To be an effective tournament poker player, having a firm understanding of ICM is critical to achieving full profit. When reaching the final table, the difference between finishing in 5th and finishing in 4th may seem minuscule, but the drastic difference in payout must be considered as you navigate hands. In tournaments like GGPoker’s weekly Super Millions, failing to consider payout implications can result in mistakes that cost hundreds of thousands.
The Game: GGPoker Super Millions Blinds: 40,000/80,000, 10,000 ante Stacks Sizes: 50 Big Blinds Effective
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Battle Of The Big Stacks
With five remaining players at the GGPoker Super Millions Final Table, players “B Botteon” and “LittleMonk” sit as the two big stacks towering over the three remaining short stacked players. Folded to on the cutoff, LittleMonk would raise it 168,000 with A♠-Q♥. While this is a hand you would usually raise in most scenarios, taking ICM into account LittleMonk should be raising with a wide range of hands to apply pressure to the small stacks. When you are playing at a final table with a flat payout structure, you want to be raising even wider than most GTO charts. Many players make the error of blindly following GTO charts without taking payout implications into consideration, which is a huge and expensive mistake! On the flip side, if you are a short stacked player considering ICM you should be playing tightly to try and finish in the most profitable position possible.
Holding A♣-4♠, B Botteon would make the call on the big blind. While B Botteon should be happy calling here, he must be cautious as LittleMonk has enough chips to knock him out.
Nothing But Ace-Highs
The Pot: 426,000 The Board: 9♦-3♦-2♣ Effective Stack: 48 Big Blinds
Following a check from B Botteon, LittleMonk would make a small continuation bet for 97,980. It is safe to assume LittleMonk would be betting with his entire range as he is the chip leader facing the runner-up. At a final table, the chip leader has the ability to make a lot of small bets when facing the second biggest stack, as the payout implications make it hard for the smaller stack to do anything about it! LittleMonk applied strategic pressure to B Botteon on the flop, forcing him to make a tough decision with two more streets to go. B Botteon truly only had two decent options: call or check-raise small with a plan to fold to a reraise. When applying a check-raise in such a spot, it is important to consider that the chip leader could easily call floating junky flush and straight draws that could get there on the turn or river. B Botteon would in fact make the check-raise for 303,227 drawing a call from LittleMonk. While a lot of players would fold to B Botteon’s aggression, that would be disastrous as LittleMonk only has to risk approximately 200,000 chips to win 1,000,000, a great price! LittleMonk utilized his pot odd calculations and made the call.
The Pot: 1,032,454 The Board: 9♦-3♦-2♣-2♥ Effective Stack: 44 Big Blinds
A nasty card on the turn for B Botteon would force him to check out of position. While B Botteon could have attempted to turn this hand into a bluff, such a move would be inadvisable with the payout implications and LittleMonk’s wide range. Checked to in position, LittleMonk had to decide between checking and betting. A bet with A♠-Q♥ on this board would be for value, and as chip leader LittleMonk has the ability to bet frequently with small bet sizes to force his opponents to defend. Effectively applying pressure, LittleMonk bet 157,465. While some players would refute LittleMonk’s bet as opening himself up to be check-raised, the wide range LittleMonk has as the chip leader allows him to represent hands containing 2’s. Holding an ace, B Botteon would make the call.
A Bluffable River
The Pot: 1,347,384 The Board: 9♦-3♦-2♣-2♥-6♦ Effective Stack: 42 Big Blinds
While the 6♦ brought in a bluffing opportunity, it was still an extremely tough spot for B Botteon to navigate out of position. In similar spots, it is likely best to check it down and give up on the hand. While B Botteon could turn a bet from LittleMonk into a bluffing check-raise, the payout implications of having three smaller stacks at the table would have made the bluff very risky. Leading out would also have been ill-advised as LittleMonk has plenty of flush draws in his range that got there on the river. Using a strategy of his own, B Botteon would riskily lead out for 902,748, causing LittleMonk to fold!
Conclusion: B Botteon Gets One Through
While LittleMonk should be finding some hero calls against aggressive players like B Botteon, lacking the A♦ or the Q♦ to block the flush would force him to fold. Congratulations to B Botteon on a well executed bluff!
About The Author
Two-time WPT Champion Jonathan Little is a powerhouse in the global poker community. He's authored several bestselling strategy poker books, and accumulated over $7 million in live tournament cashes in the last 15 years. Crowned 2019 Poker Personality of the Year at the Global Poker Awards, the American pro is constantly rolling out a stream of exclusive articles, videos, and webinars here on PokerCoaching.com.