No Limit Texas Hold em: Bubble Play and Final Table Play


I get a lot of questions from players wondering how they can do better in multi-table tournaments. In general, they want to know how to make the final table or the money more often. There are couple of key things to keep in mind that will help you reach the money more often and also give you a better chance to actually win.

As I was playing a 90-player Sit n Go on Full Tilt last night, I was reminded of  how most players tighten up once they get close to the bubble. It is a natural reaction to not want to make a stupid play now that you are so close to the money. You have invested this much time, played well, and you want to be paid for it. However, close to the bubble you need to take the exact opposite approach.

Obviously, I am not saying that you should make stupid plays, but you should not, as a general rule, dig a hole and hide. Many times in these situations, good cards just do not come. What you need to do to compensate for that is put pressure on the other players to make a decision. They probably do not have premium cards either in most cases, so what I do in these instances is loosen up my starting hand requirements somewhat (how much? what cards should you play? read my e-book or take a coaching session and I will show you!), and start stealing where ever I can.

You have to pick your spots to do this, but most of the time, unless the players behind you have a monster, they are going to fold to big raises. Late in the tournament, the blinds and antes are good sized, so stealing them is very worthwhile. This is how I build a stack big enough to contend at the final table. This is also how you avoid sitting there waiting to become irrelevant or get blinded off.

There are a couple of points to remember here: do not try this if someone has already raised in front of you. The time to steal pots is when everyone has folded to you. Position, position, position. However, if you do have a good hand, a big raise from under the gun will usually result in the table folding as well, since they figure you have a monster to make a raise from that position.

Second, do not try this with very small stacks unless you WANT a call. In other words, you usually can’t steal from a player who is desperate. They will simply re-raise, or call you with an all-in. Then you are in a showdown situation where you have to hope your cards hold up.

Which brings me to the next point. Try and have something that you will not be hopeless playing if you DO get a call. Of course, the intent is to take down these pots with no resistance, but sometimes you will get caught and end up having to play the hand. This is why you don’t want to be making these steal attempts with 6-2 off suit. At least have a face card or some kind of connectors will give you a chance post-flop if someone happens to stand up to you, as will happen eventually.

Also, try and mix up your steal attempts. Make a larger raise than you did the previous round. Maybe a smaller raise. Maybe an all-in from the button that you kn

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For any questions, concerns, or opinions,  please email Chris Wilcox at chriswilcoxpoker@gmail.comow will not be called by the blinds.  That is an extreme play that can be risky, but if you know you are against a couple of tight players that cannot call an all-in unless they have something big, go ahead and make that play, especially if you have a bigger chip stack than they do.

Finally, if you do get caught and have to play post-flop, be prepared to check the hand down or fold if you do not hit anything. Remember, others don’t want to bust out either, and they are probably being conservative, but they do also hit good hands from time to time. If that happens and you get someone who immediately goes all-in after the flop, give him credit for either hitting his hand or making a strong, gutsy, play and just fold if you have nothing.  Sure, it stinks to lose the money you put in pre-flop, but you can resume stealing again in the next couple of hands. At least you will still be around in the tournament, which is better than busting out with K-high or something like that after your opponent hit a pair of Aces.

Overall, taking some chances on the bubble when no one else is willing to, will yield excellent results most of the time, if you do it correctly. Perfecting this bubble type strategy will get you to the money most of the time, and increase your poker bankroll in a big way.

Tomorrow’s post will address the changes that you may want to make AFTER you have gotten past the bubble and are in the money or at the final table.


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