O’Kearney and Carter release ‘Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book’

Haley Hintze
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Posted on September 29, 2021 2:51 pm EDT

British poker-strategy duo Dara O’Kearney and Barry Carter have released their latest specialized book on poker strategy. In “Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book”, the pair work to de-mystify the concept of ICM (the Independent Chip Model) in a way that allows players of many skill levels to maximize the power of their chip stacks in a tournament’s late stages.

As with other O’Kearney/Carter releases, O’Kearney serves as the strategy maven, with Carter applying the editorial polish to the concepts offered within. The result is a fluid take on ICM, which in a technical sense is used to calculate the equity or expected value of a given stack. In O’Kearney’s hands, however, it also becomes a strategic guide of more generalized do’s and don’ts regarding endgame play.

Endgame decisions might seem far simpler than the huge decision tree that defines early-tournament play. The tradeoff, though, is that even small mistakes can be far more costly in a tourney’s late stages. Here, O’Kearney and Carter explain how examining a difficult choice in ICM terms is a shortcut to making the “correct” play more often. That translates directly into more winnings.

ICM book includes ’30 Minutes’ primer

Though there’s big money to be made through proper endgame play, O’Kearney and Carter understand that not all players necessarily want to spend many hours studying text. The book therefore opens with an “ICM in 30 Minutes” chapter. It’s designed to impart some of the basic wisdom of ICM immediately, then allow the reader to learn more later on.

The “30 Minutes” chapter is, in essence, a series of briefly explained tips. “Losing hurts more than winning feels good,” for example, is more than just common sense. In ICM terms, it’s an admonition that when ICM is considered, tight is right. As tourney payouts escalate, those payout jumps overpower the actual chips being won or lost in a given hand. That’s why it’s often correct, in ICM terms, to play tight or avoid hands where a virtual race is the best hope.

Other such quick tips include “Small pairs lose their value” — it’s because they’re almost never way ahead preflop — and “Play tighter as the short stack” — because laddering up is another endgame consideration. And, according to O’Kearney, being short in chips doesn’t mean one must immediately gamble for his tourney life. Getting the chips in light as a short stack “is a fallacy,” according to O’Kearney. “The fewer chips you have the more each one is worth in terms of equity.”

Multiple endgame considerations explored

Beyond the “30 Minutes” lead-in, the book tackles numerous endgame topics in ICM terms. Other chapter topics include bubble play, big and short stacks, deal-making, and laddering up versus playing to win.

“A whole generation of poker players have learned the game while managing to skate past the topic of the Independent Chip Model (ICM) in a way that those of us who learned poker in SNGs did not,” Carter told Poker.org. “The most common form of coaching Dara O’Kearney does these days is ICM coaching with professional poker players who did not realize how important it was until they found themselves in a tough spot at a final table. This is the first book to take a very deep dive into the topic of ICM in multi-table tournaments.”

The book has also garnered high praise from its early readers. Canadian tournament star Daniel Dvoress said, “In an era of solvers and preflop charts, game states involving ICM pressure remain one of the few unsolved and untapped areas of poker. ‘Endgame Poker Strategy’ does an excellent job of clearly explaining the most important ICM ideas and effects. Whether you are a beginning player looking to build an understanding of how ICM works, or a more advanced player looking to better internalize ICM concepts, there is something in this book for you.”

Featured image source: Barry Carter