In Part 1 of this series we talked about what to expect in micro stakes tournaments and how to approach them at the start. In part 2 we covered the middle stages leading up to and into the money. Now in this part, we’re going to talk about how play changes after that money bubble bursts, but prior to the significant pay jumps that occur as we near and reach the final table.
The first thing you’ll notice is once the money has been reached, there is typically a short period of mass exodus from the tournament as all those very short stacks who were waiting for the bubble to burst will now stick their last few blinds in quite liberally hoping to get lucky and double up. If you are one of the shorter stacks, it still behooves you to choose some reasonable starting hand selection rather than just sticking your last 4 blinds in with 93o from MP. Although we will clearly need to have some luck to dig out of this hole, the mass exodus period often covers a pay jump or two.
While these pay jumps just beyond the min cash are quite nominal, you can often pick one up simply by folding your 93o and other very junky hands, and waiting just a big. Please understand I’m not suggesting you fold real hands like QTs or something, which generally you will go with on 4bb’s, but immediately punting the rest off with complete freak show holdings is what I’m cautioning against. The pay jumps at the early money stages are small, but getting in 3bb’s and doubling still leaves us very short and doesn’t tangibly impact our chances for a deep run or final table, so if we can secure a jump or two by simply folding the bottom half of starting hands that makes some sense.
If you are one of the medium stacks, you’ll be looking for your usual chip accumulation spots. While it’s possible to wait out the short stacks, some of whom will chip up but most of whom will be busting in reasonably short order, it’s not the prevalent concern. The pay jumps now are quite nominal. If you’re sitting on an 18bb stack, trying to actively grow it to set up a potential final table run is the focus. If you can slowly and methodically chip up with steals and resteals, that’s great. If you get a double up to between 35-40bb, now you’ve got room to work. Besides pure blind/ante steals, 3 or 4 betting bigger stacks you can do serious damage to can prove very fruitful. When someone has 30bb, they shouldn’t be eager to get 18-20 blinds in light because should they lose that confrontation, they become a short stack with limited utility. While they shouldn’t be making ridiculous folds, some of these players will be more protective of their stack than others. When you identify that, exploit it to give yourself the best chance to grow your stack between big starting hands.
As one of the bigger stacks, the world is your oyster. Pay close attention to the changing table dynamics now that the money bubble has burst, and you have the luxury of adjusting in whatever way you think will maximize your value at the table. Sometimes this will mean tightening up a bit if the table starts going crazy. Sometimes you’ll be able to open up your aggression and steal more if players are being tight and conservative. You can be patient, pick your targets to attack, the choice is yours. The most important thing to remember is to start right, by observing the changes in dynamics the money spots have brought and devising a plan to adjust accordingly.
What many players do as big stacks, is either put the pedal to the metal trying to bully the table, or tighten up waiting for strong hands only and being content to let other players knock themselves out. The problem is, those strategies may be appropriate at some tables and in some situations, and wildly incorrect in others. For example, if the table is playing generally very tight and conservative, waiting for “real hands” and reluctant to get involved with anything else, then as the big stack sitting and waiting for premiums yourself is a significant mistake… you can easily continue a methodic growing of your stack by stealing blinds and antes, small pots. Conversely, if the table seems to have shifted into loose, gamble mode, then trying to bully them is going to wildly increase your volatility and often cost you chips unnecessarily. The key is to observe what your table is doing, and think about how you might best exploit that. Since you have the luxury of time that short stacks don’t have, make the most of it to determine what tools from your tool belt are going to be the best ones to wield.
Congratulations on making it into the money! Your work is not done however. In fact, some players would say now is when the real game begins. While the pre-money stages are real for sure, it’s true that the game now gets more serious with players having locked up a pay day and their eyes on the big prizes. The most important thing is to maximize the value of your stack. If it’s 2bb’s, a pay jump (even a nominal one) is valuable. If it’s 18bb’s, working to increase it rather than blinding down for a few nominal pay jumps and being very short will be much better for your long term earn… yes you may bust a bit more often in the early pay levels, but when you chip up you’ll be in a prime position for a true deep run, something you can’t do when nit folding all but premiums. And if you’re a bigger stack, trying to determine how to best adjust to your table to maximize your chances to both protect and grow your stack will be much better than simply using some rote strategy that may or may not serve to give you the best chances to make a final table.