the bubble is not fun. The difference in making the final table and not making it was the difference between being in the money and not being in the money, so this way, at least I was paid, as opposed to not being paid for my efforts. Interestingly, I almost made a come back at the final table, doubling up twice, once with A-J and once with A-K, turning my $2k into a somewhat relevant stack of about $21,000 again.

I lost out soon after that trying to take the blinds from the button with A-9 and was called with A-T, but this does serve to illustrate that sometimes you just have to be patient and take what the cards offer you. It may be between making money or not making money. Which would you choose?

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