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Poker Tournaments & SNG's

Poker ICM - I Crush Monkeys part 3

6,915 Views on 17/9/14

In this article we look at some real examples of where ICm can be used.

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First things first, I know the past couple of articles have been a bit theory heavy and I'd like to take this opportunity apologise for that... But I'm not going to, unfortunately the theory's a necessary evil! However, you'll be pleased to know that this time we'll be discussing a hand and looking at ICM in practice. To minimise your desire to head-butt your pencil, I'm deliberately going to study some bizarre spots as I think it will be much more interesting, and infinitely more useful. Last time I encouraged you to consider this spot on the bubble of a 6 man SNG:

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 Ks As  

Hero raises to $120, 
Orangutan raises to $1,434 and is all-in,
Chimpanzee folds


Let's assume we have no knowledge of ICM and look at the spot in a nutshell. We have AK, a monster, made even more so given the short handed situation. We dominate lots of our opponent’s likely range, and flip with almost all of the rest. Even if we give our opponent a tight re-shoving hand range of all pairs, AT+, and suited broadways, we still win 57.26% of the time, this is insanely profitable from a chip EV perspective. Furthermore, if we do win the hand, we'll almost always win the tournament as we'll have 87% of the chips in play. 

In this light, this seems like a no-brainer and I'd imagine that most people thinking on this level will reduce the hand to three stages:

1. Make a fist.
2. Pump said fist.
3. Click Call.

Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, I wouldn't have wasted time writing if it was that simple. Looking at the hand from an ICM perspective, the first thing we need to consider is our current tournament equity (hereafter TEQ), and the number of places paid. Let's say this is a $15 SNG with 2 paid (60% of prize-pool for 1st and 40% for 2nd). Before the hand, things look like this:


Once you raise, things change slightly, here's how it looks if you raise and then fold:


As you no doubt expected, the chips you lose raise/folding AKs here do cost you money ($0.51 to be precise), but compare this with what happens if you raise and then call the all in:


So what does all this mean? 

This basically means that if you call the shove here your tournament equity will either increase by 14.7% if you win, or drop by 42.24% (to zero) if you lose. If you punch these numbers into an ICM calculator, you'll find that you need to win the all in confrontation at least 74.94% of the time to make this call profitable in terms of $EV. This might seem unrealistically high, but bear in mind that the most TEQ you can have at any point is 60%, because that's how much of the prize-pool 1st place wins in this particular tournament. 

Additionally, your large stack means that you can expect to cash often, but when you call the all-in, you are risking this huge amount of equity for a relatively small increase (you're risking 42.82 TEQ for an extra 14.7%). It's like risking a Porsche for a Porsche with alloy wheels, unnecessary. The 74.94% hand equity that an ICM based shove/fold calculator says you need to make the call, is the minimum required to compensate for the high risk that you're taking by calling. Annoyingly, you simply have to sigh and fold because it's rare that AKs is in this kind of shape vs any realistic re-shoving range. 

It's probably worth pointing out that it's impossible to say just how unprofitable calling here would be without knowing your opponents range. Interestingly, even if we knew our opponent was moving all in 100% of the time, without even looking at his cards, we would still have to fold, because AKs only has 67.07% equity vs a range of any two cards. In fact, unless our opponent has two Pokémon cards, the only times we can profitably call with AKs here, would be if our villain had accidentally flashed us an off-suit king, or one of a of the Ax hands that AKs has more than 74.94% equity against (A2, A6o, A8o, A9o, AJo, or AQo). Despite folding costing you money, it's mandatory.

Holy guacamole! Is this guy really telling me to make a losing play? Well, yes I am; raise/folding AKs here is in itself a losing play, but ICM can be used to show that folding to the shove is more profitable (or rather less -$EV) than calling it is. If you're a hostage and a crazed gunman inconveniently offers you the choice of giving him your watch, or being shot, I'd assume most people would hand over the watch. The same logic applies here, but in this case your choices are to either fold and lose 0.58% of your TEQ, or risk losing all of your remaining 42.24% TEQ for the chance to increase it by 14.7%. Folding is simply the lesser or two evils.  Hopefully you're still with me...

Remember, in tournaments you’re working with equity first and then chips and hands afterwards. Hopefully this gives you a nudge to cross-examine those 'standard' spots and minimise the times you literally give away money. Next time we'll take a look at spots where ICM suicide can cost you thousands of dollars, until then, Gee Gee.


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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