Here is a hand that in large part defined the winner of the WSOP 2017 Main Event when Blumstein flopped a set and Hesp turned two pair. Without a doubt, Hesp is going to lose some chips on this hand.

What I want to explore today is how expensive was this hand in real dollars? If there was a better way for Hesp to play this, how expensive was the difference between best play and actual play?

We will listen to Jonathan Little’s analysis and assume that with best play Hesp loses 40 million instead of 77 Milliion in tournament chips.

First we need to know the value of the chip stacks before the hand begins and the tournament payouts. These are the inputs to a calculation called the Independent Chip Model which says that each chip is like a raffle ticket for first place. The more you have, the better your chance of getting first. Before this hand the stacks were (in Millions):

Hesp: 101.5
Blumstein: 77.3
Pollak: 73.0
Ott: 29.0
Piccioli: 25.2
Saout: 20.2
Sinclair: 19.9
Salas: 14.3

If we had to guess, the guy with the most raffle tickets, Hesp, is most likely to get first, but it is not a guarantee. Whoever wins the raffle for first, loses all their tickets and the rest of the people have a raffle for second, then third, etc.

If we were to hold this raffle once, anything could happen. If we were to hold this raffle one million times and average out the dollars won by each player, certain trends would emerge and the average value of the stacks would settle in on a number.

Those dollar values of the stacks before the big hand were (in Millions):

Hesp: \$4.7
Blumstein: \$4.2
Pollak: \$4.1
Ott: \$2.8
Piccioli: \$2.6
Saout: \$2.4
Sinclair: \$2.4
Salas: \$2.1

We can see immediately that the 25 million difference in tournament chips between first and the next two chip leaders “only” equates to about \$600,000 in real dollars. Notice that while 8th place is guaranteed \$1.2 million, his average is more like \$2.1 million. This ICM model really does average out the results from the very steep payout bumps for the top places.

At the end of this hand, the ICM shifted quite a bit (in Millions):

Hesp: \$2.7
Blumstein: \$5.7
Pollak: \$4.2
Ott: \$2.9
Piccioli: \$2.7
Saout: \$2.5
Sinclair: \$2.5
Salas: \$2.2

When this hand went down, Hesp was the big ICM loser for \$2 million. Blumstein picked up \$1.5 million in theoretical dollars. However, the other half a million was spread out to the other players because the top two places were no longer “locked up” and they had a better chance of scrambling up the payout ladder.

Want to test your hand reading skills in another hand from the 2017 WSOP Main Event?

If we agree with Jonathan Little’s assessment that this hand should have been a 40 big blind loss not a full double-up, then Hesp would have only lost about \$900,000 in real dollars to Blumstein, and for the most part the other players would have been unaffected. The difference in these two lines is about \$1.1 million.

This is why we train. Will many of us ever be lucky and skilled enough to be at the final table and get a chance to make this decision? No. However there are similar decision made at every poker tournament played, and the sum of those decisions is huge. Be on the right side of them.

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