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ICM and Deal Making in Poker

When a poker tournament gets closer to the goal, you will often see players discussing a deal. 

This is because the pay jumps are so vast when you get to the top tier of the pay structure. Players understand that a simple coin flip might be the difference between winning and losing thousands of dollars. 

With the view of variance in mind, players will often divide the prize pool between the remaining players, based on ICM calculations. 

ICM is the acronym for ‘Independent Chip Model’. It is a mathematical model that is used in tournament poker to calculate your cash equity as it relates to the prize pool of the event you are participating in. 

Imagine there are four players remaining in the field of a live tournament. Player A has 1,000 chips, Player B has 1,500 chips, Player C has 2,500 chips, and Player D has 5,000 chips. The tournament plays $50 for the winner, $30 for second and $20 for third.

A little bit of math will show you that Player D has a 50% chance of winning, Player C a 30% chance, Player B a 15% chance and Player A a 10% chance. So theoretically this is how the total prize pool should be split between the remaining players should the four of them choose to cut a deal.

Some players prefer a straightforward ICM split, whilst others believe they have such a strong edge over their opponents that they would prefer to take their chances and go for the total first prize. Sometimes players still go ahead with the deal but prefer to negotiate rather than rely on ICM. 

The important thing to remember is the choice to use ICM is yours and yours alone.




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Last Updated 22 May 2015
ICM and Deal Making in Poker