Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

New Post Series - Ken's View From The Tables

A new month, and a new idea! Explaining poker involves a lot of 'theory'. A lot of principals such as position, aggression and bet sizing need to be conceptualized before you can become a long-term winner. Now, this site is full of articles which explain those principals for beginning and improving players... What I felt we were a little lacking is some real-life examples of when and how to use them at the tables. To get back to balance I have asked Ken, from King Cobra Poker, to provide a weekly post for readers which demonstrate core poker principals in action. These will be experiences directly from the tournament and cash game tables, and will give you the link between 'principals' and the individual hands which you will find on forums and some blogs. What I am hoping is that you will be able to better understand the situational factors, and when to use the knowedge you gain from the huge number of articles already here. Your feedback is welcomed, I will post the link each week on our Facebook Group. Alright, here goes with the first installment of Ken's view from the tables - about taking advantage of those who play too tight at the bubble.

Taking Advantage Of Tight Bubble Play

In this week’s segment I want to address what often is a fabulous opportunity to add to your stack prior to a significant milestone in a tournament.  In these cases, a significant milestone is about to be reached, where the players who advance are to be rewarded. This may be just prior to the money round, or at any other significant milestone where you can move up a significant amount just by hanging around.  The idea here is that players will tend to play more conservative when this happens, in order to avoid taking too many risks to preserve their chances. There often may be other players who are looking to take advantage of this and will play more aggressively, expecting opponents to fold more.  So for the thinking player, there are two opportunities here for us.  The first is to take down pots against those players who are playing too tightly.  The second is to look to out aggress those players who have the same idea as we do, and face off against them in a game of chicken, where we expect them to flinch first. We need to pay close attention to what our table image is, and in order to make the most of this strategy we need to have our aggression respected enough.  If and when it appears that it isn’t, we can then adjust to that and start backing off and going for value more, where we will go to the felt against them but mean it this time.


While we can look to play back at the overly aggressive players who are getting their money in lightly against the tighter players and often will be reluctant to get their stacks in with these hands, fearing being behind and suffering a significant loss, there’s even more opportunity for profit when we get involved in hands where they are pushing people around and we also push them around. So that’s the scenario for this week’s hand.  I’m not even going to tell you what cards I had, because in this case, the cards don’t matter.  The idea here was to prey on someone else’s bluffing, and bluff not only the people they were looking to bluff but the bluffer himself as well. So we had this player at our table who was definitely on the aggressive side, and he had picked things up due to our getting near the final table.  There was a big difference in the payout between finishing in the top 2 tables and making the final table, where you get a nice payout boost just for being there and then you have a shot at the real big money if you can keep from seeing your stack disappear. There are definitely times where it does pay to be too conservative on the bubble, but these situations occur far less than most players realize. 

If you watch the top multi table tournament players, the ones that make a lot more final tables than average, you will see that they play aggressively normally and even more aggressively later in the tournament. So in our hand, we had a player put in a standard raise, one of the more conservative players at the table, who liked to play hands but would tend to fold under pressure.  You do need to be careful when these players put money in the pot because they usually will have a real hand and may be willing to go to the felt with it. However, this player had a decent sized stack and I felt pretty comfortable that I could get him off of this often enough to make a play for his chips.  Our aggro table captain was thinking the same thing, I was second in chips here and was the junior captain so to speak but he was overdoing it here and I was picking my spots. So I had a more sensible table image then he did, and when he re-raised the tight player, I saw this as an opportunity to build my stack.  So I shoved as a bluff.  If the tighter player calls me, and I lose, then I am still fine.  I didn’t figure him to call though, especially against a re-raise and then a shove from a third player.  If the big stack calls me, well I can do some real damage to him, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have anything either. So both players laid down to my shove, and I ended up getting a nice snack out of the deal, further building my stack for the final table

Once I got there, I was in third place in chips behind our chip leader, and another guy who had a monster stack.  So I continued to play aggressively, and eventually got heads up against the biggest guy, although he had so many more chips that I had to take more chances and eventually went out second. However, along the way I saw many players go out because they were playing scared and trying to preserve their stacks.  The blinds will show you very little mercy here.  You need to be bold enough to try to make things happen yourself instead of having it happen to you.

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