Monday, October 07, 2013

Chop Talk

Yesterday I spent part of the day looking in on the EPT Live coverage of the Super High Roller final table in London. There was a moment after it went to three-handed when play was halted and the remaining players discussed the possibility of chopping the remaining prize money, with the ensuing pause reminding me a bit of the final table of the Main Event in Barcelona where there was a long, similar discussion when that tournament got down to four-handed.

Like happened in Barcelona, no deal was made. (There was ultimately a deal struck heads-up in Spain.) However unlike in Barcelona the discussion yesterday seemed a lot less strife-ridden among the three remaining players, Martin Finger, Tobias Reinkemeier, and Christoph Vogelsang. Perhaps the fact that all are fellow countrymen helped make for a friendlier conversation. By the way, as happened in the WCOOP Main Event a week ago, the Germans grabbed all top three spots in this tourney, too.

Much later in the night -- really in the wee hours as I watched that late-night San Diego-Oakland game on television -- I was following the end of the Sunday Million that similarly saw play paused at the final table when the last five players opted to discuss a possible deal.

It used to be the case in these big PokerStars tourneys that only “chip chop” numbers were provided. Then occasionally one player would bring up the alternative ICM method and produce figures, and that would engender further debate. Eventually it became the norm for someone to bring ICM into the mix, and so at some point the moderators at PokerStars began also providing those figures in addition to the “chip chop” ones whenever the deal discussion was begun.

The “chip chop” method has all the remaining players receive the amount of prize money due the next player eliminated, with the remaining prize money then divided proportionally according to the remaining stacks. (In Stars’ tourneys, there’s usually some money set aside for which to play going forward, too.)

Meanwhile the ICM method also guarantees each player the next spot’s prize money, but then divides up the remaining prize money by using the ICM formula that takes into account the fact that short stacks can potentially double up. The ICM method thus doesn’t operate like the “chip chop” method and say each chip is worth the exact same amount of cash (and thus ignore whether that chip is sitting in a big or short stack).

When the five-handed deal talk began in the Sunday Million last night, two players had about 20 million chips each while the other three each had between 7-9 million. Both sets of deal numbers were produced, and the discussion went as predictably as one might imagine, with the big stacks saying they preferred the “chip chop” method (which gave them more cash) while the other three insisted they wanted to go with ICM (which gave them more). (The latter group ultimately prevailed.)

I remember once in one of the MicroMillions tourneys seeing a large number of players -- seven, I think -- manage to stop the tourney to talk about a deal, with one of the seven actually sitting with more than half the chips in play at the time. The “chip chop” numbers were produced, with the chip leader being guaranteed something like $15K or thereabouts. However, first-place prize money for the event was only $13K or so!

“Sounds good to me,” typed the leader at the sight of those numbers, and it only took the others a short while to figure out things needed to be negotiated further.

It seems to me like the possibility of actually guaranteeing a chip leader more than first-place prize money makes the “chip chop” method necessarily flawed in some fundamental way. However, I think I like the idea Stars has of supplying both sets of figures as a way to mark out some ranges for payouts from which players can begin their chop talk.

We also had fun playing the first tournaments of Season 5 of the Hard-Boiled Poker Home Games last night (as I mentioned would be happening last week). There were no deals -- neither “chip chop” nor ICM -- at those final tables. No, in the HBP Home Games we fight for every last play money chip in the prize pool right to the very end.

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