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The M-Factor According to Dan Harrington


In this Article
  • The M-factor and effective M
  • The zone system
  • Why you should never end up in the dead zone

Many players know the famous book series Harrington on Hold’em. This article will discuss a concept Harrington presents, which presents an easy system for defining your position in a multi-table tournament (MTT). This system is called the M-factor, Magriel's M, often simply called "M" by many players, and is based on the following formula:

M = stack / (SB + BB + Antes)

This formula indicates how many orbits you could survive without playing a single hand. The formula, as seen above, simply divides your stack size by the amount of chips in the pot before any action takes place. This approach gives you a better impression of where your stack stands in a MTT and uses the small blind and antes in addition than just defining your position in terms of BBs (as you might in SNGs).

Never look at your M as an isolated value, but rather in relationship to the other players' M. Whereas you should play slightly more aggressive with an M of 8 when the other players have an average M of 7, your play will change when the average M is 30 to your M of 8.

Short-handed tournaments (3 to 6 players) require an adjusted M, called the effective M, shown by the following formula:

Effective M = M * (players / 10)

The effective M is better suited when short-handed because the orbits whip around much faster, thus accelerating the rate by which your already dwindling chip stack falls. Theoretically, the M and effective M are the same thing. In full ring MTTs, the Effective M is just null as 10 players/10 = 1 and simply reveals a reflexive calculation.

Harrington defined 5 critical zones and also outlined corresponding strategy depending on your M.

  • Green zone: M > = 20
  • Yellow zone: 10 < M < 20
  • Orange zone: 5 < M < = 10
  • Red zone: 1 < = M < = 5
  • Dead zone: M < 1

The following paragraphs explain how and why you should play in each zone.


That's not the entire article...

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Comments (22)

#1 Koshburger, 29 Jan 10 11:23


#2 ctoph13, 27 Feb 10 16:53


#3 joseferraz, 17 Mar 10 11:57

ty for the article

#4 Rap1d007, 31 Mar 10 11:44


#5 NZSnark, 17 Apr 10 22:13

With the SHC, I would have thought that Axs would have also been included with the suited connectors, or do they really play that badly in comparison?

#6 Saite, 30 May 10 20:06

ok. nice. :)

#7 36bullets, 11 Nov 10 14:46

question: do you consider a round of antes when computing for 'M'? or just the value of the ante?

#8 ScL512, 22 Nov 10 00:59

push fold is.... AWESOME :D I'm using it right now :D

#9 sokoi, 11 Dec 10 12:41

After reading both his books it's been a lot easier figuring out at what points in my MTT I should be making moves. M=GOOD ADVICE!! :D

#10 bangmesilly, 15 Jan 11 22:06

I recomend Harringtons books to anyone who wants to win regularly on MTTs. Ive never looked back since reading them both ,I would however recomend also reading the super system by Doyle Brunson mixing the two styles is very profitable.

#11 Gerovit, 06 Aug 11 16:21

Someone should seriously answer questions above, if not what's the point!!!???

#12 Gerovit, 06 Aug 11 16:21

By the way article is not one of the finest here...

#13 maythany, 14 Oct 12 23:22

36bullets: You consider the amount in antes totalled by the players on the table. Say you are playing a tournament and it's 100/200 antre 25 and there's 9 players on your table. So that's (your stack)/(9*25+300) = M.

Hope I helped

#14 mattisks, 27 Nov 12 17:23

"You can push with pocket pairs and suited connectors against an opponent with a tight calling range, since these hands will have the most equity."

Isn't it that you should push any two into someone with tight calling range? And tighten up against someone who calls light??

#15 mattisks, 27 Nov 12 17:24

I am rather completely stupid (which is probably true) or becoming silver is worth every penny spent. LOL

#16 mattisks, 27 Nov 12 17:28

don't get me wrong. Advices here are great. I am just catching some words by hair ;)

#17 mattisks, 27 Nov 12 17:53

ok ok I get it. I am dumb. It was meant when someone calls and I am LP I will shove and have to adjust my range to it. Just a little misunderstanding on my part :)

#18 RYPG79, 21 Jan 13 15:07

I do not really see why a difference needs to be made between (< 1 and 1<<5). In both cases you have no fold equity (and have no choice but discard 1/3 of your weakest hands) awaiting a spot to go all in. The 5 << 15 BB range is a good spot to reraise all in. And resteal becomes profitable above the 20 BB mark. I exposed the way i see it on and would be glad to get your feedbacks. Play sharp at poker tables!

#19 bgxyz, 02 Nov 13 01:15

I am a relatively successful cash player (1-2 and 2-5 NLH), but I am trying to improve my game, and I am also trying to learn MTTs. But, of course, old habits are hard to break, especially for the habitually tight player.

In that regard, I found this article on M Zones to be excellent. If I follow its advice, I am forced to become looser before it is too late. So the following are questions and comments, not criticisms.

In the Introduction "M" is equated to "Magriel". In his book "Every Hand Revealed", Gus Hansen identifies Magriel as Paul Magriel. I bring this up not just to give credit to Paul M. but also to note that Hanson uses M zones that are different than those in this PS article. Further, WPT Poker Magazine just listed Hansen's book as one of the 10 books that "have stood the test of time", so it is worth the price for the high-limit MTT player.

I found the example under the Green Zone section of this PC article to be perfect. The discussion is spot on. (I use this same move in cash games, although more often with small pairs, but in an MTT I will also be using it with suited connectors. Should I also start using them in this situation in cash games too? Any advice? Calling someone who has AA or KK, can be pretty expensive because their raise is often higher then their pair is worth, and my suited connectors will only give me a draw on the flop, if that. Then I have to call or raise their continuation bet to see the Turn. This article shows that to be an acceptable risk in an MTT where accumulating chips is very important, but in a cash game? )

In the Example in the section on the Yellow Zone I do not understand the nomenclature "3-5*". Can someone straighten me out, please?

In the last sentence of the section on playing the Dead Zone (just before the Example) a fairly limited calling range is recommended: Kxs, pairs, and suited connectors. When you are in the Dead Zone it seems to me you may often get blinded-out before one of those hands comes along. In many hands the raiser is going to raise after you have folded due to your position, which reduces the chances further. Any suggestions?

Again thanks for this article.

#20 Dominis42, 02 Sep 15 11:21

i will try to use this strategy

#21 Nhoxalone, 18 Feb 16 15:55


#22 molderz, 17 Oct 16 00:16

this is a nice article, i would live to have "M" shown in my poker client, so i dont have to count ;)