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A Step-by-Step Guide to the Independent Chip Model (ICM) for Tournament Poker Players

PokerOlymp’s Arved Klöhn describes what this phrase signifies, how ICM is employed in poker and why you should be familiar with it.

By Arved Klöhn

Let us commence with a quite easy question:  

What is a chip value in a poker tournament?

To solution this concern in a fulfilling way is the complete purpose of ICM.

Why Must You Know the Worth of Your Chips?

Let us say you’re sitting down in a poker event, have a relaxed stack and the bubble is approaching.

Would not you like to know how considerably money you can assume to win in the lengthy run? What about doubling up?

Is it really worth it to jeopardize your healthier stack correct before the bubble? And how much would it damage your expectation to drop 50 percent your stack?

The particular payout structure of poker tournaments tends to make all these inquiries really difficult. 2 times as a lot of chips are not usually 2 times as worthwhile.

Sometimes it truly is much far more crucial to just survive the bubble (or the next payout bounce) than to accumulate far more chips.

Just counting your chips will not often aid you to exactly assess your event predicament. You have to know what your chips are value.

Chips 2

The worth of chips can increase enormously throughout a match.

What is the value of a chip in a poker event?

Let’s just take a extremely straightforward example. Say you are actively playing a sit-and-go:

Purchase-in: $ ten # of gamers: 10 Payouts: 1st – $ fifty, 2nd – $ thirty, third – $ twenty First stack: one,000 Chips

Right at the beginning of this tournament one,000 chips are clearly value $ ten. But as the event progresses their benefit will modify significantly.

Let us suppose you barely make it into the cash and soon after 7 gamers have busted you nonetheless have one,000 chips. But now you are certain to get at the very least third-location cash.

Now your 1,000 chips are worth at the very least $ 20.

Even if you by some means created it into the funds with just one particular solitary chip, this one particular chip would nonetheless be worth at minimum $ twenty. The benefit of chips can boost enormously throughout a match.

But their worth can also lessen. Let’s say you handle to win the sit-and-go. Then you will have all ten,000 chips, but only get a $ fifty payout. So now 1,000 of your chips are only worth $ five.

More than the years several brilliant poker players and theorists have tried out to come up with a magic formulation to assign an accurate value to the variety of chips a player has. The guide “Mathematics of Poker” even has a total chapter dedicated to this topic.c

Soon after a great deal of challenging perform the poker community arrived up with the Independent Chip Design, which is now broadly utilized to attach exact monetary values to chip counts.

Each and every skilled match participant is familiar with this design and you must be as well.

Bill Chen

Several excellent poker gamers and theorists have tried out to arrive up with a magic method.

How ICM Operates

The Independent Chip Product condenses the following two things into 1 worth for every participant:

The payout framework The stack dimensions of all remaining gamers

Based mostly on the stack dimensions the ICM calculates for every player the likelihood of finishing 1st, 2nd, and many others. and multiplies people chances with the payouts for each position.

To compute the likelihood of a particular participant ending 1st it simply divides the quantity of his chips by the overall volume of chips in play. The chances for ending 2nd or lower are calculated in a related but somewhat a lot more complex fashion.

The calculations are in truth so complex that you typically require a laptop. For 4 gamers a single has to go though more than 20 steps of calculations. For ten players you currently need to have millions.

The good news is numerous first rate ICM calculators are freely obtainable on-line.

A single easy sample application of ICM

Lets go back to our preceding sit-and-go instance:

Get-in: $ 10 # of gamers: ten Payouts: 1st – $ fifty, 2nd – $ 30, third – $ twenty First stack: 1,000 Chips

Now lets assume following some time only four gamers are remaining and these are their stack dimensions:

Player 1: 5,000 Chips Player two: two,000 Chips Player 3: 2,000 Chips Player 4: 1,000 Chips

Now what is the value of people chips? Merely enter the stack dimensions and payouts into an ICM calculator and you will get the pursuing final results:

Participant one: five,000 Chips ≅ $ 37.eighteen Participant two: two,000 Chips ≅ $ 24.33 Participant 3: two,000 Chips ≅ $ 24.33 Player 4: one,000 Chips ≅ $ fourteen.seventeen

If we believe all gamers are equally competent, they can anticipate to win that a lot in the extended operate.

Participant 1, keeping fifty% of all chips, will make noticeably a lot more than 2nd-area cash. Player 2 and 3 can assume to earn a little bit more than third-area funds.

Even the brief stacked Participant four can expect to win some money.

Producing Conclusions Primarily based on ICM


Get in touch with or fold? ICM will inform you.

