What is ICM in Poker and ICM Poker Strategy Game Introduction
The debate about the best way to play Texas Hold'em continues, with some advocating for the convenience and immediate profitability of live cash games, while others argue that tournament play, with its survival game structure, is better suited for mastering the game. Personally,
I started my journey in more casual live games due to their accessibility and quick profit potential, gradually transitioning to tournament play later on.
For those deeply invested in understanding the optimal way to play Texas Hold'em, major events like the WPT and WSOP provide the truest test of skill. With limited buy-ins, unlike in cash games where rebuys are possible, every chip calculation and consideration becomes a showcase of tournament skills, aiming to maximize mathematical advantages leading to the question today on what is ICM in poker.
Today, in our exploration of how to play Texas Hold'em, we delve into a crucial aspect of tournament play on what is ICM in poker and the ICM poker strategy we can use.
What is ICM in Poker
what is ICM in poker? ICM, or call Independent Chip Model, refers to the Expected Value (EV) of each chip concerning the potential rewards. Players use these values to decide their actions in each hand, striving to maximize their mathematical benefits.
During the early stages of a tournament, ICM has limited impact, mainly because rebuys are still allowed. Additionally, eliminating opponents does not guarantee entry into the money, unless you manage to eliminate all remaining players except yourself, an improbable feat.
However, as tournaments progress into the middle and later stages, especially approaching the money bubble, the importance of ICM becomes more pronounced. It shifts its focus from chip EV to the EV translated into actual prize money.
This perspective contradicts the implicit notion in casual games, where actions consider not only fold equity and pot odds but also implied odds. Implied odds suggest that if we hit our desired hand, opponents might pay us more than just the current pot. However, in tournaments and ICM, this concept loses its applicability.
This shift demands a greater emphasis on evaluating the risk of elimination. This becomes especially evident approaching the money bubble since the difference in the rewards tied to different rankings is substantial.
How to Use ICM Poker Strategy in Real- Life Scenario
Consider a Final Table situation where blinds are 10,000/20,000/20,000. The small blind has 250,000, and the big blind has already gone all-in. The UTG player, with 260,000, calls. Action folds to us in the late position with 300,000, holding 6s 6h.
The button has only 5 big blinds (100,000), making our hand strong enough to allow the late-position player to join the action. Since the button, if going all-in, would likely get calls from both the UTG player and the original all-in player, we can call and potentially eliminate at least one opponent, aiming for a pay jump.
After our call, the button folds, the small blind folds, and four players see the flop, creating a pot of 100,000.
Flop: 6d 10c Js
We hit a set, and it checks to us. We bet 40,000, the small blind folds, and the UTG player calls. The pot is now 180,000.
The UTG player checks.
At this crucial juncture, it's important to note that our move here should not resemble a speculative bet made without a clear plan with our ICM poker strategy. Since we don't have fold equity with an all-in, as the UTG player has already committed chips, we must assume we are against a made hand.
Considering the UTG player's calling range on the flop, we can expect hands like QQ and higher. The turn did not improve their range, and a straightforward action would be ideal.
The most strategic move is to check and observe the UTG player's move on the river. Our primary goal is to eliminate the big blind player, and betting here may not achieve that, as it would likely only get calls from stronger hands like two pairs or better.
ICM Poker Strategy Conclusion
This provides an introduction what is ICM in poker and a practical example for ICM poker strategy. In a similar situation, I chose to bet on the turn and got shoved all-in, eventually losing the pot and becoming short-stacked, finishing in fifth place.
Had I followed ICM principles, we could have secured a spot in the top three, potentially gaining at least two pay jumps. This experience underscores the valuable insights ICM provides, guiding us to make more effective estimates concerning position and ranges.
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