Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds was the first of its kind in esports, a massive Battle Royale inspired last player standing game that has taken the gaming community by storm. The game is now played on the competitive scene and in July 2018 the game’s developers. Bluehole, held the first PUBG Major with a prizepool of $2,000,000. And with Bluehole taking in over $1bn in game sales alone, we can expect even bigger and more frequent tournaments to take place in the years ahead.
With all this money on the line, how can players take their game from good to great, and what do the top players do differently from the rest? This high level strategy guide to PUBG has been compiled by ex-professional poker player and SickOdds.com co-founder Nick “OMGCAPS” Pateman.
PUBG With A Poker Perspective
The overlap between PUBG and poker is more profound than many might think. Not only does the game play out like a poker tournament with early-game, mid-game and late-game settings, but even the meta itself draws surprising parallels. When does it make sense to “fold” and wait for a better spot? How do players behave when nearing “the bubble” and the final few, where prize money (in a casual setting, reaching the top 10) is up for grabs?
This guide will answer these questions plus more, and will give strategy advice for serious players looking to reach the top 1%; ultimately helping you to work towards playing the game at a competitive level.
Picking Your Spots
As you will see with this guide, “picking your spots” is one of the most critical concepts in PUBG. You can think of a game of PUBG as a series of decisions, each one associated with a risk of being killed and knocked out. While a low risk decision may result in your death, or a high risk decision leads to survival, if on average, you make low risk and high reward decisions, you will end up on top in the long run.
Position refers to your physical position in relation to a visible opponent as well as other possible enemies and their rough locations. When considering position before engaging in a fight, you should consider:
● Do you have position on the enemy you’re about to fight (cover, high ground etc)?
● Are there other squads nearby that could easily catch you out of position?
● Are you already out of position with respect to the circle?
When considering position you should always feel that you have a dominant position on your enemy, that you do not risk overexposing yourself to other squads and that there is very little pressure from the circle.
Choosing to engage an enemy where the reward is low and the risk is high is obviously the worst possible decision, but with so many decisions to be made over a short period of time, it can be difficult to avoid them entirely. However, ensuring that you think critically about your positioning will be a major step forward in reaching the top 10 on a consistent basis.
This rule applies to poker as well, where the range of hands that you would play with against an opponent vary dramatically based on whether you have position on them (last to act, instead of first to act).
And position also relates to your physical location in the game. If you’re positioned towards the edge of the blue then the next circle may require a massive re-positioning, something which only goes further to increase your risk, particularly in the mid game. Players who stay in the center of the circle are more likely to have less distance to run than anyone else; correct positioning for the circle can mean the difference between winning and losing.
As with poker, there are a range of players that you might meet at the final circle. Some players will play scared while others play aggressively. As a general rule of thumb, players should play aggressively against scared players and more cautiously against aggressive ones, waiting for them to make a poor decision and fall out of position.
Without being able to see the player’s behavior, determining a scared or aggressive play style can be difficult, however a strong indicator is the level of firing coming from their direction. Players who stay quiet during the final few circles are likely to be less capable at dealing with aggression.
Early Game: Circle 1 and 2
As with poker, the early stages of a tournament are not the time to be going all in - the blinds (in this case, the circle) place no pressure on the player and the need to take risks is minimal. Hot dropping to locations with guaranteed action may be fun, but it is also rolling the dice, where the risk of busting out are high even for the most skilled players.
This will be why, if you’ve ever watched a competitive tournament of PUBG, squads will nearly always land separately to one another. Wiping out a squad early on does very little to benefit your own squad and the risks in doing so far outweigh the reward.
Mid Game: Circle 3 and 4
During the mid game of a PUBG match, the chance of encountering another squad will rise dramatically. Positioning during the mid game is absolutely critical, not only with respect to other squads but also with the circle.
Those squads who stick near the edge of the blue may be able to make progress in the match by flanking other teams, but the chance of being caught out of position by the next circle are massively increased. Fighting for the center of the circle may be the approach with the highest expected value, and while lurking near the edges can work well early on, it is generally a poor strategy for reaching the late game.
The mid game is where aggressive play is more well rewarded, and squads have the opportunity to establish a high probability of winning the late game.
The late game is more about positioning for fights than it is for the circle. Knowledge of other squad locations is critical and moving position based on this information can help close out a match. Squads should have scouts placed for gathering this information, ready to flank as
the opportunity arises. Flanks are often critical in late game PUBG, and grouping up can be disastrous. Playing aggressively/cautiously is also needed to ensure that weak players are overcome and overaggressive players are taken advantage of.
Bluffing in the late game also comes in to play, and with such focus on every opponent’s individual movement, repositioning and confusing other squads can prove enormously rewarding. Often - at least when the final circles land in the open - the players that move the most are best rewarded.