ICM In Action

    • GraveGoods
      GraveGoods
      Bronze
      Joined: 13.03.2011 Posts: 209
      When using ICM in the push/fold stage is it right to push whenever it is a correct ICM decision? So many times I end up with a good stack to being bubbled or ending 3rd just because by pushing everytime it's correct by ICM, it's practically begging people to call with any Ace or even King as it broadcasts a very loose calling range. Then you obviously have to hit atleast a pair when someone calls Ace rag against 89s.

      I know by reading Colin Moshman's strategy book that you want to win and not just place, so you are going to have to push all your chips to build the stack but I'm finding I am ending up 3rd alot more than 1st, and without pushing all the time could easily end up 2nd by just waiting on third to blind out. Which although is not winning 50% of the prize, it's still 10% more than 3rd, which in the long run is a lot of money/buy ins. I also have a lot of faith in my heads up play and reckon by waiting on the 3rd to blind out, I would have a lot more chance of finishing 1st.

      This is all happening at the $1 stakes too at the apparently very fishy William Hill.

      I'm playing very tight, using the starting hand charts and then using the push fold charts and my own knowledge of ICM (learnt through the trainer). I get between 85% and 95% on ICM Trainer and am still using it every day to improve.

      Any advice? Should I stick to pushing everytime it's correct? Will it win out in the end?
  • 8 replies
    • krushworth
      krushworth
      Bronze
      Joined: 21.03.2011 Posts: 6
      ICM is all about opponent reads as well though.

      How many BBs are you pushing? When you are 3rd or 4th, what are your usual relative chip stacks? Are you usually one of the chip leaders or the short stack?

      One of the most common mistakes I see when playing is those that take the ICM/Nash/whatever flavor as an excuse to push all in most of the time.

      If you have the stack to take a hit, just raise 2X. Mostly this will pick up the blinds and if someone shoves over you, you can then make a decision based on YOUR read of the VILLAIN, rather than the VILLAIN getting to make the right decision based on their read of YOU.

      I only ever begin raising all in if I am below 10BBs and I am feeling lucky with my 89s.

      EDIT: Also, the idea about aiming to win rather than place is more appropriate for MTTs where the prize structure means that someone winning the tournament wins a reasonably disproportionate part of the pie. In SNGs it is more important to make sure you place. If you have a large chip stack you can afford to take the occasional risk on the bubble in the attempt to assure a win but otherwise you are generally just aiming to end in the money.

      The difference between, in 9max, 4th and 3rd is 20% and between 3rd and 1st is 30%. This may seem to suggest that you should be aiming for 1st only but the smaller, proportionally, increase in prize money (0-20% is a greater proportional increase than 20%-50%) means that cashing is more important.
    • pzhon
      pzhon
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.06.2010 Posts: 1,151
      A common idea for 50-30-20 SNGs is that you first aim to make it into the money, and then once you are in the top 3, you aim for first. Although this might remind you of a few correct ideas, it is far from correct.

      According to the ICM, accumulating chips in the early game is much more important in a 50-30-20 tournament than in a super satellite paying 3 places. The ICM may underestimate the advantage of the chip leader on the bubble, which makes accumulating chips early in a SNG even more valuable. You should be happy to get all-in with QQ against AKo early in a SNG. That QQ is a 57:43 favorite is enough that you would want to get all-in even with no dead money, and there is always dead money in the pot.

      Once you make it into the money, you are still risk-averse. 60% of the prize pool is guaranteed already, and you are fighting over the last 40%, which is split 30-10-0. The difference between first and second is only 20%, or half of the 40% up for grabs, while half of the 40% rewards the two players who make it into the top 2. It is as though you are on the bubble of a 6-max tournament with a 75-25 structure. To want to get all-in with 3 equal stacks and no dead money, you want 57% equity, not 50%. When the stacks are not equal, the medium stack is often quite risk-averse against the chip leader. There are times the medium stack should not call with AKo against an ATC shove from the chip leader. So, even after you are in the money, the ICM still recommends some risk-aversion.

      Another common misconception is that your finishing distribution should have more firsts and thirds than seconds. Maybe that would be a consequence if you ignore the value of second place, but there are many players such as myself who have a distribution with firsts>seconds>thirds.

      The ICM is simply an equity model. It's very good, and it is used by a lot of professional SNG players. However, the inputs are complicated when you try to use the ICM to determine the optimal action. If you don't trust the output, it could be that you have encountered a subtle flaw in the ICM, but it is much more likely that you didn't put the right assumptions into the model.
    • pzhon
      pzhon
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.06.2010 Posts: 1,151
      Originally posted by krushworth
      If you have the stack to take a hit, just raise 2X. Mostly this will pick up the blinds and if someone shoves over you, you can then make a decision based on YOUR read of the VILLAIN, rather than the VILLAIN getting to make the right decision based on their read of YOU.
      In cash games, you might be able to get away with setting up tough decisions for yourself and then escape by guessing correctly. In SNGs, this is often a mistake from which you can't recover.

