Tournament poker can be very complex can’t it? There are so many aspects to tournament poker and very few all encompassing strategies. This is where “M” can help you. It’s a tournament poker concept that was named after the late Paul Magriel Jr, a professional poker player and author. In this article, I will explain the meaning of M poker, highlight its value in tournaments and hopefully provide some food for thought for you moving forward.
What does M-ratio mean in poker?
M Ratio is a measurement of how healthy our stack is relative to the blinds and antes. It’s basically a measurement of how long you can last before being blinded out of the tournament.
How do I calculate M-ratio?
To calculate your M poker ratio. You simply divide your stack by the blinds and a full round of antes. So, if you have 25,000 and the blinds are 600/1,200 with an ante of 60 at a full ring table, your M would be 10.6 (25,000/ 600 + 1,200 + 540).
Tournament strategy changes based on “M”
The value of knowing your M is that it helps your overall mentality, at a given time in the tournament. In theory, the healthier your stack, the more flexibility you have. You can play aggressively or conservatively. Dan Harrington’s tournament poker books identified various zones in which the value of M fit into. These zones help define the strategy one could employ to help their chances.
Value 20 + [Green Zone]
Wouldn’t it be lovely to always live in this zone? This is deep stack poker playing and allows you to pick and choose the hands you play. You can play suited connectors, set mine and make speculative plays. A little hit to your stack won’t cripple you.
Value 10 to 19 [Yellow Zone]
The blinds and antes put a bit more pressure on you here. You can’t get away with quite as many speculative calls but you’re still doing ok. No need to panic yet in this zone.
Value 6 to 9 [Orange Zone]
You can’t waste any chips here. Flat calling raises is out of the question. Every steal represents a decent increase to our stack so first in mentality is paramount. We won’t have to open shove just yet though.
Value 1 to 5 [Red Zone]
Time to start shoving. We have very little fold equity and need to get our chips in. It’s better to be the one shoving but either way, we need to be all in or folding.
Value under 1 [Dead Zone]
No fold equity and very little chips. Even a double up won’t be of much value. This is the zone we want to avoid at all costs as we are going to have to get lucky several times.
Final thoughts on “M” ratio
Knowing your “M” is a great way to measure your stack and assess how you’re doing. It’s a really useful tool for tournament players who perhaps don’t realise how deep their stack size is. Sometimes you see tens of thousands and think you’re doing well. In reality, you may actually be desperate and need to be playing push fold poker.
I can attest to the value of using M in tournaments. I used to always have my calculator with me, working out what my M is and how I should be playing. With experience, you know it intuitively and there’s less need to stick to it religiously.
It’s also worth pointing out that “M” poker was coined decades ago and primarily for poker in casinos. Live poker was often slower and deeper stacked play. In online poker, stacks are generally more shallow and blinds go up quicker. The strategy still holds up pretty well today but it’s good to be aware of it’s limitations too.
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This article was written in 2020 and has been updated.