Start Playing Better Online Poker on the Bubble

You may have heard other poker players taking about the need to ‘beat the bubble’. There is no denying that in order to play good online poker you need an excellent bubble poker strategy. Beat that bubble with these handy bubble poker tips.

What is the poker bubble?

The bubble is a frustrating place to be left. It leaves you so close to the top spot, but disappointingly far away, too. The bubble is what poker players call the high ranking spot in a poker tournament that does not win any prizes. Let’s say a poker tournament offers five cash prizes: first, second, third, fourth and fifth in descending order of monetary value. If you have landed yourself in the sixth place then you have still done well but you leave the table without scooping up a prize. In other words, you are stuck in the bubble. Many poker players can find themselves trapped in the bubble for years. Nevertheless, if you know how to play bubble poker you can burst that bubble in your next tournament and leave the event with a sizeable sum of money burning a hold in your pocket.

What causes players to get stuck in the bubble?

There are four key reasons why a player is likely to get trapped in the bubble time and time again during an online poker tournament. Here they are:

  • Losing focus: long online poker tournaments can be exhausting. If you don’t keep your mind fresh right to the end, you will likely find it difficult to move beyond the bubble.
  • Running out of money: flashing your cash right at the start of a tournament can leave you with funds that are limited to put down the stakes that you need later on.
  • Losing control: emotions can build up as a tournament progresses and if you are not careful this can lead to phenomena such as poker tilt and poker steam (check out our archives for articles on these). Lose control of your emotions and you will probably slip down into the bubble rather than taking home a cash prize.
  • Lack of skill: playing good poker is not a talent that you are magically born with. Developing your poker skills take a lot of practice.

In short: in the final rounds of the tournament, keep your mind fresh and check in with your emotions. Throughout the tournament ensure that you will have enough funds left over to play aggressively in the bubble if you need to. In the weeks leading up to the tournament, do three things: practice, practice and practice.

Playing the bubble: the importance of chip stacks

One of the simplest ways to create a bubble poker strategy is to take a look at your stack just before the final couple of rounds. If you have only a few chips left you have a short stack. A medium sized amount of chips is a medium stack and a big stack (which means, yes, you guessed it, that you have accumulated a huge pile of chips) is the best position to be in. How you play in the bubble ought to depend on the size of your stack:

  • If you have a big stack: play aggressively. If you notice other players with short stacks, then target them first. Your big stack means that you can take bigger risks and ensure that the round keeps on going whilst those short stack players will be playing a tight and limited game of survival.
  • If you have a medium stack: play a game that is generally tight and cautious, but if you see an opportunity to grab one of the bigger prizes, take it!
  • If you have a short stack: here, you need to leave quite a lot up to chance. If things are looking bright for you, then go all in. If you are not totally confident that you can scoop up a big prize by going all in, then fold. You could still escape the bubble if other short stacked players around you do not play such a savvy game.

Hot tip: everything changes in the bubble

When you enter the final round of a poker tournament, aggressive players can suddenly fall quiet, and cautious players can start taking outlandish risks. The bubble can be the place where anything goes.