ICM Poker Introduction: The Term ICM In Poker


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In the world of poker, the decisions of a player in a particular situation decide whether he/she will win or lose the pot. There are many factors affecting the decisions, and there many concepts that help to improve the decisions. ICM in poker is one such concept that helps you improve your decision-making skills. It mainly focuses on determining the player’s current tournament equity to help you make the right move. Let us give you a brief understanding of what this term means.

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What is ICM in poker?

ICM stands for “independent chip model” and it allows players to convert chips into their money equity as a percentage to total or remaining prize pool. This mathematical model only uses the stack sizes to determine how often a player will finish in each position. The calculation is based on the current number of chips relative to the total number of chips in the game. The important parameters in ICM are just the payout structure and the list of chip stacks and not the skill advantages, position or the size of blinds.

The information taken from ICM poker can be utilized to:

❏ Help the player to make decision during a hand while in the tournament

❏ Know the range of hands a player can call another player’s all-in with

❏ Determine how the prize pool must be divided

The main reason for the evolution of ICM poker is the difference between tournaments and cash games. In cash games, the players know the exact value of their stack at all times in the game because they deal in cash only while this is not the case with multi table tournaments or SNG (sit n go) tournaments. Here the players deal with chip sets and they do not know the value of the exact value of their stacks without doing any calculations and that is where the concept of ICM comes into picture.

How to do the calculations involved in ICM poker?

Here is the step-by-step guide to calculate the tournament equity of any particular player:

❏ The first step is to determine the size of a player’s stack in terms of poker chips.

❏ Now, you have to relate the current chip value to the total number of chips, chip stack/total chips. This represents the possibility of each player winning the tournament.

❏ Determine all the different possibilities for how the tournament might end up. This involves:-

i) Determining all the possible outcomes

ii) Determining the possibility of each outcome by starting with the probability of winner in 1st place

iii) Doing the same as in (ii) step for 2nd place

❏ Then relate these equities to the cash amount associated to determine EV:-

i) Determine the EV in your denomination

ii) Add all of them together

iii) Divide this sum by the total remaining prize pool left

Risks involved while you use poker ICM

No doubt, poker ICM is a very useful strategy when it comes to playing tournaments. Many successful players use this model. However, you should not take it as a “winning strategy” as sometimes the dynamics of the table can create situations where the value cannot be calculated by ICM.

One of the biggest risks involved while using the ICM strategy is against those players who are unaware of this. This is because you rely on your opponents to make correct plays so that ICM can correctly figure out the required value.

Also this strategy might guarantee not losing money, but you can earn more if you make correct moves. It might happen that you leave some money on the table by blindly following the independent chip model strategy.

ICM poker might seem a good strategy but obviously it isn’t a perfect solution as it doesn’t consider the skills, player position or who is going to make the next blind. However, learning ICM is a must if you are planning to play tournaments or SNGs as it is a valuable and flexible model.

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About The  

Kanchan Sharma Author
Kanchan Sharma Author
Kanchan Sharma

Kanchan Sharma started her career as a learning designer at an MNC while pursuing poker as a hobby. However, she soon pivoted to becoming a professional MTT (Multi Table Tournaments) player. She is currently a leading player, who has taken the male dominated poker world by storm. During her stint as a poker player, she has bagged many titles including India Online Poker Championship (IOPC) for Rs. 17,98,906, Winter Celebration Series for Rs. 6,62,500 and has final tabled multiple tournaments. She continually seeks to improve her poker game and work on her mindset to win the WSOP title soon. Her journey from being a recreational player to a poker pro is inspiring for many people out there.

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