Let’s Make a Deal!

Learn what is means to make a deal in poker

It is not uncommon for poker tournaments to end in a deal. The recent $1,600 and $3,500 Wynn Spring Classic events ended with a heads-up deal, for example. Players strike deals all the time, especially in online poker tournaments, where the process is often automated.

There are positive and negative connotations to deal-making, along with several types of possible deals. We are covering most of them today.

What Is Meant By a Deal In Poker?

A deal, sometimes called a chop, happens at the business end of a poker tournament. The differences in payouts can be massive as the game nears its conclusion.

The recent 15th-anniversary edition of the PokerStars Sunday Million had a prize pool of almost $14 million. First place paid $1,514,920 with the runner-up banking $1,035,358. Both are huge payouts, but there is a difference of almost half-a-million dollars between them. No deal was struck here – Vanessa Kade won the $1.5 million prize – but you can see from this example why players want to lessen the pay jumps.

They are usually struck when the event is heads-up or three-handed but can involve many more players.

Positives and Negatives of Making a Deal

There are positives and negatives associated with chopping up a tournament. Guaranteeing yourself a decent prize is the main positive. Variance is huge when play is short-handed, and nothing is guaranteed, especially if you do not have many big blinds. One simple mistake can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Striking a deal helps you play in your comfort zone, enabling you to play your best poker. You chop the tournament with your heads-up opponent and now have locked up a substantial score. There is much less pressure on you to perform because the monetary aspect is all but removed.

Making a deal then going on to win can be demoralizing. You may have given up tens of thousands of dollars as part of your agreement and then march on to victory. You wish you had not struck the deal and now beat yourself up about doing so. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Offering a chop to your opponent can suggest you are scared of the original payouts or you do not believe you can win a heads-up match. There is much psychology in poker; offering a chop can hand the mental game advantage to your foe.

What Types of Chop Are There?

Equal chops are as they sound – everyone receives an equal slice of the pie. These deals are uncommon because it is rare that players involved in the chop are evenly stacked.

Chip chops work one of two ways. First, everyone receives a prize proportional to their stack size. Second, everyone gets the same prize with the remaining prize pool shared out based on the number of chips each player has.

ICM, or Independent Chip Model chops, are the most common way to strike a deal. ICM is a mathematical formula that considers each player’s chance of finishing in each of the remaining positions. It then performs calculations to work out what each player should receive. The math is complicated, but some programs work it out for you.

These ICM deals are the fairest method of all. The table below shows a hypothetical situation where three players remain, and the remaining prize pool weighs in at $100,000.

Player Chips Original payouts ICM Results Chip Chop Results
Player A 100,000 $50,000 $34,610.76 $50,000
Player B 65,000 $30,000 $28,308.54 $32,500
Player C 35,000 $20,000 $19,381.96 $17,500

It is easy to see why the bigger stacks want a chip chop and the shortest want an ICM deal!

The chip leader wants as close to the $50,000 payout as possible. But what if he loses a big hand and finishes third? Making a deal is like purchasing insurance, and ICM is the fairest way for most players.

Any Other Ways To Chop Up a Tournament

The three deal methods above are the most common, but there is another popular type. An increasing number of tournaments have rules stating players must leave X amount for the eventual champion. Any deal considers this sum before deal-making takes place.

Most players make an ICM chop and leave the stated prize up for grabs in this spot.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

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