Saturday, September 28, 2013

To Chop or Not To Chop

A common practice at final tables of tournaments is to chop the remaining money when several people are left in the tournament.  In fact, to say this is common practice is probably an understatement.  Very few final tables actually play down with the remaining money at risk until there is a final winner.

Chops come in all shapes and sizes.  The final arrangement is whatever is agreed to by all parties.  Often the remaining money is simply split equally between the remaining participants.  Sometimes a massive chip leader will end up with a bigger share.  There is even what is called a "chip count chop" where the remaining money is divided in proportion to each person's chip stack at the time of the chop.  Sometimes the tournament director sanctions and assists with the distribution of the chop and at other times it is only a gentleman's agreement between the players because the tournament director won't officially recognize a chop.  Sometimes a chop is agreed to and the players go ahead and play out the table for the ring, the bracelet, the trophy, the points, the official photograph with the big stack of chips, or simply bragging rights.

The logic for chopping is sound.  At that point, the competitors have usually worked quite a long time to get to the final table, it's late at night or early the next morning, everybody is exhausted and nobody wants to go home with a relatively low pay day after all that time, stress and effort.  If the remaining money is chopped between the final four or five players everybody gets a pretty good chunk of money---somewhere in the neighborhood of second place money.  People will rightly point out that you would have to win the tournament outright to end up with more money and this is a classic case of "a bird in hand is better than two in the bush".

I understand all the rationale for chopping and actually agree with most of the logic and reasoning.  However, I won't chop.  Ever.  Don't even bother to ask.  At this point, I believe I've heard every argument that can be made to chop but I simply won't do it.  I have my reasons and they are delineated below:

1.  I enjoy playing poker.  That's why I do it.  I worked long and hard to get to this final table and refuse to go home at this point without playing it out.  After all, this is why I came in the first place.
2.  I particularly enjoy playing short handed.  As we all know, it is a different game when the table is short handed.  With each elimination the strategy changes.  Again, the challenge and the adrenalin rush are why I'm here in the first place.
3.  The learning experience:  How else are we to learn how to play short handed if we never actually play short handed?  If we always chop when there are several players left we'll never gain the experience of playing with only 2, 3, or 4 players at the table.  And playing the table out after agreeing to a chop is NOT the same thing.  If you believe poker players act the same when little or nothing is at risk, you're kidding yourself.
5.  Because I never chop and most everybody else does, I get more short handed experience than most players and it's hard to argue that this doesn't give me an advantage.  The more I refuse to chop and the more everybody else chops, the greater this advantage becomes for me.
6.  Amateur players like myself ( and I suspect quite a few professional players) dream of winning the big one.  When I finally get to that final table with a wheel barrel of $100 bills between the last two remaining competitors, I will have gained extensive experience at playing high stress, high stakes, short handed poker.

At some point in the future when you're watching ESPN and you see me sitting there at the final table with that big pile of bills rest assured that all that money is actually at risk because I didn't chop.

I never chop.

Until later.

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