Had a few pleasant games in a particular tourney format: 9max NL normal speed/structure; NTT S-M field (~150); M-L buy-in (~$300); this runs often enough for me to have accumulated a sample of just under 40 finishes.

I'm happy to have finished in the money every other time, but when I do, I only finish in the bottom 30% where the prize size doesn't vary much and is just about double the buy-in. In fact, with ~top 20 places getting paid I never once made it to the final table!

I find this quite bothering - if anything, I was more prepared to a degree of variance. What are such "consistent" finishes indicative of, if anything? Given the (somewhat limited, I know) information above, should I

  • look for alternative formats where I could be more profitable (i.e. supersat structure where everyone in the money gets the same share of the prize)
  • get more aggressive pre-bubble which would increase odds of finishing higher up but will also increase variance and I'll bust out more often (not a profitable option IMO, but I'm asking here so no bias)
  • get extremely aggressive post-bubble where variance with my current performance is acceptable but would give me a chance of finishing higher (finishing only one place higher than I normally do means literally an extra $100 prize money which would put my ROI into respectable double digits)
  • get real and stop complaining about "only a little bit" positive ROI and start playing SNG for volume and rakeback

Edit: I'm accepting @amigal's answer because 1) it's correct and 2) it's the only one! I was hoping for a broader range of opinions provided backed by math and/or poker theory.

I'm glad I'm not the only one after the answers, as indicated by the upvotes - I should put a bounty on it when I have enough rep.

  • 4
    Nice question. +1. May 8, 2012 at 6:21
  • You are also playing against better players as the field thins. It is stay alive until you are short stacked.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 1, 2017 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


great question!!!

when reaching near the bubble there are three types of players (=stack sizes):
1. those who struggle to just get into the money (and have small stacks).
2. those who have enough money to get in the money and do nothing unless they have really good hands (don't leave their comfort zone). and ..
3. those who have big stacks or medium stack and willing to take some risks.

let me guess... you usually belong to the first two groups. I even take a risk and guess that in most of the game your stack is high above average.

The dynamic of the game is changing when we get closer to the bubble.. more aggressive play, more all-ins, blind stealing become more often.


The problem in playing very close to the bubble is that everyone puts pressure on you. the big stacks raises all the time. short stacks raise in early and middle position (Gus Hansen in his "Every hand revealed" book has a special chapter called "beware of the small stacks all-ins). If you reach this point with a decent stack, what do you usually do.

according to my experience, you should change your success criteria. Instead of how many times I reach the money? to how many times I reach the final table?

As you mentioned above, the real money is in the final table. I believe its profitable to win 1-5 place every 5 games then winning the game every time with just double the buy-in.

regarding not get into the money - don't worry. The statistics is working pretty good (and even) on every one including you. At the end, you will have bad days, people get lucky and so.

I think that in the long term you should try and reach deeper in the tournament even if the price is loosing some other tournaments.


  • Great assumptions! I'll leave the question open for a while longer though before accepting to see if anyone else is willing to contribute
    – Oleg
    May 13, 2012 at 2:22

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