Sports & Gaming

Tournament Strategy: On the Bubble

Daniel Negreanu

Lesson time 10:16 min

Learn Daniel’s strategies for navigating the precarious “bubble” including how to get in the money by leveraging big stacks and avoid ICM suicide.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Understanding the Importance of ICM • Leverage Big Stacks • Playing Short-Stacked • Playing With a Middle Stack • Avoid ICM Suicide


You're going to hear the term bubble quite often. And what exactly is the bubble? Well, the bubble is the point of the tournament where everyone left is about to make the money, so that they're going to guarantee a profit. For example, let's say there's 1,000 players in a field. Often that'll pay anywhere from 100 to 150 players. So let's say this tournament pays 150 players, and there's about 155 players left. So just five of those players are going to end up with a loss. Everyone else is going to go home with a profit. That's the time where the short stacks have the maximum amount of pressure on them to just squeak in, and they're going to have to tighten up their ranges. So that's right when the bubble happens. You'll notice a huge shift after the bubble for these short stacks, who are all in the money. And now, they're like, wee, they're ready to get it in because they've locked up a profit. - So I promise we're going to talk a little bit about ICM, which is independent chip model, which essentially distinguishes the value between a chip early on and a chip later on. And it becomes most important around the money bubble. It will also be extremely important at final tables, because with every player that gets knocked out, you lock up extra money. Now, it's important to note that if you play at the poker tournament with the only goal of winning the event-- if that's your simple, number one goal-- then you're going to play a certain way. Now, that's not how tournaments typically work. 10% to 20% of the field is going to get paid, which is going to highly affect your decision making. So if it was winner take all, you'd played very similar to the way you would in a cash game. When you see value, you take it. That's not the case in tournaments, because when you're trying to make money as your goal, rather than just winning the tournaments, you have to factor in the value of your chips in certain situations. So the bubble becomes an opportunity and also something to be wary of depending on your stack size. You know, there's no easy like magic pill formula for this. A lot of it is going to come through experience and practice in these situations to understand the situations where you should be more aggressive and you should be more careful. So I would say as a general rule, what you would do is, let's say, if you're five-handed or six-handed is have a deep understanding of like, OK, am I in a advantageous position or am I in a weak position? If I'm in an advantageous position, I can play more aggressively. If I'm in one of the weaker positions, I need to be a little bit more careful and focus a little more on playing conservatively. - Obviously, if you're on the bubble and you have a big stack, you have unbelievable leverage, because the other players at the table are going to tighten up their ranges significantly, especially if they're very short stacked. So a player that normally might go all in against you with Ace-...

About the Instructor

Put yourself across the felt from Daniel Negreanu, the biggest live tournament poker winner of all time. The six-time World Series of Poker champion teaches poker strategy, advanced theory, and practice through hand-reviews of his winning games. Learn how to sharpen your mental game through demos on reading opponents and spotting tells. Join Daniel at the table to increase your win rate, grow your ROI, and get your game “in the money.”

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Daniel Negreanu

Join Daniel at the poker table. Learn his strategies to advance your cash, tournament, and online play.

Explore the Class
Sign Up