Bubble Play in Top Two Pay Satellites – A Comprehensive Guide (Part Two)
In part two of this article, we cover strategy for playing the bubble three handed in satellite tournaments from the big blind. Part one of the article covered strategy for play from the button and the small blind, along with general concepts. You can read part one here.
FROM THE BB
The BB presents some unique challenges. You’re facing attack from two different seats, facing a wide variety of opponent ranges, already have (an often substantial) part of your stack in the pot and are getting a better price to call to boot. You’ll be forced to play fairly differently based on who makes the opening raise – the button or the SB – so we’ll consider each class separately.
NOTE: Of all the seats, this one relies most heavily on your knowledge of your opponents. Proper play varies wildly based on the tendencies of your opponents, and covering every possible scenario is beyond the scope of this article. We’ll try to provide some % ranges to illustrate how widely your play can vary in certain spots, but this is definitely a seat you’ll want to investigate further on your own via SNG Wiz or some similar tool.
Very Loose (70-100%)
You should be playing this almost ATC range when you’re very short (1.5 BB or less after posting) or when your opponent is very short and you have some chips to spare. You’re facing a basic balancing act here – you don’t want to feed an opponent chips by not defending your BB frequently enough, but you also don’t want to double them up and (often) surrender your position in the process. Pay attention to the game dynamic and attempt to assess how much of a motivation the button has to shove light given stacks, etc. Pay close attention to the button’s shoving frequency and make notes for future games.
Some samples from SNGW:
Call 100% with 1BB left / 2.5 BB starting
Call 75% with 10-14BB stack facing a sub 3BB shove from button
A lot of the same logic applies here, except that you can expect the SB to be raising with a much wider range and should arguably loosen your calling ranges somewhat to compensate.
Call 80% if you have 6.5 BBs and SB is shoving ATC with 4BBs
Call 85% with 10BBs and 3BB SB shoving 75%
Call 90% if you have 2.5BBs and SB is shoving atc
This range, along with the 20-40% range, represents some of the trickiest, most marginal decisions you’ll make on the bubble in satellite play. The more you know about your opponent’s likely ranges, the better off you’ll be, but you’re still going to often be dealing with situations where you’re rarely going to have a very substantial edge when you get involved.
You’ll be correct to play this range versus a button shove under two basic conditions – you and the button are both pretty short or the button is short and you have a reasonable stack. The basic assumption is that a short stacked button is going to be playing a very wide range with the blind breathing down their neck, and may perceive that even with only a few BBs, they still have some fold vig, so the general bubble nitiness they may have been displaying will now evaporate. While it might seem a little foolish to call them light when you’re short as well, their wide range plus the huge amount of chips in the pot relative to your stack makes much looser calls than most people assume correct.
Some example scenarios from SNGW:
Call 70% vs loose 3.5BB UTG when you have 8BB – 12BBs
Call 45% vs TAG UTG with 3BBs when you have 10-14BBs
Call 50% if you are in distant 2nd and slightly smaller stack shoves (if you have 5bbs and they have 3.5)
Call 70% vs reasonably TAG UTG when you both have 3ish BBs – even if they’re pretty darn tight, still call 50%
Your toughest decisions often occur right in this spot. Versus a loose SB, you’re correct to call off a pretty wide range when you have a 3rd place stack or a slight lead on the SB. Most SBs are going to be shoving pretty wide in this spot, reasoning that they can exert maximum pressure on you and also fearing shoving on their button, where they’re going to have to contend with a deeper stack in the BB. If the SB gives you a few walks 3 handed when the two of you are battling for second, that’s generally a clear sign that they’re tight and usually an inexperienced satellite player. You should obviously tighten up quite a bit against these opponents.
Interestingly enough, you’re generally a bit more correct to call when you have a medium stack or a short stack; if you have a deeper stack or a solid lead, you should be playing tighter against the SB when they have a 6BB stack or greater. As the SB starts to get shorter and shorter (and looser), you can loosen up with your deeper stack.
Call 65% with 6.5 BBs when SB has 5BBs and shoves ATC
Call 50% when you have 14BBs and SB has 8.5BBs and shoves ATC
Call 70% when you have 14BBs and SB has 5BBs and shoves ATC
Call 45% with 6.5BBs when SB has 5 BBs and shoves 65%
Call 40% with 8BB-12BBs when SB has 5 BBs and shoves 65%
Call 45% with 10BBs and tight SB shoving 3BBs
Call 47% with 2-3BBs, move up to 60% as they get looser