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Why you should study ICM right now

Why you should study ICM right now

When BBZ Poker student Ade Olonoh made four final tables simultaneously during a particularly fruitful session, he knew he was in a fantastic position.

Not just because he was close to the big money prizes. But because he’d recently been studying ICM. A lot.

“As the saying goes: that’s where the money is,” he tells us.

Olonoh, a 44-year-old poker pro and former tech entrepreneur from Indianapolis, went on to win one of the tournaments for $2,827, finish third in another for $5,649, place fourth in one for $1,335, and seventh in the other for $825. That’s a great session by anyone’s standards.

As you’ll read in our interview below, Olonoh (who goes by “Koolade” in the BBZ Poker Discord) has been soaking in the BBZ Daily Seminars, where coaches Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond and Jargo “bungakat” Alaväli have focused a lot of time on ICM of late, as well as studying the ICM charts.


ICM stands for Independent Chip Model and is a mathematical model used to approximately calculate a player’s overall equity in a tournament. Essentially, it helps players understand how valuable their chip stack is in a particular tournament, based on the probability of finishing in each position.


Here, we find out why those seminars (and those of our performance coach Frank Hamel) were so helpful to Olonoh; we learn more about his background in poker and tech; and should you ever find yourself on four final tables at once, Olonoh gives advice on how to handle it.

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Hey Ade, could you tell us a bit about how you started and what your poker journey has been like so far?

I fell in love with poker during the Moneymaker boom. Days after he won, I deposited $50 on PokerStars and started playing penny cash games. Over a few months, I built that into a bankroll and transitioned over to mid-stakes MTTs and SNGs.

By the end of 2005, I was at a crossroads, ready to quit my day job and decide between playing poker full-time or starting a software company. I ultimately chose the latter, and with the time required to build the business, I ended up leaving poker behind.

Nearly 15 years later, I sold the business and was searching for what to work on next. While experimenting with a few ideas, I started dipping my toe back into the poker waters. I was essentially new to the game again–my ranges were taken from the Harrington era and I’d never worked with a solver.

At the end of 2019, I played a WSOP circuit event and made the final table, finishing in eighth. Then a few months later I went to another WSOP circuit event and got another eighth-place finish. I never lost my love for the game, but those deep runs reinforced for me how much I missed playing.

A few months into the pandemic, I realized that I’d regret it if I never gave poker my best shot, and have been studying and playing full-time since.

At what point did you discover BBZ Poker and how did you get started with them?

I heard Jordan on a podcast, and as a result, joined BBZ in mid-2021. I had tried a few other training sites with mixed results and was attracted by Jordan’s coaching style. I especially appreciate the focus on GTO play–I enjoy going deep with solvers and developing a better understanding of the mathematics behind the optimal play. I think too much content focuses on exploitative play or strategies based on anecdotal evidence, which usually leaves me deeply unsatisfied.

My goal is to master the game to the best of my ability. I’d like to be able to play in some of the toughest tournaments in the world. The BBZ Daily Seminars and Bundles have been an essential part of that journey.

You mentioned in a Discord post how recent ICM seminars/content has really helped you. Could you tell us what you’ve been studying and how you applied it in your recent results?

BBZ added ICM charts for the middle stages of tournaments, and Jargo has done a number of seminars walking through them. Jordan’s also been spending a lot of time lately walking through new final table models on GTO Wizard. These have helped me realize that I’m playing a lot of spots here incorrectly, and I’ve ended up doing a lot of work on my own with HRC (Holdem Resources Calculator) to try to develop better heuristics.

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Four final tables in one night is crazy. How did it feel as you kept going deep?

It felt really good. I’ve never accomplished that before. It’s a good enough accomplishment to make one in a session, and then I kept running really well, winning my flips, and couldn’t believe I was going so deep in that many tournaments at once.

Believe it or not, I also got a ninth-place finish, so I almost made five final tables out of 20 tournaments that I played in that session.

It helped that it was a Wednesday and the site had some technical issues for about an hour preventing people from registering for new tournaments. So the fields were a bit smaller than usual. The smallest field I final tabled was 178 players and the biggest was 902.

What are the challenges of playing multiple Final tables at once?

Not to complain, but it was insane to juggle between them, especially when I was on bubbles.

On final table or ITM bubbles, I like to pay attention to short stacks on other tables, and that got really unmanageable at one point when I was on three bubbles at once.

But that’s where the mental game work really comes in handy. I think a Daily Seminars subscription is worth it for Frank Hamel’s seminars alone. I took deep breaths during breaks, gave the game 100% of my focus, and used up my time banks as much as possible.

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What do you think people get wrong in the deep stages of tournaments? What costs them the big money finishes?

I think most people understand that you need to tighten your ranges when covered and loosen your ranges when you’re the bigger stack. But it’s really hard to get right, and I think most people (myself sometimes included) adjust from the wrong part of their ranges or don’t get tight enough. I’ve torched way too much EV with offsuit broadways and small pairs. The post-flop game can also be quite different from CEV in ways that aren’t intuitive.

Mistakes at the final table are costlier than at any other stage of the tournament. ICM also creates a lot of complexity and unintuitive situations, so it’s an opportunity to pick up a lot of EV against inexperienced players.


Ade Olonoh blogs about his poker experiences at Swimming with Sharks. Check it out.

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