The Bubble Dilemma: Tips for Beginner/Intermediate Poker Players

The Bubble Dilemma: Tips for Beginner/Intermediate Poker Players

Ever played in a poker MTT tourney? It’s like walking a tightrope, especially when you hit the bubble – that sweet spot right before cashing in. As someone in the early-to-middle game, the trick is finding the right mix of cunning with courage.

Picture this: the bubble is when everyone’s eyes lock onto the prize, and one wrong move could either boot you out or sling you into the money. Time to play it smart, but not so safe that you’re a total pushover.

A classic mistake is playing way too conservatively. Folding anything less than a top-tier hand might feel safe, but truth be told, it just lets the aggressive players steal your chips. You have to find that sweet balance between staying alive and throwing a little attitude into the mix.

Another blunder? Getting too attached to mediocre hands. The bubble pressure messes with even the seasoned players’ heads. Sure, that so-so hand might seem like a tempting bet, but more often than not, it’s a shortcut to an early exit. Stick to your guns, stay disciplined, and save your chips for the right moves.

And when it comes to working the bubble, keep your eyes peeled on your opponents. Spot the ones hanging on to their chips like their lives depend on it, and those ready to roll the dice. Adjust your game plan, target the cautious ones, and steer clear of the heavy hitters.

In a nutshell, surviving the bubble in an MTT tourney means mixing caution with a dash of courage, and yeah, getting some battle scars. Stay chill, find your groove, and ride the bubble wave to your advantage.

Wishing you all the luck at the tables! (I’ve been needing it a lot lately :blush:)

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Thanks for the topic! I agree that it is important to balance being too tight and not realizing the significance of being on the bubble. Chatting with the other players at the table can help you understand how important it is to them to cash and make it easier to push them off hands. I still try to stick to the fundamentals of playing in position and recognizing good spots to fold or to push. Once the bubble breaks, it is also a good idea to keep an eye on the pay jumps and where the short stacks are sitting.

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I concur. Bubble is the place to collect the scared money. But what comes next is equally important.
Once the bubble bursts all those tiny stacks start their kamikaze runs with almost any two card all-ins. We shouldn’t be scared of those either. If there are no big stack involved that money should be ours.

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I used to make the classic mistake of playing way too conservatively near the bubble.
So often I’d just kick back waiting for other players to bust so I would at least make the money. Often that wouldn’t work out, next thing you know I’d be sitting in last, probably winding up being bubble boy.
These days I somewhat ignore the bubble, except I know I might be able to pick up some easy chips. Playing to win is the way to go, if you wind up 2nd or 3rd, it’s a pretty decent payout, a lot better than just barely making the money.

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Thanks for your tips . Personally I would play carefully on the bubble but not scared money completely . I have seen many bad beats deep in a tourney , so yeah , I tend to play more conservatively , especially in a high buy in tourney during bubble . But if it’s a low buy in game I do not care so much . .

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Good advice - The bubble is where the real mind games begin.

You’ve gotta be like a chameleon, adapting to the table’s mood. Keep a cool head, pick your battles, and don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk when the moment’s right. And if you find yourself up against a super-aggressive player, sometimes the best move is to just stay out of their way and let them self-destruct or take their chips yourself when you pick up a good enough hand.

But above all, remember: it’s just a game, and even the pros have their off days. Keep learning, and keep enjoying the ride. And if you hit a rough patch, just think of it as a great story to tell or learn discipline from.

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Another important point near the Bubble is calling hands are stronger than shoving hands.

If I get really low in chips near the bubble, I might raise or shove with hands I would never call a raise or shove. QJs or 22 might be a raise or shove during bubble play, but in order to call a raise or shove, I want AT+ or 99+.

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In my opinion to play a solid poker game through the bubble is always a fight except you are the chipleader and you can fold most of your sh.ty hole cards ;-)!
For beginners/intermediate player how may react a bit to nervous it is because you wanna quit without a prize and i think also a regular player will have this freightning moments during the bubble if he/she is short-stacked or with the smallest stack on table.
It is like a walk on a slack line during the bubble, your decisions have to be ovethinked fast and clear with no doubts.
I would never play it too consvervatively - like bermejoga said - you have to be active and try to limp not too much because some players will take advantage of this behaviour from other villains who react only in a passive way.
Try to play the good positions for example with 7-8 suited or something against 2 or 3 villains it is maybe enough to show strength @ the right moment and in ya position.

