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Poker Tournament Strategy Understanding M

Aug 15, 2008
What exactly is "M" and how is it going to help you in a poker tournament? M is a concept popularized by "Action" Dan Harrington in his must read holdem poker tournament texts "Harrington on Holdem," although the concept has been around in for a long time. In fact, the "M" stands for Magriel, as in Paul "X-22" Magriel, who coined the term. Other players may have different terms for M. For example, "Crazy" Mike Caro refers to the concept as "CPR" or cost per round.

What is "M"?

M is calculated by dividing your stack by the number of blinds and antes required for each round. This tells you how many rounds you could play before you are blinded out of the tournament if you didn't play a single hand. Why is this useful? Because it tells you how urgent your tournament situation is and therefore how fast, or aggressively, you need to play. It's not as useful in cash poker games.

You also need to adjust the M for the number of players at the table, to reflect the fact that you'll be blinded away faster at a shorthanded table. With five players, divide your M by two; with three players divide by three, and so on.

Using M

Let's say your M is 20 or higher, for example, it's the third level of a tournament, you have a stack of 3000 with blinds of 50 and 100, 3000/150=20. Harrington would say you are in the "green zone," which means you can play your typical cash game style. You can make plays to establish image, you can play a wider range of hands, you should not be looking to get all your chips in without the best of it.

Of course, as soon as you lose a pot or the blinds go up you will be out of the green zone unless you win a pot. This will put you in the "yellow zone," between 10 and 20 rounds worth of blinds. Here you want to be very selective about the hands you play. You should be looking to take down pots uncontested, push your big hands, and back off your trouble hands.

You don't have a tremendous amount of flexibility for error in the yellow zone. If you've fallen down to between 5 and 10 rounds of blinds, you're in the "orange zone". Here you're looking for an opportunity to get all your chips in with the best of it and double up. You have enough chips that you can afford to wait for a premium hand, but when you get it, no fooling around. Get all those chips in their and try to double up or grab the blinds and antes.

Finally, 5 blinds or less is the dreaded "red zone". Your stack is on life support and you need to get the chips in and try to double up as soon as possible before your stack is meaningless. No room left to play poker. Usually any ace or pair is sufficient for a move in this situation if no one has raised the pot in front of you.

Other M Tips

Remember if there are antes you must factor them in by multiplying the ante by the number of players and adding that to the blinds and antes. If you are at a nine-handed table with blinds of 100-200 and a 25 ante, you must divide your stack by 525 to calculate M. Also if your table is short-handed, the blinds come around faster and you must compensate for this. If there are only five players at your table your working M is really half your true M.

Also, keep in mind the "Q" factor, which is the size of your stack relative to the average stack. If your stack is twice the average stack your Q=2. If you've got a low M but high Q, most of your opponents have a lower M than you do, so even if things look scary, you may be able to sit back and wait for opponents to make desperate moves and get knocked out, pushing you into the money.
About the Author
This article was brought to you by TexanBuddy. TexanBuddy is a Texas Holdem Poker Odds Calculator which will calculate the odds of you winning your hand while you are playing. An essential addition to your poker arsenal and gives you a huge edge at the online tables. http://www.texanbuddy.com
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