Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Harrington's 'M' Will Likely Not Be RivalledGot the opportunity to catch up on a few of the podcasts I missed last week. Most interesting among them was Dan Harrington’s appearance over on the Two Plus Two Pokercast.

“Action Dan” is an intriguing figure. Particularly notable is his overall lack of gamble -- i.e., his aversion to taking unnecessary risks -- perhaps the only trait he possesses that I can reasonably claim to share. Definitely distinguishes him from yr average poker pro. Also enjoyed the discussion of pot limit Omaha at the end of the show with Ian “iggymcfly” Gordon, frequent contributor to the 2+2 Omaha forum.

Of course, everyone’s currently a-buzz over the new Harrington books on NLHE cash games. Can’t say I’m as excited as most (since I’m not really playing NLHE these days), but I may still have to have a look. Harrington himself admitted on the show that while he believes the new books are even better written than the famed Harrington on Hold ’em series, they aren’t likely to be regarded as ground-breaking as the tourney books were.

Probably the single most-cited concept from the Harrington on Hold ’em series is the idea of “M” or “M-ratio” -- that figure intended to represent the number of rounds a player can survive in a tournament without voluntarily putting any chips into the middle. One’s “M” equals the size of one’s stack divided by the blinds and antes required per round. Harrington explains at length in the second HOH volume how changes in one’s “M” should affect one’s starting hand requirements and other decisions.

Listening to the other podcasts reminded me that even though Harrington is often lauded with having been a pioneer of sorts for having presenting the idea of “M,” he didn’t really originate it. In fact, in the book Harrington himself credits the concept to fellow backgammon whiz Paul Magriel (to whom the “M” refers). Couple of other references in the other shows from last week also indicated the idea had made the rounds a bit before finding its way into HOH.

On Ante Up! last week, Kill Everyone co-author Steven Heston talked about the circumstances under which the new book and its predecessor, Kill Phil were composed. Heston claims that he and his co-contributors had been speaking of a couple of different ideas -- referred to in the books as “CPR” (“cost per round”) and “CSI” (“chip status index”) -- even before Harrington’s books had come out. Indeed, if I understand the term correctly, “CSI” is essentially the same thing as Harrington’s “M.”

Also heard Kirk Morrison make reference last week to “CPR” on Phil Gordon’s podcast, The Poker Edge. Morrison, of course, was a successful tourney player in the 1990s, then took a hiatus until a couple of years ago when he made a triumphant return to the circuit. Although he didn’t specify it on the podcast, his use of “CPR” seems as though it might’ve dated from his earlier time on the tour. Steve Zolotow, in his CardPlayer articles about “CPR” from the summer of 2006 (Part I & Part II), says he’d “used the abbreviation CPR for years, and was surprised to learn that Blair ‘Kill Phil’ Rodman had independently started using it.” Harrington actually mentions Zolotow on the Two Plus Two show as a fellow member of the old Mayfair Poker Group (along with Howard Lederer, Erik Seidel, and Jay Heimowitz).

Of course, even if the groundwork for Harrington’s “M” was laid well before he spelled out the theory in the second volume of HOH, he deserves a lot of credit for helping elevate the concept to such an significant status in discussions of tourney poker strategy and theory. Indeed, one cannot reasonably enter such discussions without at least acknowledging the concept, regardless of what significance one does or does not ascribe to it.

Harrington on Cash Games, Vols. 1 & 2Will be interesting to see if the Harrington on Cash Games books provide any ideas that even come close to rivalling the popularity of “M.” (Would bet against it.)

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Anonymous Yorkshire Pud said...

Hey Shamus, long time no speak! Good to see the blog going from strength to strength and you getting some recognition you deserve.

I have a new blog now which is on the Betfair site, i'd appreciate it if you could update you link to me and once I get the hang of the new software I will link back to you ASAP.




3/26/2008 6:45 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Sure thing, Pud. Thanks!

3/26/2008 10:44 AM  

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