Sunday, March 25, 2007

Harrington's "M" - Useful in SNGs??

Before we get on to Dan Harringtons 'M' just a quick note to let you know I changed the headline for this blog... no longer "The UK Poker Blog with an International Perspective"... now its "The Poker Blog That Likes To Make you Think!".

The reason for the change is really in the 'Articles' that have built up over the last several months. I do not really see myself as a 'teacher' or 'coach' when writing these at all... much more from the perspective of someone who has thought about the game and would like to provide information / articles to trigger similar thinking for others.

We all know by now that there is no 'Magic Bullet' that will turn us into the best players overnight - its all to do with incremental learning and practice in different situations. What I hope (in addition to the enjoyment of writing) is that Plan3t Gong provides good food for poker thought!!

Anyway, Harrington's M and Theory of Inflection Points.

This is sometimes discussed on forums and other times quoted as part of a hand analysis - my question for today is whether the concept of M is any use for us in a SNG environment... in case anyone missed it will start with a quick explanation of what M acually is and how this relates to the concept of inflection points.

Harrington's 'M' is a number that shows your stack size in relation to the blinds and antes (if applicable). It is calculated by dividing your stack by the current total of blinds + antes in play. If you have a stack of 1500 with blinds at 20/10 and no ante your 'M' would be 1500/30 or 50, later with a 3000 stack and 200/100 blinds (no ante) you have an 'M' of 10.

Harrington's inflection points relate to the use of M by defining which 'Zone' you are in... for example with an M of over 50 you are in the 'green zone' and have the maximum flexibility in your play (lots of chips for post flop poker) while with an M of less than 5 you are in the 'red zone' and should be looking to get all in at any half-decent opportunity... each zone has its own strategic changes and inflection points can be thought of as the transitions between these zones.

Quick note on Effective M - Calculation of M assumes a full table of 9 or 10 players - for short handed play Harrington suggests using 'effective M' which is simply your current M divided by the ratio of remaining players... in the 3000 chip example with 200/100 blinds if there were only 5 players your M would be only 5 - since 50% of the players are gone.

OK - so could we relate M and Inflection points to SNG play in some useful form?? after all the theory of M was really designed to be used for Multi-Table Tournaments.

We can start by looking at Harringtons Zones and seeing if the M (will work with the effectibe M) and the style of play recommended seems to make sense...

Green Zone - M of 20 of more. Plenty of chips and thus maximum flexibility in your play.

Yellow Zone - M between 10 and 20. Harrington suggests playing looser and more aggressively to stop the blinds catching up with you. Warns against playing hands like small pairs and suited connectors.

Orange Zone - M between 6 and 10. Have lost the ability to resteal and must play very aggressively to have any chance of staying alive.

Red Zone - M of 5 or less. Your only move is now all in, have lost any chance of playing post flop poker.

Dead Zone. M of less than 1. Not much to say about this one really - you are pretty much, erm, dead!

So in an average SNG (will use Stars as an example) you would be in the green zone for the first 3 levels without increasing your stack. Level 3 blinds are 50/25 so 1500/75 = 20M. Usually there will be 1 or 2 players out so it could be argued that effective M is actually a little less than this but if you have won a pot or 2 this will be covered anyway. So far so good, the green zone works.

Level 4 - 100/50 blinds and 6 left of the original 9 with an average stack of 2250. Your effective M is now (2250/150)/(6/9) = 10. Well OK then so much for the yellow zone - appears we have jumped straight to the orange! Here is where I think Harrington's thoughts break down for SNG players - he suggests that in the orange zone you have lost the ability to resteal but with 22 big blinds this does not make sense. Someone raises for 300, is called by another player and you come over the top for your entire stack... that is plenty enough chips for the job!

So if restealing is still possible in the orange zone in an SNG where actually does it stop working so effectively - and what would your effective M be at that point??

I feel that we would need to move the blinds way up to 400/200 A25 before restealing completely goes away.... lets assume we are now down to 4 players - average stack 3375 - M would now be 3375/700 or 4.8 and effective M would thus be 4/9ths of this or 2.13. Now someone raises 3 times the BB to 1200... at this point the pot is 1900 if you come over the top for 3375 more then the pot is 5275 and it costs the raiser 2075 to call - thats more than 2.5/1, so any easy call for any hand that was good enough to make the initial raise.

But hang on - those M figures put is in Harrington's Red Zone - we are supposed to be all in every time we have the opportunity to open a pot. While there may be some merit to this if your opponents at the bubble happen to be the tightest players on the planet it appears from a strategic viewpoint this is a one way ticket to going broke!!!

So, we see 2 problems already with the Inflection points theory and use of effective M in SNGs - no yellow zone and the other orange / red zones being out of touch with the reality at the table.

Personally I like to think in simple terms of the number of BBs in my stack as we go through the tournament in a SNG... its simple and its effective. The key number being 10 BBs - below this it is worth pushing to win the blinds pre flop and you start to lose the ability to standard raise.

Anyway - feel free to comment on the subject, whether you agree or otherwise!

Cheers and GL at the tables,



Cell 1919 said...

I agree entirely and in fact was discussing this with derbywhite this very morning!

To use Stars as an example a STT with 1500 chips means there are just 13,500 on the table. If there's one big stack with half of those then it means everyone else is virtually in the red or dead zones very early on (say 100/200 blinds). However that doesn't mean that everyone should be pushing at the first decent hand in position (though they may choose to).

You will undoubtedly get called by someone as there is no room for raising in the conventional 3x or 4x manner. Fold equity is non existent.

It seems to me that Q is a more reasonable measure, though as a rule of thumb I'd take out the big stack and divide by the remaining players. I always want that figure to be more than 1. If it's not then I really do have to push as I'm behind in all respects.

This is why the turbo games, especially, are a lottery. It doesn't really encourage creative play. It's simply a pushfest.

If the same table starts with 5,000 chips each then M is more relevant. Such deep stacked S&Gs are very rare though, at least on Stars.

When I started at Pacific (I know, I know...) the S&Gs had just 800 chips with a conventional blind structure. At level IV someone who had maintained their original stack had an M of just 5. One unsuccessful raise early on meant that you were crippled, and that can't be good for those wanting to play proper poker.

steviep said...

hey mark.
i liked this article as its something ive been messing with being a mtt player and having slightly less time to play these mid week im turning to the stt's.
i dont use harrington to the book but its odd how i think along those lines in the stt.
for me it works , it eliminates position problems etc.
i think common sense prevails a lot in the stts , certainly as an mtt player they seem super fast, like you have only one decision.
no room for elegant moves or the like so for this reason , the speed of them i feel the all in move is a money making move.
esp against the mid stacks and high stacks who are staying out of trouble.