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Adjusting to payout structures in MT-SNGs


In this article
  • When to use ICM, why and how
  • Why play Chip-EV
  • How to adjust your game to different payout structures in multi-table SnGs

Articles you should read first:

Independent Chip Model (ICM)

The Bubble Factor in different SnG formats

When to use ICM, why and how

”Always aim for the first place” - this is a recommendation you will often hear from an experienced MTT player, while an SnG regular will be more likely to tell you to aim for the money ranks first. Neither of these suggestions is wrong, but both of them have their limitations. In theory, the only game where you can truly play for the ”first place” is a cash game, where if you win all the chips in the world, you will also get all the money in the world.

This applies to winner-takes-all tournaments as well. However, as soon as a payout structure is involved, you will only get a portion of the prize pool even if you do win all the chips in the tournament, while the rest of the money goes to the other finishers.

As a result, the value of the tournament chips is not equal and the relation between your stack size and what it is actually worth in dollars is not linear. In general you can say that the (x+1)th chip in your stack is worth less than the xth - how much less depends on the payout structure and your relative stack size.

The goal of the Independent Chip Model is to simulate this very phenomenon.

Example 1:

Non-linearity of chip stack values in different tournament formats

In this example we are dealing with a scenario in which you have x% of the chips in the tournament, while the rest is equally divided among the other players. Remember that these graphs can significantly change if the chip distribution is different.

However, this is a good average case which is suitable for comparing the different tournament formats. The X-axis represents the amount of chips you have (as a percentage of all the chips) and the Y-axis represents the amount of money it is worth (given as a percentage of the prize pool).

9-man game:

45-man final table:

WCOOP final table* :


*In the following, ”WCOOP” is used to designate an MTT that we picked for comparison purposes in order to demonstrate an MTT payout structure. The WCOOP 1M Guaranteed $1,050 NLHE event had 1,612 entrants in 2010. 180 players got paid off, the final table payouts were as follows:

Format Payoutstructure in %
WCOOP Final Table
12,2 9,2 6,8 4,9 3,9 2,9 1,9 1,04

That's not the entire article...

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Comments (3)

#1 BigAl123456, 07 Oct 12 04:08

My brain hurts thanks...

#2 alexurotaru, 10 Jan 15 12:46

Nice article, thanks you :)

#3 thazar, 08 Nov 15 12:47

interresting. Can't wait to put some of it into practice :)