Now we know what the chips are value in the long operate, but how does this expertise help us make far better selections correct now?

Let us return to our instance and, for simplicity’ss sake, let’s suppose there are no blinds or ante in engage in and you are Participant three. The pursuing predicament will come up:

Participant one (BU): 5,000 Chips Player two (SB): two,000 Chips Player three, you (BB): 2,000 Chips Participant 4 (UTG): one,000 Chips

Player four and Participant 1 equally fold and Player two goes all-in for two,000 Chips. You hold Ace-Nine (unsuited) and …?

Must you contact or need to you fold?

Let us even more believe you know Player 2 fairly nicely because you engage in very typically towards him and you know he’s bluffing fairly often in those situations. Overall you believe you will get the showdown six out 10 times if you phone his all-in.

So you are a preferred to win if you call but in tournaments it is at times not enough to merely be the favorite. Let’s assess the circumstance by using ICM.

Three items can happen soon after Participant 2 goes all-in:

You fold (stack dimensions keep the very same) You get in touch with and earn (now you have 4,000 chips and Player 2 is busted) You get in touch with and lose (now you are busted and Participant two has four,000 chips)

For all three situations we can now determine the ICM values:

Stacks following fold ICM-EV Stacks soon after contact and acquire ICM-EV Stacks right after contact and loss ICM-EV Participant 1 5,000 $ 37.eighteen five,000 $ 38.89 5,000 $ 38.89 Participant 2 2,000 $ 24.33 $ four,000 $ 36.forty four Participant 3 (you) two,000 $ 24.33 four,000 $ 36.forty four $ Player 4 one,000 $ fourteen.17 one,000 $ 24.sixty seven 1,000 $ 24.sixty seven

This means if you call and win you will have four,000 chips and these chips will internet $ 36.forty four in the lengthy operate. But if you contact and shed you will have zero chips and people will net you $ in the prolonged operate.

We’ve already recognized that you acquire the showdown 60% of the time. So we can easily compute your envisioned worth (EV) for contacting:

EV = 60% * $ 36.44 + 40% * $ = $ 21.86

On typical you can anticipate to earn $ 21.86 if you contact the all-in. Now let us assess this variety to your envisioned worth if you just fold: $ 24.33 – that’s in excess of $ 2 much more!

This means in this case in point the ICM advises a fold as the best play in the long operate even though you are a sixty% favourite to win the hand!


ICM does the thinking for you.

But why is a fold the better choice?

Merely place: Participant 4, the short stack, forces you to fold despite the fact that he isn’t even concerned in the hand. It’s considerably far better for you to hold out for him to bust than to jeopardize all your chips.

If you wait around patiently he will almost certainly bust just before you do and you will have the 3rd-location cash assured. But if you get in touch with the all-in, there is a extremely affordable opportunity you will bust first by yourself.

ICM requires people considerations into account and appropriately advises you to fold.

How to Use ICM to Boost Your Event Sport

Obviously you cannot operate calculations like the one we just did on the fly at the desk. You’re not heading to calculate your anticipated ICM benefit in the course of a poker recreation.

But ICM understanding aids you enormously to perform on your match and to build the correct instincts for how to act and respond in certain situations at the table.

Many ICM trainers are obtainable online (regrettably the good types are not free), which information you via many diverse event situations advising the greatest enjoy.


It truly is a excellent begin, but ICM isn’t really flawless.

Six Useful ICM Guidelines

ICM constantly advises to call with tighter ranges in tournaments than in cash games. The very first chip you have is constantly the most valuable. Doubling your stack in no way doubles the price of your chips (it’s usually considerably less). Appropriate ICM engage in has the most effect in the course of and prior to the bubble. Correct ICM play normally advises you to stay away from slender all-ins if there are gamers still left with much less chips than you. If you have a medium-sized stack throughout the bubble you ought to practically always steer clear of coin flips (or sixty/40 all-ins) and fold alternatively. Big stacks should typically threaten players with medium-sized stacks in the course of the bubble simply because they can only phone with extremely slim ranges.

The Limits of ICM

Presently the Independent Chip Design is the ideal-recognized technique to worth chips and evaluate tournament conditions.

But even though it’s broadly utilised and acknowledged, ICM is not flawless. Some of the negatives are:

ICM does not take into account the position of a player (a 4BB stack on the button is normally much much more worthwhile than the very same stack in first situation) ICM does not get ability variances into account ICM does not think about likely future conditions (occasionally it’s much better to move on little edges and wait around for a bigger edge).


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