Starting hands – part two


Following on from my last entry, I’m going to look at how to approach the end of a tournament. We will use an example of entering a tournament with 300 players. Top 30 players get paid, and there are 40 players left in the tournament.

Approaching the bubble

The bubble is the most unwanted finishing position in poker. It’s finishing a tournament one position from the payouts. In our example above, it’s when you go out in 31st position – finishing one place higher would have bagged you some cash.

So how do you avoid ‘the bubble’ in a MTT tourny? Well, there’s a couple of answers.

  • fold every hand until you make the payout positions
  • play your standard game and hope no-one gets lucky against you
  • go for it big style, super-agressive, playing every hand as if it’s your last

In reality, your strategy should really depend on how many chips you have at that stage of the tournament.

The shortstack play 

If you are the shortstack and the blinds will soon swallow you up, then you can’t really fold every hand. You HAVE to make a stand at some point. You HAVE to take the risk. But be aware… the bigstacks at the table will more than likely call with any medium hand just to try and take you out. So what hands should you play?

I would recommend playing only the top 20 starting hands. Add to this ANY pocket pair, even pocket deuces. Pocket pairs are a made hand, and the chances are that you will be a slight favourite against any callers, but it will be a race! If you are so shortstacked and your chips are close to being swallowed by the blinds, then you have to move all-in with any of the top 20 hands – regardless of position. You have to take the gamble. If you are that shortstacked then expect a call from a bigger stack, regardless of what they are holding. If on the otherhand, none of the top 20 hands are forthcoming, and the big blind comes to you, I’m afraid it’s the ‘any two cards’ scenario.

The medium stack play

A total different strategy is required here. You don’t need to gamble. You could quite easily fold every hand that comes your way, just to make the money. For the novice, this is the best thing to do – just wait it out until the bubble passes. But if you do decide to play, only play the top 10 starting hands. Once again though, play to position. Don’t even think about playing ac qc in early position if there are big stacks ahead of you still to play. Why risk messing with a big stack who could quite easily take you out? Or worse still, why give the shortstack – who has still to act – the chance to move all-in and possibly ‘double up’? As I said in the shortstack play section, they could be holding a pocket pair and you’ve just landed yourself in a race! Just keep reminding yourself that you aiming to reach the payout positions! No need to gamble unneccessarily.

The only exception to these rules, for me anyway, is if I land pocket aces or kings. I would move all-in with only these two hands – regardless of position. A medium stack going all-in is a sure sign that they are holding a monster hand. The other medium to big stacks will more than likely fold and you can only hope if anyone calls, it will be a shortstack.

The big stack play

This is obviously the best position to be in. Again you could sit back and fold anything and everything that comes your way. Why risk all of your hard-earned chips? Now this is a no-brainer scenario, but as so often happens, you will see the big stack calling a shortstacks’ all-in with crap and doubling them up. Their excuse…. ‘I was just trying to take them out.’ OK, you tried to take them out…. but with a jh 6c???

Stick to playing tight, (top 10 hands) regardless of the size of your chipstack. Don’t be tempted to bleed chips away to your opponents, especially the shortstacks. And once again, play to position! Don’t take unneccessary risks. Keep those chips until the payout positions have been reached and then start to open up again.

You have to remember that your goal in any game of poker is to WIN! If you can’t win the game then your goal is to finish as high a position as possible. Higher position = better payout.

 So, hopefully you have conquered the bubble and are now in the payout positions. Next time, I’ll go into the next phase of the tournament – moving up the payout positions.

Once again, all comments are welcome.


2 Responses to Starting hands – part two

  1. svcmgr says:

    The only thing I would add is sometimes being able to “push” the small stacks.
    Now, for the novice, I wouldn’t suggest doing this but for those who have been playing a little while, it can be done to get some chips if you are the mid stack person.
    This can be a dangerous move and everything needs to “come together”. Position, hand strength, table presence (you), and table presence of your opponent.
    For example, If you are SB and the BB is a short stack, you may be able to push them off a hand with a small raise if you have a mid level hand. A couple of things to watch for here, the short stack needs to be playing tight (you should know this by watching), you need a mid or higher level hand, and you need to be prepared to call an all in with it if you are re-raised, or fold if you really think your beat.
    Some people would say “Why risk it?” At this level, EVERY chip counts. Stealing blinds is a way to add to your stack. In the example above, it could also keep the short stack from possibly catching something on a bad flop for you and making him a little stronger. Short stacks on the bubble will tend to play very tight so sometimes aggressive play can earn the advantage.
    Again, you have to be very careful and selective if/when you try this.

  2. dagopher says:

    Why didn’t I see this comment??? Brain frazzle me thinks!

    Your right Dave. Bullying shortstacks can be a good ploy, for the reasons you suggested. I could also add that if you are amongst the chipleaders, then you could bully the whole table when the bubble approaches. We all know how tight it becomes with just a few to go – and not just the shortstacks.

    But you’re right. You can’t go kamikaze just because you have chips. It can be a sure fire way of losing them.

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