Keeping the bubble alive in sit n gos

The bubble is the pivotal point in a sit n go (SNG) where key decision are made which will result in you cashing or not cashing in the game. If when the bubble starts you are a chipleader, you have a significant advantage as you can play ultra-aggressively and therefore 'abuse the bubble' to gain more and more chips.
This is particularly so if the other players are microstacked. In this article I will give an overview for how the chipleader should play in this situation.

Bubble psychology

Let's remember on the bubble, everyone, regardless of their stack, is wanting to make sure they cash, and from there, to win the SNG. This often creates a fear of losing, especially so for the shorter-stacked players. Players will often end up 'blinded out' as they wait for a better starting hand that probably never comes, rather than risk their tournament life. This is exactly what we as the chipleader want to take advantage of. At this stage (especially in turbo games), the blinds are high and nearly every decision made for the shorter stacks, is whether to go all in or not. Now, a good solid SNG player knows what cards they should be shoving and folding with (this can be learned using Sit N Go Wiz). But, as we all know, most players aren't good. What this means is they will most likely be calling too light and not shoving enough. We're basically going to be playing the part of the bully, putting them to the test nearly every hand.

Ultra aggression

Let's use the scenario of a 6max turbo SNG. Each player started with a stack of 1500, so there's a total of 9000 chips in play. We as the chip leader have, say, 7000, with the two opponents sitting on 1000 each. Blinds are 100/200. So straight away we know that really the only move for each of these players is all in or fold, as each of them only have 5xBB, meaning a normal size raise is out of the question. Both of these players are wanting the same thing - for the other one to bust out first. So neither of them are wanting to risk calling without (most likely) an ace or a pocket pair.
Whilst I am chipleader I am thinking I want to go into the headsup stage of the game with as many chips as possible. So here's what I do - any time I'm first to act either on the button or in the small blind, is I shove any two cards. If they happen to be a premium hand, great, but really it doesn't matter. Why? Because each of the other two players really don't want to be calling and risking bubbling. Obviously if they have aces they're snap calling but without a premium hand most of the time they're folding.

Chip me up

So let's say I shove from the button, and they fold. Happy days, I just picked up 300 chips. As well as this, they probably feel frustrated, which is another benefit of this play. The more often you shove and they feel forced to fold, the more likely they are to be tilted and make an incorrect call out of spite.
The next hand, if one of the players shoves, unless I have a pretty good hand myself (say 44+, A8+, KQ or something), I'm folding. Why? Because I want to be the aggressor, the one making the shoves, not calling. And with the 'gap principle', I need a better hand to be calling a bet with than I do to make the bet.

Keeping the bubble alive - pure abuse

What you want to do is to keep the bubble alive, even if this means folding your blind to the micro-micro stack. It may seem counter-intuitive at first but means you can continue putting the pressure on the other player and stealing their chips. If the chip dynamic is such that one player is down to 2xBB whilst one is at 4 or 5Xbb, you can guarantee the player with the higher stack is going to try and fold their way to the money rather than risk giving the game away to the micro stacked one.

Have fun reading the chat box

One fun part of keeping the bubble alive when shoving nearly any hand is tilting your opponents. You often find they start abusing you on the chat box saying how bad you are because you're just going all in, blah blah. It's funny because you know you're putting them on tilt and therefore affecting how they play.

But what if they call?

OK so the danger is of shoving any two cards is of course a player might call you. Either because they have a legitimate hand or just out of frustration. Well even if we have 72o, and the opponent calls our shove with a weak ace, we've still got a c35% shot at winning the hand. And if we double them up, it's not a huge deal as we still have a nice big stack. But most of the time you'll find without a decent hand, the smaller stacks will fold as they'd rather hold on and hope they can scrape into the money.

Try it!

So next time you've got a nice big chip leader at the bubble of a SNG, try what we've looked at above - remember the key is to be the one shoving rather than calling. The longer you can keep the bubble alive, the smaller their stacks will be become and the larger yours will be. And the more chips you have going into the money, the bigger your chance of winning and therefore increasing your ROI.

The best poker rooms for SNG players are probably PokerStars and Titan - they each have a great range of games at various limits. Best of all, they're both always busy so you won't have to wait long to have a game start.

Good luck at the tables.

The SitNGo Wizard