Big One for One Drop final table strategy

July 4, 2012 | 3:55 pm | Derk

While watching and listening to the broadcast for the Big One for One Drop there was a lot of interesting analysis from very high level pros, but there was a pretty big mistake that several of them made.  I heard them say a couple of times that once it got to the final table and specifically down to 5 or so players, if one of the players had a massive chip lead that it would benefit the other players to tighten up significantly to try to move up the payouts.  Because of the top heavy structure of the event and my own background with ICM, I recognized this was wrong.  Fortunately, JCarver was going to be on the broadcast later, so I told him and he ended up correcting them.  However, I wanted to write this post and go into some serious detail on the issue.

First off, let’s look at the payouts for the final table of One Drop and compare them to the final table of the 2011 Main Event, which has a more traditional payout structure:

Payouts for One Drop and Main Event

The One Drop payouts are very high for the 1st and 2nd places compared to the Main Event.  Logically it’s easy to see that at the final table of the Main Event it can really benefit a player to be tight and try to move up in certain spots.  For example, going from 9th to 5th in the Main Event will get you an extra 5.26% = $1.49 million = 149 $10,000 buy-ins.  Going from 9th to 5th in One Drop will get you an extra 1.7% = $725 thousand = 3/4 of one $1,000,000 buy-in.  However, the broadcast gaffe was specifically about what short stacks should do with 5 players left if there was a massive chip leader, so let’s analyze this situation with the two different payout structures.

Normalizing, let’s say the blind level is 250k/500k with a 50k ante, 5 players left with 100m total chips in play, one player having 80m chips and the other 4 having 5m chips each.  If we are in the small blind with a 5m stack and shoving into the big stack who will call with 25% of hands and are disregarding edge, our profitable shoving range is 37% of hands with the One Drop payout structure and 21% of hands with the Main Event payout structure.  Likewise, if we are in the small blind with 5m and shoving into another 5m stack who will call with 25% of hands, our profitable shoving range is 100% for the One Drop and 81% for the Main Event.

Simply put, because of the top heavy structure of One Drop, chips have more value and survival is marginalized because the value gained from moving up a payout is not as much as it would be from potentially accumulating chips and trying to get up to 1st or 2nd place.

One thing that was interesting to me, however, is the huge “bubble” at 3 players left in the One Drop.  The jump from 4th to 3rd is about $1.7 million, but the jump from 3rd to 2nd is almost $6 million.  From the chart above, you can see this is a 13.5% jump, while the 2011 Main Event only has an increase of 4.99% from 3rd to 2nd.  So, it follows that this “bubble” is very important and it would be correct for players to tighten up.  Here are some numbers:

4 players left (85m vs 5m vs 5m vs 5m):

One Drop shoving range BVB small into big (25% call): shove 24%

Main Event shoving range BVB small into big (25% call): shove 18%

3 players left (90m vs 5m vs 5m):

One Drop shoving range BVB small into big (25% call): shove 14%

Main Event shoving range BVB small into big (25% call): shove 19%

As expected, with 3 players left it is beneficial to tighten up to try to get into 2nd place.

In summary, basically the only time players should be tighter at the One Drop final table compared to a more normal payout structure is when it is 3-handed.  In other situations, players in One Drop should be looser.  Note that even though all this analysis was done with push/fold examples the high value of chips applies even for normal, non-push/fold play.

One other thing to mention here, as well, is that all this analysis is really done in a vacuum.  When we take real life into consideration then I feel that the gap between how people should play at the One Drop final table versus the Main Event final table should be even wider.  The players who are in One Drop are all either high level players with lots of money or rich businessmen, but at the Main Event that’s not necessarily the case.  Getting an extra $500k is very likely not a major deal for someone in One Drop — it’s only half of the buy-in and probably a fraction of their net worth.  For a Main Event final table participant, getting an extra $500k can be a very big deal, though.  I am reminded of the hand where Paul Wasicka folded a straight flush draw 3-handed at the Main Event final table when he almost certainly would have gone with it in a $10 online tournament.  The positive effect of large sums of money in real life can, for better or worse, cause you to ignore the mathematically correct play.

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