If you were watching the final table coverage on Tuesday you would have witnessed an odd segment where the overwhelming big stack starts raising any two cards. Everyone knows this is what is going on and yet the opponents are folding pretty much every hand.
You might also have noticed that the chip leader as well as one of the other players is wearing a patch for a product i have recommended here before called DTO. Interestingly the free version of DTO preflop has a scenario where at a 4 handed final table one player has a heap of chips and the other three are much shorter (with one having quite a bit more than the other two). The scenario has a fairly standard payout schedule and models things taking into consideration the ICM implications of the pay jumps. This scenario is very similar to what was happening at the second to last day of the final table. You can look it up and see how the big stack is obviously able to open any two cards in many spots.
What is interesting is that you can see, at least from a theoretical perspective, how the opponents are supposed to be countering this constant barrage of opens. We know they are playing for life changing money and yes ICM dictates tighter play, but you can look it up and see how tight and compare some of their actions. Also consider what adjustments to that would make sense with the payout structure so weighted to the top. That is not even counting the added value of being world champ. It was a bit perplexing to see some of the giveups but who among us would do differently under such pressure? The point here is not to judge folks for making tight decisions under huge pressure and when each pay jump can secure your financial future. Instead, the point is to see their actions in the appropriate ICM context.
Ironically the only person who played back was Holmes and, as Jamie Kerstetter pointed out, as the medium stack he was the one most incentived to play tighter. A fun exercise to look at the payout structure but subtract the million they were all already guaranteed. It sure changes your perspective when you look at it this way.