Argument Against Deal Making


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Chapter 1


Last issue, I asked players to re-examine their motives for making deals during poker tournaments. This time, I’ll continue speaking to those who find themselves all too frequently making deals.

Some claim they readily accept deals because there’s a problem with the payout structure. They say there needs to be less money in the top spots, preferring a “flatter” payout schedule. To these people, I offer the following example:

You’re one of four remaining players, and you all have equal chip counts. First place pays $160; second pays $80; third, $40; and fourth, $20. If you all agreed on a deal, you could each take $75 and call it quits. But are you going to scramble around trying to make a deal for $75? You probably wouldn’t even bother. Chances are, you’d be willing to risk a guaranteed $75 to try to win $160. Most of you would have no trouble playing this tournament to its conclusion.

Now increase the payouts tenfold. How do you feel about making a deal now? Some of you will not be as willing to risk a guaranteed $750 to try to win $1,600. You might consider a deal.

Increase the payouts tenfold again. Now, first place is $16,000, but with four players left, you can each take $7,500 and call it quits. More of you might begin to get a little nervous about the amount of money involved on best betting sites in usa. Increase everything tenfold again. Now you can take $75,000 – most wouldn’t be prepared to risk that for a shot at $160,000. You’d probably be eager to accept a deal.

That’s reasonable. But now understand what it means.

If your readiness to make a deal increases as the amount of money involved increases, it’s not the structure that’s at fault. After all, the structure was the same in each of the tournaments I described – the payouts doubled with each step up. No, the truth is that the only thing at fault was your choice of tournaments. You chose to play in a tournament that was beyond your means.

“Playing within your means” has two different definitions when referring to cash-game poker and tournament poker. In both situations, you play at the limit or buy-in you can afford. But in cash games, if you’re satisfied with doubling your money, you can pick up and leave. If you would prefer to triple your buy-in, you can continue playing. The point is that you choose when to stop playing, so it’s solely at your discretion to decide when you have booked a suitable win (or an affordable loss).

You don’t have this luxury in tournament poker. You can’t cash out when you double or triple your starting stack, so you must be prepared to play to the bitter end. Now if you’re lucky enough (and, of course, skillful enough) to make it to the final table, you might find yourself playing for more money than you have ever played for before. With a $300 buy-in for a live $10-$20 game, you might hope to book a win of a few hundred dollars. Entering a $300 tournament, you might find a difference of several thousand dollars between each of the top spots. If you’re not comfortable playing for such large amounts of money, you should probably either play in a live game, or play in a less expensive tournament. Since I love tournament poker, I hope that you choose the second option. Play in a tournament with a smaller buy-in, and you should be comfortable with the payout structure.

I don’t want to sound like I am telling other people what to do. I am merely making a suggestion based on my own personal experience. In fact, I’ll wrap this up by making a confession: In my first five-figure tournament win, I made a deal when there were three people remaining. It’s true … it’s true. I frown upon deal-making, and I refuse a deal almost every time that one is offered to me. Yet in this particular tournament, I felt (at the time) that it was the right thing to do.

At one point, I had held 70 percent of the chips. But after losing two key hands, one to each of my remaining opponents, I was left with only 40 percent. One of my opponents then asked if we could chop the prize money according to chip counts. I had lost some confidence, and I felt that my table image had worsened. Moreover, I was playing for the most prize money ever in my short poker career. In other words, I was playing in a tournament that was beyond my means, since was not completely at ease with the amount of money involved. For those reasons, I accepted a deal.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. And if the same situation should happen again, I pledge to play the tournament to its conclusion. As a tournament poker player who hopes to continue playing well into the new millennium, I crave corporate sponsorship. I long for a national television audience. I want to make poker as attractive as possible for outside viewers. For those reasons, deal-making has to come to an end, and I believe I have to do my part by no longer accepting deals.

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