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Correct bubble play is very important in mtt’s. With a bigstack im putting a lot of pressure on my oponents and with a short stack im folding a lot. When its for a lot of money i would even maybe fold a premium here and there but it really depends how short i am. If i have a bigstack and everyone folds to me on the button whike sb and bb are short, im going allin with basically any 2.

Middle stacks are more difficult to play on the bubble imo. Thede is a lot of room to make terrible mistakes and some hands are quite diffficult to play. JJ, AQ for example.

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As it turns out, I experenced a lot of what you’re talking about, while binging RP last weekend, twice. In the first, when the ace of hearts fell to give me the nut flush, it filled his pocket aces, and the board was paired. The second wasn’t actually the bubble, as I finished 17th, paying 15. Felt the same, tho. That one was boat vs boat, with mine being weaker.
Fortunely I kept playing and cashed twice. One barely got past the first pay jump, but the other netted 5th in one of the 50K diamond tourney with a fairly decent payout. That eased the sting a bit, but with a little luck, and me giving the paired board a little more thought, it could have been a very profitable night. For my level, anyway.
Both opponents played their hands well, especially the guy with the bullets. Perhaps more experence would have saved me, but at the time, losing never entered my guppy mind.
“Something to drink with that fish and chips”?

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Hi there, This blog seems for slightly lower than pro level, which I am not even close to, but I was wondering how much should you bet before the first 3 cards are shown, (lets say when you have a pair) or should you genurally always check?

Just wondering, Ideally I would like ratios like 1/2 pot, 1/4, or just genural tips for betting with a pair.

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In my opinion, in the bubble, the one who best controls his fear is the one who manages to get outGo ahead, we all want to make money, that’s why we play in tournaments, but it shouldn’t be too much extra pressure to be in the bubble, the other players will also be afraid of ending up outside, it’s who best controls that fear and takes risks who comes out ahead,

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The long answer is it depends on your position, stack size, and how big a pair you have.

The short answer is that for pairs 77+ from most positions you want to be raising somewhere between 2-3 big blinds if you are the first one to bet so far. If others have already limped in, you should raise a lot more, like 2/3-full pot, with TT/JJ/QQ/KK/AA. With the smaller pairs you are generally calling a reasonable raise or making a small raise yourself, to get good odds to set mine. You don’t want to make the pot too big preflop with pairs like 66.

Younguru has good advice, I’d add in there really isn’t any deadset way to play them (pocket pairs).
For instance, normally I’d raise AA quite a bit, but you could slow play them which could wind up winning you a large pot, instead of everybody folding preflop, but it’s risky, not fun when your aces get cracked by rags.

Hello, this is interesting. Several times I’ve lost on the bubble with hands like AK, AQ close to 10bb. But there was nothing to do, it was either fold, or ALL in to try to double. But when it comes to a blister, even an AK can actually be fatal. Caution is the correct word. But it all depends on how many chips you have, how your opponents are behaving and so on. The strategy of stealing chips is valid for those who have a comfortable Stack, right? Anyway, I hope you and I burst a lot of bubbles and don’t become the bubble man

I think the only really strategically viable solution to the “I finally got a good hand and when I raised everyone folded” problem is to be active/aggressive enough that it doesn’t set off alarm bells when you get the goods.

In my experience it is much better to be thought of as loose than tight. It’s great being able to bluff and get folds, but it’s even more valuable to be able to bet/raise with a strong hand and get calls (you do the math on that one lol)

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I know we’re a bit off topic, but I’m enjoying the talk.
I agree with you again, perhaps a bit more to add to Isaiahdope’s question is it makes a difference where you are playing, like is it the ring or a tournament? Also keeping an eye on the players at your table, for instance often when somebody has taken a bad beat they may go on tilt and may play poorly till they calm down.
The beauty of this game is every hand is unique, part of why after years of playing I haven’t gotten bored and still love this game, even though sometimes I hate it! lol.

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I agree completely Knutts. Recently I’ve been focusing on “reading the room” during bubble play. If everyone is playing really tight, it’s profitable to open wider (but if they reraise you must fold or you will end up donating). If everyone is limping, it’s profitable to tighten up and always reraise when you want to play a hand. Maybe even playing shove/fold in those scenarios is good.

I agree that bubble play has a lot to do with how your table is playing. There will still be some objective absolutes (no matter what, it probably isn’t good to go all-in preflop with K9 from UTG) but there is a lot of room for exploitative play at this crucial stage of the tourney.