The Short Stack in This Poker Tournament Had Chop Negotiation Leverage?

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Thunder Valley Poker Tournament

The $3,500 buy-in World Poker Tour (WPT) Rolling Thunder Championship at Thunder Valley Casino Resort has taken over the media coverage in Northern California this week. But there are other events at the same card room attracting large fields, including one that had quite the entertaining conclusion.

We’re speaking of the $1,500 Bounty Confidential, which wrapped on Monday following a three-way ICM chop that involved two high profile pros — Nick Pupillo and Tony Ma. The third player, Elias Travis, had just $68,000 in previous Hendon Mob cashes, but held a sizable chip lead over both opponents.

Despite being third in chips, and trailing Travis about 4-1 in chips, Pupillo still had leverage when it came to chop negotiations, and would end up making the most money (more on this in a bit).

Third Place Wins the Most?

The Bounty Confidential event at Thunder Valley in Lincoln, California was a mystery bounty format with a $25,000 grand prize bounty. There were 133 players in the tournament, creating a prize pool of $144,050. With three players remaining, the largest bounty still hadn’t been drawn, which made things interesting.

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Travis had just over 2.3 million chips with the big blind at 20,000, whereas Ma was sitting on around 950,000, and Pupillo had 650,000. Before a hand was dealt, the three remaining players began discussing a chop. Given his chip position, Travis was looking to grab the largest share of the pot in either an ICM or standard chop agreement.

Nick Pupillo
Nick Pupillo

While you might think Pupillo, the short stack, would just snap agree to an ICM chop, which would have paid him $17,000, or about $4,000 more than third place value, it wasn’t that simple.

Despite having significantly fewer chips than Travis, he wasn’t exactly in desperation mode with over 30 big blinds. And, as he explained to the table during negotiations, one double up and he’d be in a strong position, especially given he’s an experienced tournament crusher with over $5.3 million in lifetime live tournament cashes,

“The only problem for him in getting the deal he wanted, Pupillo is an experienced player who had already claimed $15,000 in bounties, more than the value of third place.”

Pupillo wasn’t initially down for an ICM chop even as the short stack, and it appeared there wouldn’t be a deal. But Travis, who had proposed a chop earlier at the final table, continued pushing for a chop. The only problem for him in getting the deal he wanted, Pupillo is an experienced player who had already claimed $15,000 in bounties, more than the value of third place. So, he had some significant leverage in negotiations despite his stack size.

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There was a separate issue at hand, and that was determining what to do with the $31,000 remaining in mystery bounties. Travis made mention to the table that he was the most likely to bust a player to win a bounty draw, so he felt he deserved the largest portion from the mystery bounty pot.

“You don’t even have enough to knock anyone out. So, $25,000 would be the max number that I would be willing to offer you, and that’s more than generous. That’s almost a third of the bounty,” Travis told Pupillo.

In the end, a straight ICM chop was agreed to between the three players, which includes the $31,000 from the mystery bounty pot. Travis took the biggest chunk at $35,000, while Ma received $29,940, and Pupillo took $27,700, a bit more than the initial offer from Travis. But Pupillo actually won the most in the tournament due to the $15,000 he’d already drawn in mystery bounties.

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There was plenty of other action at Thunder Valley on Monday, including Day 3 of the WPT Rolling Thunder Championship, which played down to the final six. On Tuesday, the tournament will conclude, and the winner will take home $296,600 and join the WPT Champions Club.

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