Poker Tournaments: Making Deals at the Final Table (Chopping)

Poker Tournaments: Making Deals at the Final Table
By Loki Luchs of

If you’re a tournament player, you hopefully have had the fortune to feel the warm glow of a final table. For those of you that haven’t, it is a feeling like no other! I’ve been fortunate to see a higher than average number despite the fact that I am primarily a cash game player. In my family, actually, the big tournament player is my wife. After years of tutelage, she’s become a force to be reckoned with at the lower limit tournaments.

The first time she ever played in a real tournament, however, she was shocked to have made it to the final table. I wasn’t overly surprised, because it was a locals’ tourney filled with poor players. I had already been busted by a bad beat flush, so I was railbirding her as she advanced. As she started knocking out players left and right, they all grumbled up to me about how horrible that little girl was playing. As most men do, these guys couldn’t find a reason that they were losing other than being unlucky. Watching from the sideline, it was clear to me that she was just running over the table. She may have been the least experienced player there, but she was also the best.

As the action made it down to three players, an interesting situation arose; the two remaining players, who were both a little below her in chips, wanted a straight chop. If they made a deal, they would each make a little over $700. If they played it out, the third place would make about $350, second place would make about $700, and first would make 1150. My wife, who has never played in a tournament, looked at me and mouthed “Do I make a deal?” I smiled and shook my head.

The reason I told my wife to play it out because having seen her opponents, I felt confident that she would win more times than not. Sadly, she quickly ran into two big hands and was knocked out in third, but it’s important to not get wrapped up in short term results; always make the decision that will make you the most money in the long run!

Making deals is a sticky business. If you’re playing at your regular club, then you need to be careful of stepping on toes. Just stay consistent with people who will likely remember if you wanted to chop as a short stack, but wanted to play it out when they were the big stack. However, I think the first factor that most people need to consider is how often do they actually make it to the final table.

The second half of what needs to be considered is how much do they have when they make it to the final table?

If you are a tournament player who does not often make it deep in the tournament, you may want to gain the experience of playing out the final rounds.

There is also the “fun” factor! Playing a final table can be a real thrill, so it might be worth playing out. However, if you frequently make it to the final table, is it always as the short stack? If you are, then it is always in your best interest to chop, because you will almost always be one of the first ones out.

Don’t try to capitalize on the one time you’re on a hot streak by suddenly wanting to play to the top three. Believe me when I tell you that people will remember this! They won’t want to let you chop the next time that you’re on the short stack and it will end up costing you money in the long run!

If you’re a player that only comes into the final table with a huge stack, chopping for politeness sake is a horrible idea. So what if everyone else wants to chop? You’re going to place in the top three more times than not, so don’t let the short stacks take your money! Playing a loose/aggressive style will mean that you don’t make it to the final table as often, but you’ll win the tournament more often than a player that makes 9th place consistently. This is a case-by-case scenario, so be honest with yourself whether you’ll make more money as a team player who chops or as an individual who doesn’t.