EPT9 Barcelona: The Daily Strategy: The bubble


Welcome to the third instalment of PokerStars Blog's new regular series: The Daily Strategy.

Each day during the season we'll be talking to Team PokerStars Pros for their take on specific aspects of a poker tournament, giving new and experienced players an insight into how professional players think.

On day one, Lex Veldhuis discussed how to approach the opening stages of a major tournament like this. Yesterday Dario Minieri took us through day two with with various stack sizes.

Today, on day three of EPT9 Barcelona all the talk has been about the bubble. And so Johnny Lodden talks about how to profit from it, survive it and then get yourself in a position to win.

Getting to the bubble
How you play at this stage depends of course on the table you're playing and your stack size. With about ten players before the bubble I start pressing with a lot of hands. I know some particular people are scared, but I try to pressure everyone. For example, I make three-bet open raises, and if the action is folded to me I'll raise nine out of ten hands, picking on people you've identified as being a little scared. Of course, it's important that you look at the situation as well as the players.

Reading the situation
I know most of the professional players and top players know how to play the bubble. They're not scared money, to put it like that. In comparison you might have an online qualifier playing his first EPT, or people who can't usually afford these types of tournaments. They're so much easier to attack because they just want to survive. They already decided in their head that they've got to fold everything but aces and kings and get into the money.

It's not about the money
I'm thinking about the money but I'm thinking more about winning the tournament. I don't want to get into the money and then have a small stack. I'd rather take a few chances. Maybe I'll bust out, but if it works I'll have a decent stack and a better chance of reaching the final table.

Johnny Lodden: "I usually don't get picked on too much"

Playing the short stack
Reaching the bubble with a short stack is much different. That's why I tighten up a bit. Remember, it also depends on the table - which people don't want to double me up. So you can still use lots of pressure to your advantage, but you have to play a little differently. You can't open under the gun with a hand you're going to fold to a shove with. The ideal spot is when the action gets folded to you! Or you find aces! When they don't' come along the most important thing is to attack the weak link at the table. Identify the people who don't want to gamble when play is close to the bubble.

Don't get picked on
I usually don't get picked on too much - of course it helps having a reputation. People know I'm willing to gamble, so they most tend not to open too many hands against me just to steal my blinds. But that's not always the case. Professional players don't care who they're up against and attack you anyway, regardless of your reputation.

For me playing online is a lot different because you don't know always know who you're playing against. When you see them live you see all the faces, which helps you get a feeling about each player. For example you can spot a guy who's never played before. You can see him getting nervous.

Tighten up after the bubble
This is when I tighten up. I tighten up a lot, with a big stack or a small stack. The reason for this is that there's a tendency, as soon as the bubble bursts, for people to start gambling. It's incredible. It's like 75 per cent of the field suddenly thinks: "The tournament's over, now I can do whatever I want - I've cashed." You've paid something like €5,300 and you've won a few hundred. You haven't won the tournament. But people will raise all-in with king-queen while they fold jacks on the bubble.

Spotting the weak players
You get a feeling when you see them at the table - who's the qualifier? Who's the rich guy? Who doesn't care? Who jumps up and down when the bubble burst? The guy who dashes between tables to watch the bubble burst. Then there's the guy stalling on every hand just before the bubble. All of this comes to you after watching players at your table. You get an idea about everyone. And most of the time it's correct because it's so obvious.

Play the man not the cards
I play the table more than the cards. I don't pay attention to the cards too much. Of course if you have 2-7 off I might still fold. But it's more about position and the players you play than the cards.

It takes about one level for people to stop being crazy start chilling down again. That's when people start getting nervous and looking at the board again. They think: "Okay, if I just fold five more spots I win another €5,000 more. That's when it's time to get playing again.


Tournament update

Talking of the bubble, back on the tournament floor the bubble has burst at the 160 player mark. Aliaksei Boika took the bullet, moving in with pocket eights and called by Jonathan Karamalakis who turned over queens. There was nothing on the board to help Boika who departed in 161st place.

Elsewhere the fortunes of Roman Harold have been garnered some attention. Reduced to one big blind, after losing a pot worth 320,000, the German was all in again ten minutes later only this time he'd got back up to 46,000 and was all-in again. His pocket threes looked doomed against ace-king on an ace high flop. But he turned a three to get back up to 100,000.