Final table deal? No, thanks
I play the Super Tuesday fairly regularly on PokerStars. That's the weekly $1,050 No-limit Hold'em tournament that has been getting bigger and bigger lately. It's a great tournament, and the winners are now getting more than $100,000 pretty much every week.
With the prize pool so big, deals at the final table aren't uncommon. A few weeks ago there was a Super Tuesday where the two players who were heads-up stopped the tourney to discuss a possible deal. One actually made a kind of humorous suggestion where he essentially offered the other player second-place money only rather than an actual chop of the remaining money.
It was brianm15 making the offer to Palau777, and the exchange was pretty funny (you can read about it here). The tournament paid $113,778 for first and $83,377 for second, and brianm15 was offering Palau777 $84,000 in the deal (and they'd play for the remaining $6,000). Both are good players and I'm pretty sure they were joking around with each other as they talked about these numbers. As it turned out they didn't make a deal at all and Palau777 ended up winning.
People who make deals in the Super Tuesday generally have an idea about how to negotiate when it comes to the deal-making, but sometimes in other tournaments you'll see players who are less familiar with how it works and occasionally they'll agree to some not-so-great terms.
I remember a couple of years ago getting to three-handed in the Sunday Warm-Up and as it turned out the other two players weren't too experienced with bigger buy-in events. (Here's the write-up of that one.)
We talked about chopping for a while, then finally when we did make a deal I was by far the shortest stack, but I ended up getting the most money in the deal. I think I got around $7K each from the other two. That tournament is also kind of memorable for me because I was playing with my newborn daughter sitting in my lap.
Generally though, I don't like to do deals. It takes away a lot of final table strategy, when a deal is made. Everyone is looking at the payouts and the jumps from spot to spot, and you can usually see early on at a final table who is scared and wants to fold their way to a higher finish and who isn't. So I feel like I have more of an advantage to play it out, since without a deal I can pressure those players who are afraid to gamble and improve my own chances of going deeper.
Deals also take away the fun for me, too. They take away the gamble. When I finally get to a final table in a tournament, I want to win and enjoy that pleasure of doing so. And I'm willing to risk the pain of coming up short, too.
At the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo last spring we didn't make a deal, and the pressure was intense because the payouts jumped from €467,000 to €842,000 to €1,224,000 for those last three spots. But none of us - Andrew Pantling, Steve O'Dwyer and I - were afraid to gamble, either, and so even though it didn't turn out the best for me (I took third), it was still a great experience and great competition.
If I hadn't been playing against those two guys, I would've been able to apply a lot more pressure at the end because of those huge pay jumps. But in most cases, even in EPTs, when you get down to three- or four-handed there's usually one player who is going to be affected by the pay jumps and play differently. Those pay jumps just don't matter if a deal has been made.
Like I say, usually I'm all for playing it out. Let's gamble!
Johnny Lodden is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.