Poker Quiz! 9♠9♥ on the Money Bubble, what do you do here?


You are on the direct money bubble of a $600 buy-in 177 player tournament with the payout starting at $1,190. Blinds are 6,000/12,000 with a 12,000 big blind ante and action folds to the table chip leader in the Cutoff who raises to 30,000. The Button and Small Blind fold and action is on you in the Big Blind with 9♠9♥ and a 12BB stack. What do you do here?

PRO ANSWER: We are on the direct money bubble of a $600 live tournament that started with 177 players and pays 20 places with 21 players left. The payout structure is relatively standard with a majority of the money going to the top 3 places and 17th through 20th getting $1190. There are no incredibly short stacks remaining, although there are a handful of stacks in the 7-10BB range.

The blinds are 6,000/12,000 with a 12,000 big blind ante and we are in the Big Blind with 9s9h. It folds around to the Cutoff who is the chip leader at the table with 472,000 chips and they raise to 30,000. Everyone else folds and action is on us.

There are several interesting dynamics at play here. First, with no incredibly short stacks (less than 5 big blinds) remaining in the tournament there is little guarantee that the bubble will burst anytime soon. If there were shorter stacks that were quite likely to be all-in very soon we may give more consideration to cashing rather than accumulating chips for a good final table run here.

The payout structure is quite important as well. If the payout structure were much flatter with less money in the top 3 places but more money distributed down to 17-20th places, then cashing might start to take a bigger priority over chip accumulation as well.

Continued below...

EP61-Bubble Play

Neither of those things are true in this case. There is also a dynamic, particularly in situations such as these with multiple 8-15 big blind stacks in play, where the bigger stacks often want to keep the bubble alive as long as possible as they can continue to accumulate chips with the added pressure of the bubble.

That means that big stacks will both start with a wider than average range, and we will likely have increased fold equity against them. This increased fold equity is because it is better for the big stack to keep the bubble alive rather than risk losing their chip lead and consequently a lot of their leverage, by doubling up a player to their left.

Combining these factors with the fact that we have pocket nines, which is an extremely strong hand versus a Cutoff range even in non-bubble situations, and this is a spot where we absolutely must be willing to shove all-in. That will mean that sometimes we bust out on the bubble.

However, the ability to accumulate 60,000 chips worth of dead money here with a hand that is likely a big favorite against our opponent’s range and actually has a surprising amount of fold equity with the bubble dynamics at play, makes shoving all-in over the big stack’s raise here an absolute must to maximize our long term EV in these situations.

Moving all-in is the best play.

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

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