No Limit Tournaments: M-Factor

September 2, 2011 by  
Filed under News

No Limit Tournaments: M-Factor

Paul Magriel might be known to backgammon fans as a legend, or to poker fans as the character they’ve seen on televised tournaments shouting ‘quack! quack!’ when making a bet beginning with 22. To complete the skill games trilogy, I met him in Cannes a decade or so ago during an international chess tournament he found himself in because he’d been giving a grandmaster friend of mine backgammon lessons in return for chess coaching. A competent club player, he was out of his depth but nevertheless enjoyed the challenge and was eager to analyse his games.

After losing the first few rounds he left suddenly because – if I remember correctly – an incredibly rich would-be player had ‘challenged’ him to a big money game in Paris. Boundless enthusiasm and a great brain still don’t make it possible to fast-track your way to becoming a pro chess player, but Magriel was able to apply his attributes to poker, which is a good thing for us because he came up with the concept of ‘M’ for tournament players.

This has been investigated by the great Dan Harrington, and has proved incredibly useful as a means to see where we stand in a multi-table tournament with regards to our stack size and, subsequently, how to play appropriately.

To calculate M we use the formula:

M = stack/(SB + BB + Antes)

As we can see this simply divides the amount of chips in a pot before any action into our stack size, and thus indicates how many orbits we would survive without being further involved.

Different players have different approaches but, using Harrington’s treatment as a guide, we can then categorise M into five distinct ‘zones’ that, depending on the ratio, require different strategies:

Green zone: M is at least 20.

Yellow zone: M is between 10 and 20.

Orange zone: M is between 5 and 10.

Red zone: M is between 1 and 5.

Dead zone: M is less than 1.

 Clearly, being in the Green zone, with at least 20 orbits to look forward to, affords us more room for manoeuvre than would be the case if we found ourselves in the more urgent Orange Zone. And unlike the old US anti-communist slogan, in poker it is better to be Red than Dead. Indeed it should be obvious that, when in the Red zone, we should be prepared to move all-in rather than passively find that we are Dead…

Next time we’ll take a closer look at this concept in action. Until then, don’t panic!

Good luck at the tables.

Angus Dunnington (AngusD)
32Red Poker Ambassador

No Limit Heads Up Cash: Introduction

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under News

No Limit Heads Up Cash: Introduction

If you’ve not yet tried out the Heads Up tables at 32Red, here’s a brief strategy guide that should help. Not surprisingly the key factors in HU are position (even more so than usual) and aggression, and often we need to make the most of both. In this game the Dealer is the small blind and acts first pre-flop, but then has position for the rest of the hand. Therefore we should be looking to exploit position when on the button with aggression. The point is that once the flop appears our opponent is out of position, in the dark, and has most likely failed to make a hand strong enough to withstand pressure, while we – having assumed the initiative, and in position – are free to represent the best hand. Unless the opponent has something (or thinks we’re bluffing), then what usually happens is that we get to take the pot right there. Most people avoid complications when out of position because the very next hand it’s their turn to be the aggressor, and it is this mentality that we must be seeking to exploit regardless of what cards we have as the accumulation of all those small pots where both players have missed makes all the difference.

When out of position we are at a considerable disadvantage but all is not lost. There’s nothing to stop us being aggressive here, too, as long as we don’t overdo it and leave ourselves vulnerable to traps against the more observant opponents. However, because it is only pre-flop where we act second it makes sense that it is during this betting stage that we must show aggression with all but monster hands. And of course bets should be big enough to induce a fold, rather than modest raises which simply leave us out of position post-flop. The aim is to both pick up ‘extra’ pots and put our opponent off correctly assuming the initiative when he is in position. This way, by reducing the opposition’s button raising frequency, we get to see more flops with potentially good hands.

While this forms the basis of a solid HU strategy, we also need to take into account how our opponent reacts in certain situations, as well as how our own play is perceived. Some bet the river only with a very strong hand for fear of being raised off the pot, others are non-believers and will call with an underpair. Over time, if we become too predictable, we might notice that the flow of the game seems to be against us, that this or that way of playing a hand no longer has the positive outcome we enjoyed earlier in the session. One action is to simply leave and find an opponent less able to adjust; another is to adjust ourselves and – at least in the short-term (which could be all we need if we manage to win a big pot) – use our ‘predictable’ play to set up a trap by changing tactics.

Throwing in the occasional check-raise is another good way to disrupt our opponent, especially as this introduces an element of uncertainty to future checks (and raises).

Remember, too, that because there is just one player to beat it is not necessary to have a big hand to win, so we should have more faith in – and be aggressive with – lesser made hands than is the case against multiple opponents.

Finally, be prepared for being on the wrong side of all-in pots, so play at an affordable level, especially while getting to grips with this intriguing form of poker.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD)
32Red Poker Ambassador