What does “Bubble” Mean in Poker?


In poker, the “bubble” is the phase of the tournament where the next player to be eliminated will be the last one to leave without any prize money. The player who is eliminated in this position is said to have “bubbled” the tournament.

In the wide and diverse world of poker, you’ll often come across terms and phrases unique to the game. Understanding these poker terms is key to fully engaging with the game and enhancing your performance. One such term that is integral to tournament poker is the “Bubble”. But what does it mean? Where did it originate? Let’s delve into this.

Definition and Pronunciation

In poker, the “bubble” is the point in a tournament where players are very close to making it into the payout positions, or “the money.” The player who finishes just outside of the money, in the next position, is said to have “bubbled” the tournament. They are the last person to leave the tournament with nothing to show for their efforts.

As for pronunciation, “bubble” is said just as it is in standard English, pronounced as ‘buh-bul’.

Usage in a Sentence

To use “bubble” in a sentence, you might say, “With just one more elimination, we’ll be on the bubble, and every decision will count.” Or, if a player has just been knocked out of the tournament in the position just outside the payouts, you could say, “Unfortunately, he’s the bubble player this time.”

Origin and Similar Terms

The term “bubble” in poker has been around for as long as poker tournaments have existed. It borrows its meaning from the economic context where a “bubble” is a period of rapid expansion followed by a contraction or burst. In poker, the “bubble” is the phase of rapid eliminations before the contraction, which is when players reach the money positions and the game slows down.

There are a few related terms in poker that are good to know:

  • Bubble Boy/Girl: The unfortunate player who is the last one to be eliminated before the money payouts begin.
  • Bubble Play: This refers to the strategy used during the bubble period. It’s typically characterized by more conservative play from those with shorter stacks trying to limp into the money, and more aggressive play from larger stacks trying to capitalize on that fear.
  • Stone Bubble: This is the exact point at which the next player out will get nothing and the remaining players will make the money.

“Bubble Poker” Popularity According to Google Trends

The the below graph from Google Trends highlights the popularity of “Bubble Poker” since 2018:


Understanding the term “bubble” and the strategic implications it carries is a crucial part of mastering poker tournament play. While being the bubble player can be disappointing, navigating the bubble phase skillfully can provide opportunities to accumulate more chips and enhance your chances of finishing in a top-paying position.

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