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Playing ICM In Grand Casino Baden

April 11, 2012

When playing a tourney at the Grand Casino Baden (You can check out their website by clicking HERE) recently I found myself playing by the ICM (Independent Chip Model) and a friend of mine asked for an explanation of what that meant.  So I am going to explain that here first and then let you know how I did in the tourney.

Tourneys work by the way that you buy in and get chips. Short stack tourneys (fast tourneys) give you somewhere between 3000 and 7000 chips and deep stack tourneys start at 10K and go up to 30K depending on the buy in. Usually the more expensive the buy in the more starting chips you get.

The value of the chips change for you during the tourney as well. They are relatively worth the most when you start so you have to treat them preciously and not lose them in the beginning and they are worth the least at the end.

This comes from the fact that in a tourney you have every 20 minutes (in tourneys with a fast structure) increasing blinds and antes which are forced bets so that there is always something in the pot. So a round of playing is getting more and more expensive the longer it takes so you need to accumulate chips and grow your stack just to stay ‘even’.

Also it’s good to note that even if you win the tourney and have 100% of the chips at the end, you don’t win 100% of the money. Usually 1st place pays between 30-40%.

Another thing to note is that also if one player drops out (even if they are on another table where you had nothing to do with them dropping out) you are closer to the money and thus your chips increase in value. This is because of the fact that the total amount of chips in play is now divided by fewer players.

Now being able to value your chip stack at any given point in the tourney, knowing what it means when you enter a confrontation, knowing what the investment for that is and in essence then knowing how strong your hand has to be and from which position at the table you have to do it (against whom and how many chips can be won if they all go in) or in the other case knowing what you are not ‘allowed’ to do since it would be a bad investment with a negative expected value is KEY.

This is where ICM (Independent Chip Model) comes into play. It’s a fascinating method of valuing chips at any given time during the tourney especially when you’re at the final table. Once you are at the final table it is essential to play ‘correct’ based on ICM. It’s similar to things like the Black-Scholes method for trading options. Knowing the ‘fair’ or right price at any time for an option is very important and so too is knowing the value of your chips at any time during the tourney.

Grand Casino Baden

So how did I do in my Zurich tourney you ask? Well, I came out of it in 1st place but only after losing 90% of my chips in the first blind level and because of that I was forced to use the Independent Chip Model from the very beginning and throughout the rest of the tourney. Generally speaking using the ICM early on in a tourney is not the right strategy because it’s real value only comes when all the chips are on one table and thus every move can be evaluated properly with the ICM calculation but here I was forced to do it and it paid off.

I was all-in in the right spots against the right players from the right positions. My guess is that I was called about 25% of the time and on the other hand I was shoving on raises that happened before it was my turn knowing that I would have to play for my tournament life. So I got the blinds and antes maybe 50% of the time without a fight but the other 22 or so hands I had to win them all and I did.

Also, I was never dealt a pocket pair in the entire tourney except one lonely pair of ducks once (2-2) and those I folded to heavy action before it was my turn. However despite that I won the tourney playing ICM the way it should be played.

In a cash game a dollar is a dollar and it stays a dollar and there are no antes and the blinds are small compared to the average pot and it doesn’t increase. Also everyone is deep stacked. It’s a totally different ‘game’ and style of play there. This is why good cash game players usually do poorly in tournaments and vice versa. I am trying to master them both but I’ve got a long way to go.

A picture say a thousand words…my 1st place winnings!


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