Monday, July 28, 2008

Combating ICM SNG Play - Some Faulty Logic

Checking out the 'Beginners' forum at 2+2 the other day and came across an interesting post. BTW I am far from a beginner... but find this (along with a few other boards / forums) great for getting ideas for content for my sites.

Anyway, the theory / question was from someone looking to exploit the SNG players using ICM to decide on Bubble pushing ranges. It was structured logically, but actually wrong - thus a post to redress.

A pushing range at the bubble of a SNG is decided by stack sizes, calling ranges of opponents and (last of all) your cards. 2 of these aspects are already known - with calling ranges an estimate based on experience / reads etc. Using this information a player pushes a range of hands which will show a profit over time - and thus makes money.

Now exploiting this strategy.

The only 'weapon' we have is our calling range, since the other factors are known. There are two things we can do with this calling range - loosen it or tighten it, both making the assumptions of our ICM-using opponent wrong.

- Loosening: This loses money immediately, and usually a lot of money as a proportion of the prize pool. Making a 'spite call' with 2 suited broadway cards will often cost $3 or more in profits in a $100 prize pool ($11 SNG)... on the plus side you reset your opponents shoving range for a short period of time as they realize you are loose - more on that in a tomorrow, firstly;

- Tightening: Well, this just allows your opponent to push more hands, or to put it another way makes the hands he is already pushing more profitable. Turning down a profitable call against the range your opponent is pushing is losing money, real money, the perception is different of course but players need to be aware that this is a leak too.

The idea I am trying to get across here is that the only defense against opponents using ICM is to understand what they are doing and call profitable. The crux of this is that ICM is by no means 'optimal' - as in the 100% most profitable move in any given situation - it is however mathematically unexploitable assuming correct ranges... so even if you do not use it you had better understand what your opponents are doing by reading up a little, it will benefit you immediately at the tables!

So, we will continue this discussion tomorrow (post-dated posts willing!) with a look at how a perception of a looser calling range might affect your strategy later.

In the meantime why not check out this SNG Planet article on how an ICM calculator can improve your profits.

Poker ICM

GL at the tables, Mark

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