Using Full Tilt Poker's Deal-Making Software

Date: 2009-09-04
Author: Chris Wallace

Now that Full Tilt Poker has introduced the ability to make deals into its software, it’s important to understand how it works and make sure you get at least your fair share. I say “at least” your fair share because getting every possible dollar out of a deal is not only in your best interest, but it is also good poker. Remember, you don’t ever have to take a deal and no matter how much other players pressure you, there is no need to take a deal unless it’s beneficial for you.

When you reach the final table of a multi-table tournament on Full Tilt, a new checkbox will appear on the left side of your table directly above the “Fold to Any Bet” option. The “Auto Post Blinds” checkbox is gone when this appears because it is unnecessary in a tournament. The box is labeled “Make a Deal” and will have two numbers in parentheses as well. These numbers show the number of players who have agreed to a deal and the number of players remaining. There is no indication as to who has agreed, so there is no peer pressure on players to check the box if they don’t want to make a deal.

If you have the box checked and it says (4/7), then you know that three players have not chosen to take part in negotiating a deal yet. They may be waiting for another player to drop out, they may not like the payouts the way they are, or they may be players who just don’t make deals. Players who refuse to negotiate are not uncommon and it’s their right to play out the tournament and refuse all deals. Remember that you signed up for a tournament that paid the spots exactly as they are quoted in the tournament lobby. Don’t let it affect your game or make you angry if another player won’t agree to a deal; it’s how poker is played.

As for the software itself, Full Tilt did a pretty good job. The site included a Chip Ratio option, which doesn’t really make sense except as a negotiating tool for the big stacks, who are typically rewarded with much higher equity than they deserve in a chip ratio deal. In fact, it’s very common for a chip ratio calculation to award more money to the biggest stack than the top prize in the tournament and less money than the lowest remaining prize to the shortest stack. Since this obviously is not correct, the site chose to have game theory expert and Full Tilt pro Chris “Jesus” Ferguson add some things to the algorithm to make certain that these obvious mistakes don’t happen.

Why Full Tilt chose to include the chip ratio calculation doesn’t make much sense to those of us who are familiar with the theory behind ICM and deal-making. I will personally be ignoring the chip ratio numbers in any deal-making situation. Instead, the correct numbers can be ascertained from the ICM option. I’m not saying that the ICM numbers will be the correct numbers for every deal, just that they are the starting point for finding the correct numbers. Unless everyone is equally skilled and equally willing to gamble, the ICM numbers may not be exactly right.

ICM works by calculating the frequency with which each player would finish in each position and adding up the collective equity. This gives you the correct numbers if everyone has the same skill level. At a final table, this is not usually the case. In reality, the more skilled players (those who are more comfortable with short-handed play and are not unnerved by the amount of money at stake) have a much higher chance of finishing in the top spots and, therefore, have more equity.

As the stacks get shorter, the expert’s advantage diminishes quickly. With no time to play, their skill just doesn’t get a chance to come into play, which is the reason why many expert players agree to chop late in a tournament and lock in a significant win.

There are a few simple things to evaluate when a deal is proposed to ensure that you are making the right choice:

1. Make a realistic assessment of how well you play compared to the rest of the table, particularly the big stacks. Just because you made it here doesn’t mean you are one of the best players in the tournament and the same goes for your opponents. If you are a winning player, have made many final tables like this one, and don’t know many of your opponents to be strong players, then you probably have a skill advantage. If you haven’t done this much before, recognize a number of your opponents, and aren’t very comfortable in short-handed situations, then you probably have less equity than the ICM would give you and should push for a deal.

2. How much play is left? If your stack has less than six big blinds, any skill advantage that you or your opponents might have is rendered almost insignificant unless you are completely clueless about how to play a short stack. In this case, the ICM numbers, or something very close to them, will be the correct way to chop up the prize pool.

3. How is your position relative to the strong players and what other equity adjustments can you think of? Are you feeling good about your chances of moving up in the money? Are the blinds about to hit you? If you are in late position and the blinds are very high, it may best to wait a few hands and see if anything good happens to boost your equity. In early position, it is usually best to talk about a deal before the blinds take another bite out of your stack and the ICM numbers drop accordingly.

4. Use the information from the first three steps to assess how the ICM numbers would need to be altered in order to reflect your real equity in the tournament. When a deal is proposed, you will know whether you should take it, turn it down, or suggest different numbers.

If a deal is proposed that gives you less than the ICM numbers, you should usually turn it down. If the ICM numbers are proposed as a deal and you think your equity is significantly higher than the number you are being offered because of your skill level and position, then make certain to let your opponents know why you are turning the numbers down in a way that does not insult them. Your chance for getting a good deal will diminish significantly if your opponents feel that you are looking past them and don’t respect their abilities.

A statement like, “I’m fine with a deal, but I would want more than the ICM numbers because I play very well short-handed and have a lot of experience” should be received fairly well by most opponents. They won’t like giving up money from the ICM numbers that they may think are fair, but at least they won’t be insulted. They may realize that you have an advantage and giving you a few extra dollars to get the deal done might be worthwhile. Being polite may make you some extra money, so don’t be rude or sound conceited.

Your equity edge will be small even when your skill edge is very high. How much of your skill advantage turns into equity will depend mostly on how many big blinds are in your stack. If you have 10 big blinds, you can’t expect more than a 2% boost in your equity over the ICM numbers unless your opponents are very weak and inexperienced players. With 20 big blinds, you might have as much as a 5% equity advantage if you are the best player at the table. With 50 big blinds, an expert player will have such a significant equity edge that they will probably never get a deal done that makes them happy and they may not want to talk about a deal with such deep stacks.

I suspect that the majority of deals made on Full Tilt Poker will be done exactly on the ICM numbers and, in most cases, this will be quite fair. Overall, the system is much better than allowing players to offer up numbers and fight it out. This puts Full Tilt one step ahead of PokerStars in terms of technology for tournament players and it’s a welcome addition to the software. Learn more about poker simulation software.

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