Dan Harrington’s Poker Strategy

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Dan Harrington strategy
There are some players who play poker for glory. And then there are others who are there for the money. Dan Harrington belongs to the latter category. Dan who? Dan Harrington or Action Dan, as he is known on the poker circuit, ranks among the most successful poker players of the world ever born with a total earning of more than $7 million as prize money.

Among his impressive exploits are a win at the World Series of Poker Championship Event in 1995 which earned him $1 million in prize money. In that very same year he had also won the bracelet prize in a no limit Hold’em event carrying a cash prize of $2500. Action Dan has also reached the final table at the main event of WSOP three more times which is a pretty impressive feat. But he didn’t stop at these. In 2007 he went on to win the World Poker Tour No Limit Hold’em Championship Event that added $1,635,000 to his total earnings. And by winning the titles of WSOP and WPT he joined the ranks of Joe Hachem, Carlos Mortensen, Scotty Nguyen and Doyle Brunson hall of fame.

Action Dan added another bright feather to his cap when he finished as a runner up in the 2005 edition of World Poker Tour’s second annual Doyle Brunson North American poker championship. This gave him $620,000 as consolation prize!

Dan Harrington’s style of playing is tight aggressive and he specializes in playing strategically sound poker. But despite his name and fame and achievements in the poker world, Dan has not made poker his profession. Rather, he is a successful businessman owning a very successful investment company called Anchor Loans that dabbles in stock market and real estate.

Being the shrewd businessman that he is, Dan Harrington has also come out with his best selling series titled “Harrington on Hold’em: Expert Strategy For No Limit Tournaments”. Here, he has discussed various kinds of tournament strategies and poker theories that will come to the aid of millions of poker enthusiasts.

Dan Harrington’s Unique Poker Strategies – Inflection Points, Zone Theory and Harrington’s M

What is M? Explanation of Effective/Basic M scores

M represents the ratio of a player’s current chip stack to the blinds and antes, to put it very simply. The two blinds have to be added together at a full table, and you get a figure, say Y. If the number of chips is divided by Y, it will give you your M score. Let us say, a player possesses 3000 chips. His total number of blinds is 600. His M score should be five.

A player’s M score is an indication of how long he can survive at the table and the number of rounds he can play before he is blinded away. To take the above example as a reality, since the M score is 5, the player will last for five more rounds, assuming he did not play any hands.

M scores are usually calculated on the basis of a full table consisting of nine or 10 players. Usually the blinds arrive more quickly if there are fewer players. And this phenomenon adjusts your M.

Effective M

If you divide the ratio of poker players at a particular table by your current M, it will give you your effective M score. Let me explain with the help of an example. Suppose there are five players left at the table with 5000 remaining chips. The blinds add up to 500. The M score will be 10 (5000 divided by 500). However, instead of 10 players, there are only five players left at the table. So the M score has to be divided by two. The effective M score will be five.

Why is M score so important?

It is important to know your M score because you can then adjust and manipulate your strategies accordingly and start playing better in tournaments.

Now let’s move on to Dan Harrington’s poker zone theory, which is the next concept you need to understand.

Poker Zone Theory

In what poker zone you are stuck will be determined by the M score of your opponents and by your own M score. Accordingly, you will be able to adjust your strategy and plan your next move.

Level 1 Green Zone – How To Play Correctly?

If M>20, a player can access several poker tournament strategy options. The player can reraise, raise and afford to lose a hand all the while knowing that he will still possess a few chips at the end.

Level 2 Yellow Zone

In this level, M is between 20 and 10. In order to prevent the blinds from gnawing away at a player’s stack, that player has to loosen up. He doesn’t need to bother with suited connectors and small pairs anymore as his implied odds will be lower now.

Level 3 Orange Zone

In this level, M = in between 10 and six. In this zone, a player has a limited and fast diminishing stack. He has also lost his ability of re-stealing. His strategy should be to remain inside the tournament, and for that he has to play totally aggressive.

Level 4 Red Zone

M = 5 or <5. In this level, a player has zero flexibility. He should go all in while playing a hand; and if possible, he should be the first one to get to the pot. This will increase the chances of folding on the part of his opponents.

Level 5 Dead Zone

M < 1. If a player is in such a level, he probably features on the critical list of the tournament. He should grab any high cards with both hands and those high cards are sufficient for going all in. However, he will be called every now and then.

Inflection Points

This is the term Dan Harrington uses to describe the changes between zones. If the M score alters suddenly or if a significant pot is lost or if the blinds go up, it leads to the occurrence of inflection points. If you are aware of inflection points, you will know when to alter your poker strategy in order to adapt to newer situations at your poker table.


Poker is nothing if not about strategy coupled with the ability to read other people’s minds through their faces and other body movements. While reading people accurately all the time is incredibly hard and a never ending process, you do have a lot of help when it comes to the other logical stuff such as the process I just described above. Here’s to a great professional poker career for you!

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