Beating the Bubble: Tips for Exploiting Players Near the Money
Have the right stack. When the bubble approaches, stacks become paramount in determining how players will be playing. The short stacks will be clinging to life, time banking and being as slow as possible in making decisions. Medium stacks will be looking to pick on the shorties and stay away from the big stacks. This means that, come bubble time, you want to have the big stack at your table, or at least one of the biggest stacks. It allows you the power to put players into terrible spots; call and bust with nothing, or fold and survive for a cash. Even the medium stacks don’t have the power of the large stacks; a short stack can double off of them and put them right down to short stack territory, thus making them almost as vulnerable. Try to chip up near the bubble to a point you can successfully profit from the other stacks.
Attack, attack, attack! If you have the big stack when the bubble approaches, it becomes imperative that you begin assaulting the short stacks at your table with bets and raises, anything that can imperil someone from busting in the tournament. This is especially true on sites like UB where people play very weakly near the bubble - get a UB referral code from ubreferralcode.net and see for yourself. If you’re on the button, and the blinds are short, you can almost blind shove profitably; the short players cannot call without risking missing the money, so it makes calling with most hands a scary proposition for them; hands like AQ and 77 go from auto calling hands to auto folding hands for many players. If you know the person cares about making the money, either assumed or known (players will verbalize their intention to make the money sometimes; this is 99% genuine and exploitable) do anything in your power to make the last bet and make it one that puts them at risk of busting. You’ll be shocked how many times players will put premium hands directly in the muck when faced with a decision for their tournament life, especially in larger buy-in tournaments - you'll find plenty of examples in the tournament coverage archives over at onlinepoker.net, particularly from the WSOP. Players have too much pride to bust right before cashing in a major tournament, or may need the money from the min cash to keep their bankroll/backers afloat. You can make 104o powerful enough to force QQ and even KK to fold preflop on the bubble, when you have the stack.
Understanding when the bubble has arrived. The bubble is generally the point between 3 spots from the money and the money, depending on the amount of players in your tournament. Players may begin looking up at the tournament tracker, commenting on the approaching bubble, and other factors. Trying to bubble abuse too early can make short stacks gamble with you, in fear they may not have enough chips to make it to the bubble. Waiting until the bubble is 1 player from bursting does not allow you to get any use of your stack in bullying players. Keep your awareness of the bubble’s approach high, in order to make use of it.