How To Negotiate Final Table Poker Deals Like a Pro


How To Negotiate Final Table Poker Deals Like a Pro


A player holding out 4 aces between multiple stacks of poker chips.

How To Negotiate Final Table Poker Deals Like a Pro


A player holding out 4 aces between multiple stacks of poker chips.

Remember the hit television game show “Deal or No Deal?” You might recall that after being assigned a box with a secret monetary value, the contender chooses other boxes whose contents are revealed and then removed from play. In this way, the contender can guess the value of their assigned box. All the while, the “Banker” keeps offering the contender prizes to quit the game, asking the famous question, “Deal or no deal?” The contender has the choice to bank a sure thing or take a gamble in hopes that the value of their box will be greater than the deal.

Final table deals in poker tournaments follow a similar logic. After the hard work of reaching the money, players often feel it’s better to cut a deal and take home the cash rather than risk losing it all to variance. However, not all poker final table deals are fair or equal. Keep reading for tips on how to make the best poker deals and avoid being taken advantage of when you play poker online.

The Rationale for Final Table Deals

Reaching the final table of a poker tournament can be a big deal. Every time a player gets knocked out, the payouts jump in size, with 30% to 40% of the total prize pool going to the final three players. This often amounts to a potentially life-changing amount of money. As a result, it isn’t surprising that final table players are increasingly opting to chop — that is, redistribute the prize money in a way that suits all concerned. Whether you like the idea or not, it’s something to factor into your poker tournament final table strategy.

The Art of the Chop

So, how exactly do players chop the chips in poker? There are three main poker deals for final table players: Equal Chop, Chip Chop, and ICM Chop. Here’s how they work in practice.

Equal Chop Poker Deal

Imagine your carefully planned poker tournament strategy has paid off, and you’ve reached the final table with two other players, Linda and Fred. Linda has 50,000 in chips, Fred has 30,000, and you have 20,000, making for a 50-30-20% distribution. The payouts are $1,800 for 1st place, $800 for 2nd, and $400 for 3rd, making for a prize pool of $3,000 in total.

If you agree on an Equal Chop deal, you’ll split the prize money between the three of you, taking home $500 each. This is very good for you and Fred, but maybe not so fair for Linda, considering she has 50% of the chips. On the plus side, it’s a country-simple calculation, and everybody knows how much they’re getting.

Chip Chop Poker Deal

A poker player pulling stacks of poker chips towards themselves.

The obvious problem with an Equal Chop is that it can be unfair to the chip leader. The Chip Chop method strives for a more balanced approach that accurately reflects the standings by dividing the prize pool in proportion to the number of chips each player holds. To do this, divide the prize pool by the number of chips in play. This assigns a value to each chip. Then, multiply each stack by that value.

In the preceding example, there are 100,000 chips in play and a $3,000 prize pool.

3,000/100,000 = 0.03, or 3 cents a chip.

When you multiply the stacks, Linda gets $1,500, Fred gets $900, and you get $600.

The trouble with chip chop deals is that the distribution can be unfair when stacks are further apart. Imagine the stacks are 70,000 (Linda), 20,000 (Fred), and 10,000 (you). Now Linda takes home $2,100, which is more than the original prize money for first place, while you and Fred are taking home $300 and $600, respectively. You may both feel you’re being short-changed in this situation. Always keep this discrepancy in mind when you prepare for a poker tournament.

ICM in Poker

The trouble with chip chops is that they don’t consider the payout structure and how much money each player has already won. The ICM method is a way to get around this problem.

It assigns cash value to the chips in play but considers the fact that the value of chips changes throughout a tournament.

Based on the players’ relative stacks, the calculation works out each player’s percentage chance of finishing in each of the remaining positions, multiplies the percentages, and adds them to determine a cash value for each stack.

In terms of an ICM deal for the current example, Linda gets $1,236, Fred gets $970, and you get $794.

The math behind this operation is too complex for most players to bother with, and there’s no need to in any case. That’s because online poker rooms offering a deal function will calculate everything on your behalf. When a player requests a deal, the terms of the deal appear for all players to weigh up and decide on. For a deal to go through, all players must be in agreement.

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