Solution to Problem

We've kept the $100 and $200 blind structure, but now we've shrunk your stack to just $ 1,000. Your opponent remains the same wild man as before. We saw last hand that reducing your stack from $5,000 to $2,000 only created a couple of extra calling hands. Surely reducing you to the smallest stack at the table, with an M of just over 3, must have a dramatic effect, or does it?

Well, it has an effect, but the effect is not as dramatic as you might think. The correct answer is now Choice C, "Call with AA through 77, AK through AJ unsuited, AK through AT suited." Score 3 points for that choice, and 1 point for Choice B or Choice D. With an M of just 3 and a somewhat loose opponent, you can open your calling requirements a bit, but you still have to exercise caution and play with reasonable hands if you're going to venture a call that can eliminate you.

What if we had the tight opponent of the last few hands, instead of the loose opponent? In that case your calling requirements once again rise drastically, to a pair of jacks or better and ace-king, suited or offsuit. In the real world, however, I wouldn't make the assumption that I was facing such a tight opponent. Most players play pretty loose on the bubble, much looser than they theoretically should, and even if I saw an opponent sitting out a few hands, it's more likely that he just hit a run of low cards than that he turned into a locksmith at this stage.

This hand, I think, most clearly illustrates the huge difference between sit-and-go bubble play and real tournament bubble play. In a large tournament, when you have a short stack and you're nearing the bubble, it's routine to call with hands like those in Choice E above: the pairs, the aces, and the paint cards. But we're making those plays in big tournaments because the low-level prizes are insignificant compared to the really big prizes at the final table. (Insignificant is a relative term, of course. To all the online qualifiers who won their way into the 2005 World Series of Poker in online satellites, the $15,000 prize for getting into the money might have looked very significant indeed. But compared to the million-dollar prizes waiting for those who made the final table, it really wasn't.)

But in a sit-and-go tournament, when you're on the bubble, you're already on the verge of significant money. Consider this: when you move from fourth to third, you make 20 percent of the prize fund. When you move from third to second, you only gain another 10 percent of the prize fund. And the final move from second to first only gets you an additional 20 percent. Viewed this way, the transition from bubble status to in-the-money status is as big or bigger than any other transition in the tournament.

Situation: Online sit-and-go tournament. The tournament pays three players in the standard ratio of 50 percent first, 30 percent second, 20 percent third. Four players remain. Unlike the previous problem, you are now the only low stack in the tournament.

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