Friday, November 03, 2006

Adjusting Your Play to Counter a Bubble Preserver

I had intension of doing a post about this earlier, but didn't so I figured I better get it out now, just in case lucko decides to run over us again in the big game. Who invited him anyway? There have got to be some good $200 buy-ins running around the same time that would be more profitable. Anyway, I digress.

A fundamental theorem of Poker is that for ever effective strategy there is an effective countermeasure. Ok, I made that up, but I believe it to be true. I don't care how good you are. If someone is smart enough to figure out what your doing (your strategy), they might be smart enough to find out a way to exploit it. There is a way to exploit any strategy. That's why the good players must "change things up" from time to time when playing smart/good competition. Otherwise their strategy or actions would eventually be exploited.

So now for the bubble preserving strategy. You have a big stack on the bubble, and no one wants to be the "bubble boy". So you raise and reraise almost constantly looking to find resistance. When no resistance is found, you chip up. Eventually someone will take a stand though, and the bubble preserver has to decide if it is +EV to try to knock out the person taking the stand by calling, or to fold to resistance and get back to chip up mode. The bubble preserver, is raising with next to nothing (say top 60% of hands), so most often it will be -EV to call someone with a significant stack who resists. Unless of course the bubble preserver actually has a hand this time. Now for the short stacks who provide resistance. From a pure pot size perspective, it is almost an automatic call. The shorty is coming over your pressure with the rest of their stack, which probably is not much more than you have already raised. You have pot odds for days to call. But if you call and knock them out, the bubble is burst and you lose the ability to chip up easily. So the bubble preserver does not really want to call the shorties push (even though the pot odds are there), and also in most cases will not call the middle stacks push (for lack of a real hand).

Is this all obvious? Well let me go a little deeper. The key here is what % of the total chips does the bubble preserver have? At some point, the bubble preserver will figure they have about all of the chips they can get on the bubble, and stop trying to preserve it. So what percentage is that. I will throw out something north of 60% of all chips in play. At that point the bubble perserving mode is over, and counter measures will fail.

So the key is to recognize that bubble preservation is taking place, and counter this before the chip leader has fully chipped up. This is pretty dangerous, because bubble preservation is a pretty rare thing. It has to be a great player with chips. Don't expect a donk or newbie to try it.

What are the signs? First, a huge level of aggression by the chip leader. Second, some laydowns that appear to be questionable pot odds wise by the chip leader. If the chip leader reraises say to 3k a 1k open, and a short stack pushes in for 4k total. If the chip leader does not call, this is a bubble preserver. It should be semi-obvious if you look for the right signs.

How do you counter it? If your short, push-in if you can get heads up with the bubble preserver. Cards are irrelevant. He will not call. If you have a medium stack, you will need a decent, but not great hand. Any pair, or a decent Ace will work. Keep in mind that his range is huge, and as a middle stack you can make a nice dent in his stack. He may even fold with a real hand to preserve the bubble against a middle stack. The person who figures this out first has the most to gain. They can probably lock up second place money on the bubble by doing what I say above. But watch the bubble preservers stack. The bigger it gets the less likely your counter measures will work. You need to use them early and often.

At the last big game, I had never even thought this concept through (though I remember reading about it). By the time it was obvious what was going on, I already had an irrelevant stack. I think I will be ready this time, so bring it lucko!


At 10:55 AM, Blogger smokkee said...

only one problem with that counter measure. you need BIG cojones.

-ballz and luck

At 8:51 AM, Blogger lucko said...

Preserving the bubble is only a good strategy if you can continue to steal. If people are playing back at you, it is not a good strategy.

If I was a big stack on an active bubble, I would have no problem taking a shot to bust someone with good odds.

You changing your play would force me to change mine. It’s usually about who notices that table dynamics have changed and is the first to adjust.


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