Arnold Snyder and Dan Harrington are both authors of some of the most popular NL holdem tournament books on the market today. They both definitely know their stuff as each has won not only in poker but in blackjack and backgammon as well. I wouldn’t try a number crunching contest with either of them.

At the core of each of their most popular poker books belies an area of contention between the two that has spilled over into some lively forum debates across the internet universe that you might find thought provoking, or sleep inducing. Even for poker tournament players the splitting of such strategic hairs is often taken for passing amusement.

Dan Harrington brought to light a common technique used by pros for measuring how long your chips will last in a tournament given the current blinds and antes. Somebody (PM) named it M, and it got picked up by the other pros who kept M as a reference number for essentially figuring how many rounds you get to live if you simply blind out in a tournament.

Then along comes Arnold Snyder and says in defense of his book, “The Poker Tournament Formula” that M is really misleading because it only measures the current blind level against a chip stack, not the imminent blind levels yet to come. In effect, Arnold is correct here because under Harrington’s analysis if your M was 22 (which is a Green Mzone stack), but the blinds will go up in two hands, there is now way your stack will last for 22 rounds. Further, there will be another blind rise before even the 20 hands are done!

What Arnold Snyder is implying is called “effective M”. It is a more accurate calculation that takes a tournament’s structure into the equation and deduces the real time left you have to make a move or get blinded out in a tournament.

My only point of contention though for using effective M, rather than M is that while others may see you as a relatively safe, yellow Mzone at 15.6, you could be seeing a desperate red Mzone stack at 3.5! In that of course demands a different playing style, which Arnold says may seem “downright maniacal” to players like Harrington.

Arnold Snyder says this is the way to play. However, I play online tournaments and can easily refute that because in practice, it isn’t doesn’t take very long for online players to figure I am off my rocker playing that aggressive, and I will be challenged – and rightly so – in short order with what remains of my stack as I try to bully my way into good money with no cards. In fact, as soon as I start displaying such behavior, the online tournament rounders will start salivating over my tournament chips like they were the last cheese nachos on the planet.

It just doesn’t happen (at least) in online tournaments that have buy ins of less than fifty bucks. Been there, done that Arnold. Real M, the Dan Harrington MZone Strategy works best in low level online tournaments.

Maybe here I am just adding to the forum debates, but I put money up and tried it both ways. Show me the money online Arnold, and I may just swing my M vote.

By Marty Smith
Marty Smith is webmaster and a regular online poker player. He has a FREE Multi-Table Tournament Video Strategy Series on his website at You can join this discussion and more at Marty’s Poker Forum at