DEAL, OR NO DEAL?
(Distributed April 11, 2006)
One day, thanks to your poker skill and luck, you’ll find yourself still in contention near the end of a live tournament when a player will ask: “You guys want to make a deal?”
Here are some key questions to consider before you answer:
HOW MANY PLAYERS ARE LEFT? — Although I have seen all 10 players at a final table agree to an even “chop”, I don’t recommend it unless you are seriously short-stacked or you’re in a hurry to be somewhere else. Don’t pass up the chance to gain final-table experience.
When you’re down to just two, three or four players, however, a deal can make sense. Tournament payout structure is heavily weighted toward the top few spots. The difference between first place and fourth can be huge — 30 percent vs. 7 percent of the prize pool is typical — so a deal might be a great option.
HOW MANY CHIPS DO I HAVE? — Usually it’s a short-stacked player who first proposes a deal, but if the other players have tall chip stacks they’ll probably say, “No thanks.” That response can be a mistake, however, especially in a no-limit tournament because if a short-stacked player “doubles-up” twice with all-in bets, he’s back in the hunt.
If you have a commanding chip lead — say, 10 times more chips than your closest competitor — you probably should turn down any deal. Use your chip advantage to dominate remaining opponents, play smart, and go for the top prize.
With only a modest chip lead, consider suggesting a deal yourself because you’ll be bargaining from a position of strength, not weakness. The reality is that even with a decent chip advantage, your odds of winning the tournament can drop dramatically on a single unlucky hand.
HOW BIG ARE THE BLINDS? — Basically, tournaments are pushed to a conclusion because the blinds and antes (forced bets before the start of every hand) continue to increase at regular intervals. At the end, these required bets can take a serious bite out of your stack before you even see your starting cards.
In a Texas hold’em tournament, for example, blinds can get so large that final-table action becomes a crapshoot. All of the skillful play that got you close to victory gives way to reckless abandon when you must post 25 percent of your stack just to play the next hand. That’s a good time to make a deal, unless you’re feeling really lucky!
HOW STRONG ARE MY OPPONENTS? — In a typical card room tournament, chances are you’ll be up against one or two very good players at the end. If you have limited experience and doubt your ability to outplay your opponents, consider agreeing to a deal if a fair one is offered.
The flip side is not to sell yourself short. The beauty of poker is that even a novice can sometimes take down a skilled player with a lucky hand or well-executed move. If your goal is to improve your final-table play, then take a deep breath and go for the brass ring. It’s the only way to learn — and it’s exciting!
HOW GOOD IS THE DEAL? — First, be aware that some card rooms don’t permit deals. Others allow the tournament director to assist in a deal. Also, it’s common to leave a specified amount of money up for grabs (winner take all) among the finalists after they’ve negotiated their individual share.
Proposed deals often are based on relative chip strength. The math to start such a deal is pretty simple: Just figure out what percentage of the overall chip total each player has, then apply those percentages to the remaining prize pool to establish dollar amounts.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Unless the remaining players are nearly equal in chips, payout adjustments should be made. Players with tall stacks should offer a portion of their winnings to short-stacked players because having the most chips at that point doesn’t guarantee victory.
If you’re one of the short-stacked finalists and the adjustment seems fair, take the deal. Otherwise, just say no.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2006 RUSS SCOTT
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