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Poker Tournaments & SNG's

Poker ICM - I Crush Monkeys part 2

6,941 Views on 26/5/14
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Aspokerimage well as some elaborate monkeying around, in part one of this series I highlighted that doubling your stack in a tournament doesn't double its value due to the inconsistent values of chips during a tournament. Now that we've got that out of the way, I want to cement a couple of terms. If you're already familiar with them, my bad, please check I made no mistakes:

1) ChipEV

Chip Expected Value mirrors most people's understandings of equity. If you have an 80% chance to win a heads up pot, and there are 10,000 chips in the middle after you go all-in (for ease let's ignore blinds and antes), you can expect to get 8,000 chips back on average, (80% of the 5,000 you invested + 80% of your opponent’s 5,000). This means your ChipEV here is +3,000 chips.

This can seem quite confusing but remember, it's impossible to win 8k from a single hand here, you will either win a pot of 10k chips 80% of the time or lose all of your chips 20% of the time.

2) $EV

Dollar Expected Value with regards to ICM is slightly different. It represents the amount of money you can expect to win (or lose), based on the chips you risk with your plays.

Although winning more chips will always increase your tournament equity, sometimes you can actually make a profitable +ChipEV play that is an unprofitably -$EV (which means you lose money by doing it!). Identifying these is one of the fundamental benefits of studying ICM. It basically arises when the chips you are trying to win don't represent a significant enough increase in you tournament equity to make the risk worthwhile. It's kind of like you jumping on a train track to pick up a jelly-bean. Often a train won't be in sight and you'll get a free jelly-bean, but when a train is there, it's pretty much game over – it's simply not worth the risk.

Lotspokerimage of tournament players (especially recreational ones) are unaware of this inequality, but there are times when you should make what feel like ridiculous folds because going broke would simply be burning money. Have you ever bubbled with AKo, after your gut had been compelling you to fold, when two bigger stacks had moved all in in front of you? Regardless of the outcome, perhaps folding and securing a min-cash might have been the more profitable play. In truth it depends on the situation, but I hope you see my point. Remember, we play poker to win money, not chips.

Usually, the only way you can identify the best play in these kinds of spots is via post game analysis, but I think some people are so overly concerned with their absolute hand strength that they either don't consider studying, or simply ignore the situation altogether. It's important we ensure we're not one of these people. 

In the next part of this series we'll look at some bizarre spots that will hopefully revolutionise the way you think about some pre-flop situations. As a teeny bit of a teaser, consider the following hand from a hyper-turbo, 6max SNG, with 2 paid.

Without using an ICM calculator, what does your gut tell you to do? Does your choice change after deeper consideration? I'll run the maths on it in part 3.

PokerStars - Hold'em Tournament - $30/60 Blinds - 3 Players 

Chimpanzee (BB): $291

Hero (BTN): $1,269

Orangutan (SB): $1,440

Pre-flop: Dealt to Hero ak

Hero raises to $120,

Orangutan raises to $1,434 and is all-in,,

Chimpanzee folds


In the meantime, gl at the tables, 

Dan “danshreddies” O'Callaghan


Dan O'Callaghan

Primarily an MTT grinder, Dan began playing poker over curry and Kopperberg whilst at university about 4 years ago.   He exists as several aliases but is best know as 'danshreddies'. His biggest score came earlier in the year when ... Read More


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