ICM poker is a rather difficult concept to understand. It is used to give value to the chips in a tournament or poker table, knowing how much money each stack is worth at all times. And the fact is that the value of the ICM can vary depending on the context, as happens with other terms such as Equity in poker. But don’t worry! in this portal we are here to help you solve all your doubts, so this time we put all our efforts to clarify what ICM poker is, how the ICM poker calculation is done and other questions of interest. If you want to know more about ICM, its meaning and formula, then read on.

ICM poker: meaning and what it is for

When talking about ICM poker, meaning and its function it is important to make it clear that this concept is an abbreviation of the sentence Independent Chip Model, which in English translates as independent chip model. The ICM poker, formula and strategy is of great help to understand what is the real value of the chips in a tournament. That is, you can know what is the monetary value of the stacks and thus the amount of money you have to play with. But isn’t the value of the chips fixed? The answer is no. It all depends on the type of game or tournament you are playing. For example, if you play a cash game table and you double the size of the chip stack the cash also automatically doubles in value. This is also the case in “The Winner Takes It All” tournaments where there is only one winner. In the mentioned cases, there is an exact correlation between chips and money, however, in Sit&Go and other poker tournaments this is not the case – the ICM poker calculation therefore becomes essential to know what the value of your chips is at any given moment.

When to calculate the ICM?

As there are fewer players left in a tournament and the prizes are getting closer, the value of the ICM stack becomes more important. This is essential to assess the situation and make the right decisions that can make you win and lose chips, because each chip is worth money -more or less than what they had at the beginning- and therefore you must know what is the risk/reward that exists in each decision you make. In general, the most recommended moments to calculate or know the ICM value are the following:

– ICM poker Final table: As we said, it is the moment in which the prizes are closer. It is essential to know the value of your chips to establish a strategy and make decisions.

– ICM poker Bubble: The bubble in poker is the moment in which there is only one opponent left to eliminate in order to enter the prize area. This is a very important moment since there is a risk of being left with nothing. That is why players with a giant stack tend to attack those who are more likely to lose. Knowing the real economic value of your chips at this moment will allow you to know what equity you have to be able to be in an all in situation.

ICM poker: formula and how to calculate it

When you participate in a tournament you pay a certain amount to have an initial stack of chips. These represent the money you have invested in them. However, as the event progresses, players are eliminated and the chips are distributed among those who remain, which results in the stacks of the survivors growing and variations in the relative value of each one. The players do not know with certainty what the value of their chips is. This is why it is so important to do the ICM poker calculation. Although it is not easy to do it in a face-to-face game, in online poker you can make use of some calculators, as well as other applications that help you get the information you need. Over time many professional players and mathematical theorists have tried to find a magic formula to assign an approximate value to the number of chips each player has. In the book Mathematics of Poker you can find a whole chapter dedicated to it.

To give you an example of what is the variation of the value of the chips, consider the following. Imagine that you pay a buy-in of 10 € and a total of 10 players participate in the table. In addition, the initial stack is 1,000 chips and the payouts are distributed as follows: 1st = £50, 2nd = £30 and 3rd = £20. Well, if you have been able to get into prizes in a somewhat complicated or poor situation and you still have 1,000 chips, at that moment you will still be guaranteed the €20 of the third prize, that would be the value of your 1,000 chips -the ICM, in this case, has increased-. On the other hand, imagine that you are able to win the tournament and you have in your hands a total of 10,000 chips (from the rest of the players). Your prize will have been €50, so the value of each 1,000 chips is equivalent to €5. As you can see, the ICM has been reduced taking into account that the price of the chips was €10 at the time of the buy-in.

Tips and recommendations based on your poker ICM

The poker ICM is one of the most complex formulas that exist, so our recommendation is that you always keep in mind the following tips:

  • The value of chips always reaches its maximum when the tournament starts.
  • A player with a bigger stack can use the ICM to put pressure on players with a smaller stack.
  • In tournaments, the time when the ICM is most important is during the bubble and at the final table.
  • The ICM always advises you to play in tighter ranges compared to what you would follow at a cash table.