Wanna Chop? The cry at the poker final table

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To chop or not to chop, that is the question.

Whether you’ve played two days in a big buy-in tournament at the Seminole Paradise Poker Room at Hard Rock Hollywood, or you’re heads-up with someone at the end of a sit-and-go at Ebro Greyhound Park, you want to make a fair deal for everyone … but especially for yourself.

With so many tournaments being dealt these days chops are commonplace, and most times a poker room manager or floor person can handle the details to get you a good deal. But what if it doesn’t work out that way? What if you’re in a charity tournament or at a home game? Maybe the floor person isn’t readily available and the other players are pressuring you to make a quick deal. Perhaps the offer on the table just doesn’t feel right. You need to know some basic concepts to ensure you aren’t being played.

First, let’s discuss what a chop is. As its name infers, to chop means to split up the prize pool. Instead of playing to the bitter end of a tournament, sometimes players want to “lock up” a handsome portion of the money so they aren’t victims of bad beats, variance or the quickly escalating blinds. Nowhere does this happen more than in SNGs. A lot of rounders play SNGs all day long and would rather move on to the next one than play out the current one for a few more bucks. So they offer to chop the prize pool.

But what if the stacks aren’t even and someone broaches the idea of a chop and you aren’t happy with their offer? What do you do then? You have to take into consideration all the information first. How many chips do you have? Are you the chipleader? Does anyone else at the table have about the same stack as you? Do they want to chop the entire pool or do they want to leave a little to play for? Are the blinds so high you aren’t comfortable with the structure anymore?

And there always are intangibles. Do you feel you’re the weakest player and a chop might be in your best interest? Or maybe you’re the strongest player and think you’d win if you played it out. Is there something else at stake besides money, something you can’t really put a price on, such as a bracelet? Someone might be willing to take less money to secure the bling. You always hear people on TV say the money isn’t important; it’s the title or the bracelet that matters. Maybe your opponents care more about prestige than cash and you can reap the rewards.

These are all important factors in determining a chop. But once you’ve made the decision to chop you need to make sure you’re not being swindled. We have provided a nice Clip-N-Save chart for you to carry in your wallet or purse in case this ever happens to you. But we’ll explain it here.

In the chart you’ll see an equation, or calculation, for arriving at a fair deal. Let’s break it down and then plug in some numbers so it makes sense. You’ll be able to do this for each player involved in the chop.

D represents the cash you’ll take home once the calculation is complete.
X stands for your chip count.
C is the total chips in play.
T means total prize pool remaining.
M is the minimum payout for the next player eliminated.
N stands for the number of players left in the tournament.

Here’s the calculation:
D = (X/C) * (T-(M*N)) + M. And remember, just like your high school algebra teacher told you, “Always do what’s in parenthesis first!”

Divide your chip count (X) by the total number of chips in play (C). Let’s call that the portion number. Next, multiply the minimum payout (M) by the number of players left (N) and subtract that number from the total prize pool remaining (T) for the final prize-pool number. Are you with me so far? Take the portion number (X/C) and multiply it by your final prize-pool number. Lastly, add in the minimum payout (M) and you arrive at your chop amount.

Now let’s plug in a real scenario and insert the numbers to give you a better understanding. You’re playing in a 10-player turbo $35 SNG (it’s rake-free!), you each started with 1,000 chips and it’s now three-handed. The tournament pays three spots and the total prize pool is $350. First pays $200, second pays $100 and third pays $50. You have 6,000 of the 10K chips in play and you feel everyone at the table is pretty even in skill level. You decide to channel Monty Hall and scream out “Let’s make a deal!” Everyone agrees.

Here’s how it would look:
D = (X/C) * (T-(M*N)) + M
(6,000/10,000) * (350-(50*3)) + 50
or
(.6) x (350-150) + 50
or
(.6) * (200) + 50
or
120 + 50 = $170

Remember, if you’re in a multitable tournament and there were players who cashed in the lower spots, be sure that “T” represents the total prize pool remaining, and not the overall prize pool, since some of that money is gone already. Seems obvious, but you could get caught up in the excitement of the big money and will be puzzled when your calculations don’t add up correctly.

To make things easier we used round numbers here, and you should, too. When doing your calculations at the table, feel free to fairly round up or down the player chip counts. If there are 100,000 chips in play and you have 71,350, it’s OK to say you have 0.7 of the total chips. It will only make things simpler and maybe that nice gesture will pay off when you chop the next one. After all, deals are all about being fair.