How I review a hand using ICMIZER

This week Barry Carter shows you how he uses the powerful preflop ICM calculator to determine whether he made a good call or not.

In the Self Study series Barry Carter reviews his own play in a hand, then asks a coach to review not only the hand, but how he studied the hand. In the previous articles Barry reviewed how to play against disconnected players, why we sometimes overbet with Ace King, why we check back with range advantage and turning top pair into a bluff.

This week I am doing something a little bit different and showing you how I use software to review my play. On Monday I played in a Unibet MTT that only had 18 runners, 10 remained and four got paid. I was in the Small Blind and my opponent on the Button open shoved for 17 big blinds, I had 20 big blinds.

I had 77 and I couldn’t quite remember what the bottom of my calling range was in a spot like this. I felt like if ICM was more extreme the bottom of my range was 88, but with quite way to go until the money I felt 66+ was fine. 

This is a relatively easy spot to solve so I thought I would show you how I would use ICMIZER 3 to arrive at an answer. 

As luck would have it ICMIZER has a lot of standard payout structures premade and the PokerStars 18-man SNG payout structure was pretty much the same as the tourney I was in, so I used that. In-game I made a note of the average stacks remaining and used ‘MTT Mode’ to recognise the two tables that were left, not just my own (this is important, ICM factors in your overall percentage of the chips in play, merely picking the right number of big blinds is not useful). Most of my table was very short compared to the average stack, all the bigger stacks were on the other table. 

The table I was at lined up as per the below (click on the image to enlarge it):

ICMIZER The table line up and payouts

Before I looked at the hand using the 18-man payout structure, first I looked at the hand from a ChipEV perspective, in other words if there were no payouts and we were just playing for big blinds like in a cash game. This is a very useful starting point that Dara O’Kearney taught me, it gives you a baseline idea of what your call and shove ranges should be before you apply ICM pressure to your range. 

This would be my ChipEV calling range:

ICMIZER The ChipEV calling range

This is pretty much a linear calling range based on the strongest hands in my range. It’s most pairs, most Ax and the best Kx. Given that we expect the Button to be shoving a lot here, this is a strong range against a very wide push. 

Speaking of which, another very important lesson I have taken from Dara is that you cannot study calling ranges without also understanding the opponent’s betting range, and vice versa. So this is what the Villain would shove in a ChipEV spot:

ICMIZER Villain’s ChipEV shove range

As you can see, our calling range crushes this range and even our worst hands do not have to improve to beat a lot of the hands we are up against.

Now let’s go back to the 18-man payout structure and run the solve again. This is our calling range:


As you can see it has just gotten a little bit tighter. We could have called 44, KTs, KQo and A5s-A6s in the ChipEV range, but those hands are now missing from our range because of the ICM pressure. This is not a massive difference because the ICM pressure is not that severe. 

This is the new shoving range from the Villain:

ICMIZER Villain’s ICM GTO Shove Range

It’s virtually the same as in the ChipEV spot, with one notable difference. The shape of the range is slightly different. We have to fold A2o here which we don’t in the ChipEV range, but here the Villain can shove K5s, K6s Q6s, Q7s and J7s which we could not in the ChipEV range. This is ICM influencing the range and what we are seeing is suited broadway hands go up in value because they make more powerful bluffs when your opponent has a tight calling range. A hand like K6s will get more folds in ICM world because it blocks the calling range and also makes big hands often enough when called. 

Adjusting for imperfect ranges

There are two flaws, however, with the ranges above. First of all they assume both myself and my opponent are playing Game Theory Optimal, which I can assure you we are not. They are also a ‘toy game’, meaning only shoves have been considered for analysis, not other bet sizes. Some players will shove most of their range here with 17 bigs, but nobody would shove AA because it is a waste of a powerful hand. 

So my next step was to adjust the Villain’s shoving range in ICMIZER to reflect what I felt was a realistic range based on the players I see at Unibet:

ICMIZER Adjusting to a realistic shove range

Realistically I felt that 22-99 would all be played by some regs as shoves, hands that figure to be ahead right now but hate most high flops. I also included most of the suited Ax, the best offsuit Ax and KQ-KJs as potential shoves. I capped the range, however, meaning I removed AA-TT because I felt most regulars would bet/call those hands instead. 

With the new range I felt was realistic for the games I played, this is the new calling range ICMIZER gave me:

ICMIZER Our new adjusted calling range

It’s virtually the same, but our worst Ax has been shaved off the range, as has all our Kx. This is because the adjusted Villain range is heavily weighted towards Ax meaning we want the better Ace high hands to compete. For this reason and also because AA-TT are removed from the shove range, all our pocket pairs 55 and above still perform quite well in the range. And my 77 was a comfortable call. 

In-game I tank-called and Villain showed me AQs and got there. 

Try ICMIZER 3 for free!

In the article above Barry uses the advanced ICM endgame tool ICMIZER 3 to study his game. 

It is capable of providing fast ICM analysis of almost any SNG/MTT/PKO situation with calculations possible for up to 100 players. 

It also has a robust quiz feature to test your knowledge on particular spots that is really worth the subscription on its own. You can really iron out your ICM leaks quickly without it costing you money at the tables to learn. 

You can get started with one free calculation and 15 free quiz questions per day. 

Try ICMIZER for free!

How do you study hands like this? Let us know in the comments:

Barry Carter

Barry Carter

Barry Carter is the editor of and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2, Poker Satellite Strategy, PKO Poker Strategy & the new book Endgame Poker Strategy

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