Deal or No Deal? How to Make a Deal at a Poker Final Table

When you make the final table of a large multi-table tournament, one of the most important decisions facing you may be whether or not you want to make a deal.

As with all other aspects of poker, you rack up long-term profit by making the correct choice when faced with a decision at the table.

Before you can decide whether or not to make or accept a deal, you have to have enough knowledge of deals to make an informed and profitable decision. The first step is understanding the types of deals to be made, and how they work.

Types of Poker Final Table Deals

The Chip Chop

The first type of deal is the chip-chop. This deal is the most common since it's the easiest to understand and seems absolutely fair and reasonable to all players involved.

How it works: Each player receives a percentage of the total final-table prize pool equal to the ratio of their chip amount to the total chips in play.

Example: Let's use the 2008 WSOP Main Event final table for our example. First, the prize pool:

PlacePrize Amount

Total prize pool: $32,633,446

Second, stack sizes:

PlaceChip Count
Dennis Phillips$26,295,000
Ivan Demidov$24,400,000
Scott Montgomery$19,690,000
Peter Eastgate$18,375,000
Ylon Schwartz$12,525,000
Darus Suharto$12,520,000
David "Chino" Rheem$10,230,000
Craig Marquis$10,210,000
Kelly Kim$2,620,000

Total chips in play: $136,865,000

Finally, we can calculate the chip-chop amounts. If the final nine were to make a deal before starting play (and if they all hadn't already received ninth-place money), this is how the numbers would work out:

PlayerChips%Chip-Chop Amount
Dennis Phillips$26,295,00019.21%$6,269,655.96
Ivan Demidov$24,400,00017.83%$5,817,821.08
Scott Montgomery$19,690,00014.39%$4,694,790.87
Peter Eastgate$18,375,00013.43%$4,381,248.46
Ylon Schwartz$12,525,0009.15%$2,986,402.01
Darus Suharto$12,520,0009.15%$2,985,209.83
David Rheem$10,230,0007.47%$2,439,193.02
Craig Marquis$10,210,0007.46%$2,434,424.31
Kelly Kim$2,620,0001.91%$624,700.46

The Even Spread

The second deal type to mention is the even spread, which really is as simple as it sounds. In fact it's so simple, no chart is needed to explain it.

Dennis Phillips
Dennis Phillips, unless he takes some bad beats, will want to play it out, from first deal to the bitter end.

Every player receives an even share of the total prize pool. In the case of the 2008 WSOP ME, each of the final nine players would receive $3,625,938.

Haggle 'n' Swindle

The final type of deal making I'll dub the haggle 'n' swindle. This is the deal process where anything goes. There are many tournament players who have an amazing aptitude at creating elaborate final-table deals that greatly benefit themselves - and then convincing the other players to accept.

A good salesman can sell anything, regardless of whether the buyer needs or even wants the goods up for sale. I've seen players in situations much like Kelly Kim somehow manage to get a share of booty equal to a finishing rank far above reasonable expectation.

For Your Consideration

So how do you know when to make or take a deal, and what type of deal is best for you? Hopefully by now you've come to realize that creating your own haggle 'n' swindle deal is much more difficult than you might have imagined.

You have to be able to do a large amount of math on the fly while at the same time creating webs of logic to convince or confuse the other players.

Because of this difficulty, more often than not you're going to be facing the option of one of the first two deal types.

If you look at the charts for the chip-chop, you'll see that by taking a chip-chop, Kelly Kim would actually lose a minimum of $300k.

When stack sizes are in the extremes, a chip-chop will rarely make logical sense. Even if you flip it, and put eight of the players with a combined amount of chips worth less than 50%, the ninth player holding the majority, a chip-chop is a rotten deal for everyone but the leader.

Before making or accepting a deal, you need to consider the following:

  • Your skill level versus the skill of the other players
  • Your current mental state
  • Your opponents' current mental state
  • Your current financial situation
  • The current financial situation of your opponents
  • The confidence of your opponents
  • Your opponents' previous final-table success

The more of this information you have, the more profitable a deal you'll be able to make for yourself. In many situations, a lot of these items will be little more than assumed. Use the information you have (or can collect) to your advantage.

Poker Final Table Deals: Rules of Thumb

David "Chino" Rheem
David "Chino" Rheem is one of my favorites for the final four. A deal might be in his favor at that point.

As a rule of thumb, you don't want to consider making a deal until there are four or fewer players remaining. If you look at the payout structure, the greatest increases in pay happen from fourth to first.

This is where the majority of the total prize money sits, meaning a deal with any more players than that will most commonly cost you more money than it's worth.

Once you're down to four or fewer players, you first need to take a very honest, brutal look at yourself. How are you playing right now? How are you feeling? And are you able to maintain your level of play for the duration of the event?

If you don't have the energy to play your best poker until the finish, you may be better off making a deal to grant you more money than a regular second-place finish would.

If you are not sure you can win, but you are sure you can get more money in a deal than you can make from second place, you should always make that deal.

The same goes for the third-place payout, trying to make it to heads-up. If you are truly exhausted and unable to play quality poker, while your opponents are at the top of their game, getting guaranteed more money than a standard third-place finish is often your best choice.

After you consider yourself, consider your opponents. If your opponents are playing in a tournament above their bankroll, they will be more apt to make a deal than a player looking for the win.

A guaranteed $10,000 looks better to someone with $400 in their account than risking busting next for a $6,000 payday.

Take stock of who your opponents are, where they stand, and what they need. Get the numbers straight, ideally in front of you on paper. You want to actually see the payouts, the stacks and the percentages.

Know your options, and who stands to gain the most. Always figure out what is best for you at that very moment first, and then make the best choice based on what you know about your opponents.

If you take the time to consider all these factors first, chances are you'll always end up in the good by making a deal.

More Poker Tournament Strategy articles:

2014-04-09 18:42:31

Oh no Barry, you wrong bro?

2012-08-20 10:26:00

The chop calculation is wrong. Everyone first gets the 9th place money, $900,670, then the remaining $24,527,416 gets chopped by stack size. Kim would get an additional 468,473 for about $1.37million, and Phillips would have banked just over $5.61million and Eastgate 4.2 without playing another hand.
Other ways could have been reduce those amounts by $200k and let everyone play down to the winner for bracelet and $1.8 mil. Would have still made for great TV and all the final tablers would have been millionaires.

2010-12-10 08:22:37

Nur Aishah Rindu sama chino rheem.

Sean Lind
2010-01-13 19:49:45


He wouldn’t. Deals are not always beneficial to all the players. This is why you need to make sure you clearly examine all deals before you accept. If Kelly Kim would have taken a chip chop, he would have lost money.

2010-01-13 09:58:57

What am I missing? Why would Kelly take the 600K if he already has 900k minimum?


Sean Lind
2008-11-13 18:16:00

Again you need to look at where you are, and what you stand to make without a deal. If there are four players left and someone proposes a deal with a remainder for the winner, you’re set with X payout, needing to win for anymore.

You have to compare the X payout to the standard payout scale. If there are 4 players left and X is below the payout for second, but above third, you’re assuming that you’re not going to make it to heads up, since you would make more money heads up if you don’t take the deal.

You have to evaluate where you reasonably stand to finish, and if that would equate to more or less money than the deal. If the chip chop gives you more than second place, there’s a good chance you should take the deal, as it can really go either way heads up.

2008-11-13 04:54:00

What about giving everyone a fair share of the cash, then playing for the remainder? This is a fairly common scenario online. It can either be an even spread or a chip-chop, leaving part of the prize pool to be played for…. I like that version the best.

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