The M-Calculator

Tournaments differ from cash games in two main ways:

  • In a tournament, everyone starts with a set amount of chips, and you are eliminated as soon as you no longer have any chips left. 
  • The blinds (and antes in the later stages) increase gradually, which means that the ratio of your stack in relation to the blinds also changes constantly.

This means that you can work out if you have a big, medium or short stack by looking at the ratio between the amount of chips you have, and the size of the blinds. If you've already read the articles on Short Stack Strategy (SSS) and Big Stack Strategy (BSS), you'll know that you need to adapt your game based on which one you have.

One suggestion is to use what's known as the 'M-zone strategy'. It's a system that was developed by poker pro Dan Harrington, in his 'Harrington on Hold'em' series of books, and is an easy way to calculate the size of your stack during a tournament.

You can use our M-Calculator tool to quickly determine your 'M' and get advice on the best way to play. It's easy to use - all you have to do is set the following three parameters:

  • The size of the blinds and antes
  • The amount of chips you have left
  • The number of players at the table

Set the blind and ante levels by using the sliders in the first column. Seeing as the tool assumes that the small blind is half the size of the big blind, it doesn't matter whether you use the 'small' or 'big' parameter - the other slider will update accordingly. You can also set the ante level by using the 'ante' slider. In the middle column,  use the slider to enter the size of your stack. Then, in the end column, select the number of players at the table by clicking one of the three options available.

Once you have applied all the correct settings, click 'Start' (of 'Reset' if you want to start again). Your current M is then calculated, alongside you 'zone'. The different zones range from green (which means everything is ok) to red (which means you are almost dead, and should go all-in as soon as the right opportunity comes). You'll also be shown a breakdown of what you should do and why. It's a good idea to keep reseting the M-Calculator each time your situation changes - for example if you win more chips, lose some, or if the blind level increases.