Playing around the bubble in no limit hold’em poker tournaments is one of the most important parts of the event.

All of the best online tournament players are well versed in bubble strategy as the difference between cashing and not cashing is predominant.

A large percentage of your bottom line in poker tournaments often stems from the cashes that you make coupled with all round solid play around the bubble. In this article then we will look at how strong players handle this vital part of the tournament.

Clearly every single player that enters into a poker tournament wants to make more money than what they bought in for. But luck decides who wins any one individual tournament and the big stack that you had been hoping for will not come to fruition most of the time. So to further delve into this vital area then we need to look at the psychology of the average tournament player and what they are looking to achieve and what they are happy with.

Approaching the bubble

As we have already mentioned, all players are looking to make money and part of that process is cashing for the minimum. This may not be what you originally set out for but if you haven’t amassed a very big stack (or even if you have) then the play of your opponents will tighten up as they approach the cash out seats. It is inevitable that this happens because players with small to medium sized stacks will be folding hoping that other players are eliminated. This will be especially the case with small stacks as it is they that have the most to lose by getting involved.

This is the stage of the tournament where if you have a stack that is larger than the players to your immediate left then you can often steal vital chips. These chips will be very important once the bubble has burst because they allow you to have more time to perhaps reach the next level increase.

Reaching the bubble

This stage of play can often be very chaotic. All of the remaining players will be relieved to have some sort of financial comeback and the pressure is off. This is a time not to be stealing blinds and bluffing in general because the chances of you being called are much greater. So before the bubble bursts then tight play is your best option if you have a short stack. You need to be very careful regards to what types of hand you get

involved with at this stage of the poker tournament.

Once you reach the bubble and pass it then your opponents will loosen up and especially the short stacks that were previously playing very tightly.

Only when the next prize level increase is approaching will we experience the same situation again. The short stacks will be playing tightly and the bigger stacks should really be attacking them.

Study the prize level increments

It is vital that you know when the prize level increments are and how many players are paid what amounts. For example if 150 players win a minimum 0 then play will tighten up once the field gets to around 200-250 or so of a large online poker tournament. Once that 150 mark has been surpassed then all of the short stacks will loosen up and many will be forced to by necessity.

If say the next prize level increase is when 100 players are left and each player gets a minimum 0 then players will start to tighten up again when there are around 110-120 players left. Once again this will especially apply to all players that have bought in for small amounts of money via satellites or who have short stacks and are unlikely to go much deeper without getting exceptionally lucky.