Poker Quiz! 9♠9♣ on the Bubble of a Major Tournament...


You are on the bubble of a major multi-day tournament with blinds at 1,000/2,000 and a 2,000 big blind ante. You have 9♠9♣ in Middle Position and a 40BB stack. Most of the table has you covered except for the UTG+1 player and there are multiple shorter stacks at other tables. The UTG+1 player has a 30BB stack and raises to 4,500 (2.25BBs).

Action is on you, what do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are on the bubble of a major multi-day tournament. We have 40 big blinds and most of the table has us covered. There are multiple shorter stacks at other tables. The blinds are 1,000/2,000 with a 2,000 big blind ante. We are dealt 9s9c in MP1. UTG folds and the UTG+1 player makes it 4,500.

If this were earlier in the tournament where we were thinking about ChipEV only, pocket nines can easily continue here by both calling and reraising. The output from a solver for this spot without any real money considerations in play recommends a mix of calling and raising both with pocket nines, largely favoring calling. We can call UTG+1’s raise in that situation with as low as pocket 7s and still be profitable.

Continued below ...

Once we start to factor in the ICM (Independent Chip Model) implications of being on the bubble our range starts to tighten up significantly. This adjustment is especially critical given many of the stacks still to act at the table cover us. In a situation where there is tremendous ICM pressure at play it would be a disaster if we were to commit a significant portion of our remaining stack only to run into a player behind us willing to put in a lot of chips.

As you approach significant payout jumps the value of survival increases significantly. This means the big stacks can play quite aggressively and leverage their ability to threaten the shorter stacks. Consequently, medium and smaller stacks often have to play much tighter. If we were facing a UTG+1 open on 40BBs with pocket 9s in the pre-bubble stages of a tournament it would correct to continue 100% of the time.

On the bubble we would need at least pocket tens to continue, and even then we only show very marginal expected value in this situation in the long run.

Folding is the best play.

How would you play it?
Share your answer in the comments below!

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