      Being the pusher is often a huge advantage, both in theory and in practice. There are many times where you can correctly push a wide range, and there is nothing your opponent can do about it, but if you make a small raise and your opponent resteals widely, you can only call with very strong hands. For example, with 4 equal stacks on the bubble, you need to be a strong favorite to call all-in (or to be getting great odds). Even if your opponent knows that you might be pushing trash, he has to fold a lot. If you make a small raise, and your opponent realizes that you can't call very often, he can resteal with junk that isn't close to good enough to call a push. Your read will be that you have to fold and that you should have pushed.

      When you are playing chicken, the player who commits first wins.
    • krushworth
      krushworth
      Bronze
      Joined: 21.03.2011 Posts: 6
      Originally posted by pzhon
      Being the pusher is often a huge advantage, both in theory and in practice. There are many times where you can correctly push a wide range, and there is nothing your opponent can do about it, but if you make a small raise and your opponent resteals widely, you can only call with very strong hands.
      This is part of ICM that I do understand though from the OP I got the impression that he often ends up bubbling out of the SNG from a chip lead. The issue, in my mind, with pure pushing when you are chip leader is that you are risking a significant proportion of your stack against anyone who decides they have a good enough hand and, if you continue pushing hard with any hand that the ICM says is good, you will fritter away your table image and find your KQ/KJ getting called by Ax - a 50/50 race usually but I'm never particularly keen on being the one behind with the blinds getting larger and on the bubble.

      Feel free to tell me that I'm wrong here... or at least correct my misconception... :P

      (I have read a lot of your posts and respect your opinion)
    • GraveGoods
      GraveGoods
      Bronze
      Joined: 13.03.2011 Posts: 209
      Cheers guys.

      I understand why you shouldn't steal the blinds without pushing. That can seriously leave you crippled, but of course as myself and Krushworth pointed out, that'd leave you open to any decent holding that wouldn't normally push if you do it enough, so I guess you have to tighten up when you have the chip lead, and be very wary of your table image?

      The trouble I have with coming third more than second must mean that I am pushing into the chip lead more often than the short stack. If I take into mind the first point of being very wary of your table image, you could definitely push with any correct ICM decision, but not every correct decision, as of course you ask for a weak call.

      Am I getting this right?


      When I read that I should get into the money first by playing tight and then try and come first, I thought it was a great idea, but then Pzhon said this is a common misconception. I don't really understand why? If I had a big stack on the bubble is it right to play very tight? Or should I be trying to build an even huger stack to make coming first easier, even if broadcasts to the table that I am playing very loose, which could mean bubbling more than getting into the money?

      Cheers again guys, I find ICM quite confusing and would love to get this round my head and start crushing! :tongue:
    • redwarf01
      redwarf01
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.08.2010 Posts: 225
      I think you will find all you need in this great pzhons video:
      http://www.pokerstrategy.com/video/14547/
      It is all about the mysterious ICM :f_biggrin: Watch it and you can start crushing the game :f_cool:
      And I would also recommend you to watch the other videos made by pzhon. They were very beneficial to me and my play.
    • pzhon
      pzhon
      Bronze
      Joined: 17.06.2010 Posts: 1,151
      Originally posted by GraveGoods
      I understand why you shouldn't steal the blinds without pushing. That can seriously leave you crippled, but of course as myself and Krushworth pointed out, that'd leave you open to any decent holding that wouldn't normally push if you do it enough, so I guess you have to tighten up when you have the chip lead, and be very wary of your table image?
      You usually get to loosen up a lot when you have the chip lead. You are less risk-averse against others, while they are more risk-averse against you. You should pay attention to your table image, but you should still find many more profitable pushes when you are the chip lead than when you have a medium stack.

      Think about how it looks from the other side. Suppose a short stack has been very aggressive, and you put him on a wide range. How widely would you call a 10 bb push from him? Next suppose the chip leader has been very aggressive, and you put him on a wide range. How widely would you call a 10 bb effective push from him on the bubble? You should call with a tighter range against the chip lead because you are risking bubbling out. There are many times you can't correctly call with A9o or 55 against the chip lead even if you put him on ATC, and how often will you have better than A9o?

      Occasionally, you will see people take a stand against the chip leader with a hand that is not close to good enough. Sometimes they bubble out as a result. Don't assume that because you see a few crazy calls that every opponent is calling very widely.

      If you never bubble out after having the chip lead, then you aren't getting full value from the lead.
    • Salivanth
      Salivanth
      Bronze
      Joined: 01.01.2011 Posts: 587
      I can definitely second watching pzhon's video. It was excellent. Material was great and well presented, and he speaks fast. Speaking fast is a completely underrated skill in videos, imo. I've seen videos where I just get so bored at how fast people talk that I want to quit watching them, and often do, but pzhon talks fast enough that your brain is engaged but not overworked listening to him. Sorry about the thread necro, but I think this is worth it, and it was still on the front page.