Why You Shouldn’t Chop When You’re Deep in a Tournament

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BetMGM Dec 04, 2023, 10:54 AM

Being “deep” in poker tournaments means that you have reached a later stage of the competition where a significant number of opponents have been eliminated, and the remaining players are closer to the prize payouts.

Chopping in poker is a common practice during this stage of a tournament, especially when the remaining players want to reduce variance and ensure a more predictable payout.

If you’ve ever reached this later stage of a poker tournament or even if you just follow top poker tournaments, you’ve probably come across the term “chopping the pot.” What does chopping actually mean, and is it a good practice?

What Is Chopping?

What is a chop in poker? Chopping means dividing the pot into equal portions if the players have the same value hands. In other words, it’s an agreement among the remaining players to divide the prize money rather than continuing to play for the entire prize pool (and risk losing). 

For example, imagine that two players get into a raising, re-raising war, and accumulate a pot of 100,000 chips. At showdown, both players flip the exact same hand, say ace-jack hole cards, and 10-queen-king on the board. In this case, both players have a jack-ace straight. 

In such a scenario the pot would be “chopped” and both players would get 50,000 chips each. Similarly, if three players find themselves in such a position at the showdown, they each take 33.33% of the value of the pot. 

Assessing Your Skill Level and Chip Stack

In poker, “chop” is often used interchangeably with “deal.” When players with different chip stacks reach the final stages of a tournament, they may negotiate a deal to secure fixed payouts and minimize variance. 

For example, say the top three payouts total $10,000, with first place getting $5,000, second place getting $3,000 and the third spot getting $2,000. Here, each player thinks about pay jumps and fears that if they get eliminated at the third spot, they will lose a considerable amount. 

To mitigate risk, the final three players agree to split the remaining payouts either based on chip values (the ICM method, discussed below) or equally ($3,300 each). The latter means less money than the top prize, but significantly more than the lowest.

Types of Chopping Deals

Equal Chop

This is the most straightforward deal to understand and calculate. By taking it, each remaining player gets an equal portion of the prize money, regardless of the scheduled payouts. For instance, if there are three players and the total prize pool is $1,800, each player will get $600.

Chip Chop

In this type of poker tournament deal, the number of chips in your stack determines your share of the remaining prize pool. In the above scenario, where the total prize pool is $1,800, if one player has 50% of the chips, his share will be $900. The one with 30% will get $530, and the one with 20% will get $260.

Independent Chip Model

While complicated, this deal is the best way to calculate a fair chop. Independent Chip Model (ICM) will tell you the exact monetary value of your and other players’ chip stacks. To be calculated, you need to factor in the payout structure, total prize pool amount, the number of players in play, and each player’s stack size.

Why You Shouldn’t Chop

Experienced tournament pro, Andrew Moreno, talks about a situation where he got down to the final four of a $2,500 event. The chop was proposed several times during play, and he refused it every time. 

He even declined to split the money heads-up, although the opponent (who had a chip lead) was offering to give him a bit more money. This confused Moreno’s opponent, but his reasoning was twofold.

He believed he had an edge and he didn’t want to miss out on a valuable final table experience. He went on to say that the experiences of playing for it all were some of the most memorable moments of his poker career. 

Make an Informed Decision That Aligns With Your Long-Term Tournament Goals

Many players believe that chopping makes sense as it allows them to cut down on variance and secure a solid payout. After all, they’re playing for big money and anything can happen in a tournament.

In the heat of the moment, it can be very difficult to make a decision about whether or not to chop. A player with a considerable skill advantage might be inclined to continue playing for a higher payout.

According to Moreno, inexperienced players should follow the same line of thinking. While these players might curse themselves for it, in the long run, he says the inexperience of playing a big final table would cost the player much more. 

Practice Your Poker Strategy With BetMGM

Making a chop at a tournament final table may seem like the right play in the heat of the moment, but doing so can end up costing you money in the long run due to the lack of experience when it counts the most. Register for online poker tournaments with BetMGM, learn the rules of poker, and practice your strategy when you play online poker games.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.