Common sit n go (SNG) leaks #2 - playing too tight on the bubble

The bubble is a key stage of the sit n go and it's vital to get your play right here. Failure to do so will cost you money in the long term as well affecting your win rate. 

A common mistake STT players make on the bubble is playing way too cautiously and not shoving with a wide enough hand range. This is often done with a view to try and folding their way to the money. But by doing this our chip stacks are diminishing with each rotation of the button and our chances of winning the game are plummeting.

The key to remember about good, profitable SNG bubble play is - shove light, call tight. When the blinds are high we want to be pushing all in with a very wide range of hands (if we are in the small blind and action has been folded round to us, we should actually be pushing any two cards). Conversely we should tighten up our calling requirements in response to other players' shoves.

Failure to shove as often as we should makes us easily exploitable by our opponents, as they know we're probably waiting only for premium cards to get our chips in. It also means we're not increasing our chip stack, which would give us an advantage the in-the-money play starts.

When we shove on the bubble (assuming the blinds are high which they always will be in a turbo SNG) we're looking to do one of two things - either steal the blinds (which could well be 200-400 chips thus representing a good chunk of our stack) or to knock another player out.

You can use SNG Wiz to go over your hand histories to see where you're going wrong. But there are some key points SNG Wiz will bring up for high-blind/bubble play, assuming similar chip stacks -

Shove light, call tight

1) If you're in the small blind and action is folded to you, it's nearly always profitable to shove any two cards to the big blind.

2) Whilst you can shove very widely, to call a shove you should only do this with QQ, KK and AA. That's right, you should be folding premium hands such as AK. This is because pocket pairs are at a premium and you are quite often risking your tournament life on a coinflip. The point is you want to be the aggressor, i.e. the one making the shoves, rather than the one calling.

3) When shoving from positions other than the small blind, you can do so reasonably lightly with pocket pairs, broadway-type cards such as KQs etc. Ace-rag type cards aren't recommended as if you do get called you're more likely to be dominated and not holding a live card.

4) When you get to the heads up stage of the game and blinds are high, if you're first to act you can profitably shove any two cards. However, in reality I tend to avoid doing so as your opponent will likely call you very lightly.

Summary

When we reach the bubble we want to up the aggression. Blind stealing is now very profitable and worthwhile. We can shove a wide range of hands and exploit the lack of bubble knowledge of our opponents to our own advantage. However we should tighten up the range of hands that we call all-ins with. Our aim is to cash but also with a good size stack going into the money so that we can maximise our win rate.

Want to learn more about great bubble play? Read our review of SNG Wiz, the definitive software tool for sit n go players.