Do the math!

Do the math!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Dear Dr Tom,

I always sucked at maths at school, but I’ve think I’ve got good “card sense” and have pretty much taught myself all the maths necessary for solid tournament play. The problem I have is, if I make it to the top three or four in a tournament and someone suggests a chop, I’m not smart enough to figure out if I’m getting a good deal or not. Is there a simple formula I can learn so I don’t get ripped off?

My second question is, playing the game generally, do you think I have a big disadvantage with my non-mathematical brain against mathematically-minded people. How much does it matter?

Brian, London

Dear Brian

The best formula (and it’s not perfect) is the same old ICM formula that the SNG analyser programs use to make their infernal calculations. (For a description see Dr. Tom’s Infirmary, issue September 2008, available in all good dentist waiting rooms, or do a web search). But it’s way too difficult to do in your head.

The best approximation you can do on the spot is to work out a chip chop. To do this, mentally pay everyone the value of the lowest prize remaining (since they are guaranteed to win this). The remaining money is what you are fighting over if you play on, and the proportion of the chips you have is a measure of how much of it you can expect to get your hands on. So work out what percentage of the chips you have, multiply this by the remaining money up for grabs, add this to the lowest prize on offer (which you already paid yourself) and that’s what you should ask for.

Helpfully, if everyone does this, the sums add up to the money on offer, so everyone gets their payout, goes home happy and no one gets outdrawn. However, this method seriously favours the chip leader, whose figure can even end up being greater than the first prize. So once you’ve worked out your chip chop, if you are not the big stack, shade it up 5-10% depending on how big the discrepancy is between the biggest and smallest stacks.
As for your bad maths, it’s never been better for you since forum postings and analyser software have done it for you. As long as you can work out pot odds in the thick of battle you’ll be alright.


Tags: Tom Sambrook, Strategy,