How does Bubble Protection change our bubble range?

The bubble is over for you but not for everybody else, how do you come up with a calling range for that? Especially in a PKO…

Because he is currently crushing at the WSOP, Dara O’Kearney asked me to step in for him and do a solve from a PKO that GGPoker Pro Kevin Martin asked him about. We really are living in the Upside Down when I am doing hand analysis for players of that calibre, but these truly are strange times. 

The spot is a tricky one, it is the bubble of a PKO tournament. Kevin covers a short stack who has gone all in with a 3.5x starting bounty. However, an under-the-gun raiser covers Kevin and a Big Blind is left to act. The other interesting wrinkle is that Kevin has Bubble Protection, a GGPoker feature where he gets his buy-in back if he busts on the literal bubble. 

@daraokearney range for this spot?

11 pay and we have bubble insurance.

— Kevin Martin (@KevinRobMartin) November 18, 2021

The Bubble Protection is what makes the hand tricky to solve. Kevin’s range on the bubble will normally be tight but the bubble has actually ended for him, which should widen his range. However, we do not know who else has Bubble Protection, we have to assume most don’t to be safe, and as such need to give the short stack a tighter range for us to adjust to. 

With no Bubble Protection on the bubble, this is what Kevin’s range should be, courtesy of ICMIZER 3:

Leon The calling range without Bubble Protection

Much wider than a normal bubble because the bounty he would win is worth more than a mincash. Also it if it goes three-way Kevin has a good shot of not bubbling. Only if shorty has the best hand and the opener has the 2nd best hand will he bubble. 

To account for Bubble Protection I took the short stack’s range in the last example which was this:

Leon The short stack’s bubble range

A tight range, though maybe a bit wider than a normal bubble because the expected calling ranges are wider. 

I then did the solve again, but added one extra payout of a buy-in, to replicate the bubble being over already. I changed the short stack’s range to the one we saw above with the bubble still happening. This is the calling range Kevin should go with:

Leon The calling range assuming the bubble is over but with the short stack using the pre bubble range

Much wider, he can call any pair, any suited Ace and much more suited broadway. Kevin’s instincts to reach out and ask about the hand were good here, he had KJo which is the exact breakeven hand in this spot. 

It was a small MTT, only 77 players, so there was quite a good chance that everyone in the field had Bubble Protection. So out of curiosity I ran the hand again but without the adjusted short stack range. It turns out shorty shoved only a little wider, 77+, AJs+, AQo+. 

In that spot Kevin can call really wide, all his playable hands essentially:

Leon Our range is the short stack also had Bubble Protection

Even though the bubble was essentially over for Kevin it’s noteworthy how much tighter he has to be when we assume a range just a few pips tighter for the short stack player. He can now call all his broadway now that the short stack can shove just a few more hands. Also it’s notable in all examples how suited broadway goes up in value when it’s potentially a multi way hand. 

There are so many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ in this hand that could dramatically change the ranges once again. It really shows how complicated every spot is in a PKO because there are so many competing factors that tighten or widen your range. Throw in the fact that some players have Bubble Protection, and not knowing which ones do, and it’s apparant that PKOs are a format that likely will never be truly solved. 

Thoughts on the hand? Let us know in the comments:

Barry Carter

Barry Carter

Barry Carter is the editor of and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2, Poker Satellite Strategy, PKO Poker Strategy & the new book Endgame Poker Strategy

Author: wpadmin

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