Categories: Tournament Strategy
| On Updated : Sep 1, 2020 11:33 AM IST

ICM: What is Independent Chip Model? How it works in a Poker tournament?

By Dheeraj Singh

We all know that in a cash game the value of chips is constant, i.e. every Rs 1 chip is worth exactly Rs 1 and your goal is simply to get as many of them as you can. But, in tournaments, the poker chips we get are not equivalent to the real money. We get a prize or money based on the position we finish off thus  making it extremely difficult to calculate the worth of the stack at any given time during a hand.

In a tournament, even if you win all the chips you will only win a percentage of the prize pool, i.e. having 60% of all the chips in play doesn’t make your stack worth 60% of the prize pool. So, how to determine/calculate the exact worth of your stack?

ICM is one such tool to determine/calculate the worth of your stack in a tournament.

What is ICM?

Independent Chip Model or ICM helps a player to estimate the cash value of his stack in a poker tournament at any given point. This is very useful especially at the later stages of the tournament as it also enhances your decision making. This model is also one of the reasons why many final table or heads up battles end in deals or at least is the starting point of the negotiations.

Independent Chip Model works basically on two parameters:

  • The payout structure of the tournament
  • Stack sizes of the remaining players

How ICM works? How to determine the value of a Chip in a Poker Tournament?

The value of chips can increase enormously during a tournament. But their value can also decrease.

Let’s say you are playing a sit n go tournament which has –

Buy-in: Rs 10

No. of players: 10

Payouts: Rs 50, Rs 30, Rs 20 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finish respectively

Initial stack: 1,000 Chips

At the beginning of this tournament, each stack (1,000 chips) are obviously worth Rs 10. But as the tournament progresses their value will change drastically.

Let’s say after seven players have busted, you still have 1,000 chips. Now you’re guaranteed at least third-place money. So your 1,000 chips or whatever amount of chips you are left with are worth at least Rs 20. Even if you somehow made into it with just one single chip, this one chip would still be worth at least Rs 20.

Now, let’s say you manage to win the tournament. Then you will have all 10,000 chips, but only receive Rs 50 payout. So, now 1,000 of your chips are only worth Rs 5.

Note: ICM calculations are quite complex and very few, if any, players can calculate exact figures on the spot. To make it easier, you can take the help of ICM calculators available in the market.

What is the use of ICM Poker?

ICM is one of the many strategies involved in tournament poker. It is extremely valuable when it comes to bubble situations and final table payouts. At the final table, it allows each player to calculate what part of the prize pool would belong to them if the tournament had concluded at that moment. Thus, helping you take a calculated risk.

Dheeraj Singh

I believe Life and Poker work on the same principle. The more you learn the better you become.