The first poker tournaments were winner-take-all. Not that many people entered and it seemed logical that whoever got all the chips would win all the money. As poker tournaments grew, it began to make sense to have graduated payouts so that multiple players have incentive to play. These days, around ten percent of players in a tournament receive some kind of cash prize.
At the final table of a tournament, the prize money is still very top-heavy, with the bulk of it going to the top three players. The problem with this is that there is a great deal of volatility at the final table of a poker tournament because the blinds are often high relative to the average stack.
To handle this volatility and avoid having thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars riding to such a great extent on luck, players have gotten into the habit of making final table deals. Today, deals are an integrated part of any complete online poker tournament strategy.
Deals are perfectly legal providing they are not specifically disallowed by the tournament organizer. World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker events prohibit deals because they dilute the excitement of the final tables which is such a big draw for these tournaments. At your smaller buy-in online or local casino tournaments, this should not be a problem. If you are going to make a deal, it is best to get the tournament staff involved to assure fairness.
The most typical type of deal is a chip count deal, where the prize pool is distributed according to how many chips each player has at that point. Commonly at least ten percent of the prize pool is held out for the players to continue to compete for, with the rest given out according to the chip count arrangement.
This is not the only arrangement possible; players are free to work out whatever kind of deal they can. However, when you play poker texas holdem online this arrangement is usually suggested by the site, in the case of a deal.
Deals are usually less favorable to the shorter stacks. However, if the blinds are high enough, your chances of continuing in the tournament as a short stack may be pretty slim, so you may be willing to get whatever kind of extra money you can. It is essentially a decision on whether you want to gamble or not. As a larger stack, you are more likely to get a favorable deal.
However, if you don’t like the deal, feel free to hold out for a better one, or decline the deal altogether. Do not succumb to pressure from other players to make the deal. You are under no obligation to do so and if they end up winning the tournament, they certainly will not complain that you chose to decline.
Of course, in satellites the payout structure is usually much flatter, with all or most prizes consisting of a seat. This will be the case when you qualify for 2008 WSOP.