Why the cards matter least – Poker Strategy Part 1

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Jeffrey | Poker Strategy

Submitted by McTap, this article is a part of the Poker Strategy series.

Before you decide to play your hand there are several factors that you should consider before making your decision to call, raise or fold. I understand that poker is a card game, but in reality, the cards you hold are only a small piece of the puzzle and should not influence your decision too strongly. Now a pro will say “Tell me something I don’t know,” while a beginner/intermediate player might have troubles grasping this concept. Some of you may have even heard about how Annette Obrestad (Annette_15, winner of last year’s European WSOP) played and won a 180 person online tournament without ever seeing her cards (they had them blacked out on her screen). This just proves my point a little further. Over several upcoming articles, I will discuss many of the factors you need to consider before playing your hand.

In order to make a proper decision you need to know what the blinds are and where you stand according to them (M-factor). I understand that this should be a trivial fact, but many players, especially late in tournaments, decide to just call without realizing that they could be putting in a good percentage of their chips pre-flop (if the blinds are high compared to your stack), when according to their M-factor they should fold the hand or go all-in. In reality most players don’t know, or understand, their M-Factor, so here is a brief description.

The M-factor is the relationship between your stack and the amount of the combined blinds. First off, according to Harrington, there are 5 M-Zones:
•    Green Zone = Your M is 20 or more.
•    Yellow Zone = Your M is between 10 and 20.
•    Orange Zone = Your M is between 6 and 10.
•    Red Zone = Your M is between 1 and 5.
•    Dead Zone = Your M of 1 or lower.
The higher your M-factor the less you need to play mediocre hands, as your are not in trouble to be blinded out. Once you reach the Orange zone or lower, your options start to become limited. This does not mean that when you have a Green or Yellow M-factor you should not use your larger stack size to expose opponents weaknesses, attack those with a
Yellow M, or steal pots, it just means that you are not being forced to play your hand as you can survive a bad stretch of cards without too worrying too much about being blinded out. For example, if you have 1000 chips and the blinds are 25-50 this gives you an M-factor of 13.33 (1000/75), putting you in the Yellow zone and giving you the option of not playing a mediocre hand out of position. But if you had 1000 chips and the blinds were 50-100, then now you have an M-factor of 6.66 and your situation takes on a whole different meaning. Your M was just cut in half by the blind increasing and now that mediocre hand starts looking like a monster that you should be pushing with. Keep in mind that with any M of 7 or lower you should be going all-in with medium hands and above, as limping commits too much of your chips to fold on the flop. When going all-in due to a low M-factor, being the first in the pot is always better, especially with medium hands. Not too often do you want to call off your entire stack with less than a premium hand. Also keep in mind that while you are in the Yellow zone you are not desperate yet, but calling or raising a hand could drop your M-factor into the Orange zone, making you think that an all-in might be your best option. Before this article gets to far you might be wondering what I consider as medium hands. First off any pocket pair (99 or less) and connected cards down to 7-6 (suited or not), any A J or lower (suited or not), K Q-7 would fit (suited is better but I would play unsuited), as well as Q J-9 (again suited is way better but if I had position I would play unsuited) would fit this range in my opinion. Some people might go lower, but then you are getting into the greater probability that you are behind pre-flop. Bottom line is when it comes to going all-in due to a low M-factor, pick your spot but don’t be afraid to play any 2 cards.

If you are having troubles calculating your M-factor while playing, you should consider purchasing Tournament Indicator. This valuable tool is great for SNG’s as it will calculate your M-factor as well as your EV (estimated value) for each hand you play. If you do not know what EV is, don’t worry, I will be talking about that in another part of this series. Before spending the $80+ on this software you can download a 48 hr free trial to see how it works. Keep in mind that the free version is only for play money games and you will need to purchase the full license to get the full effect. Personally I haven’t used Tournament Indicator more than the free version so I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but you can read more about it at sitngotraining as he has taken the time to analyze it.

The other thing about the blinds to consider is when the next level will be starting. If you find yourself short stacked and the blinds are going up on the next hand or that your M is between the Yellow and Orange zone, you should consider making a move at this blind level with the cards you have. This could be advantageous as players might not consider you as desperate and take you as having a legit hand so they won’t call, winning you the blinds. But if you were in the Orange, Red, or Dead zones, your opponents might be thinking that you are making a move with any two cards and are more likely to call.

So when it comes to blinds, there isn’t a whole bunch to consider, but they need considering non the less. The last thing you want is to not be paying attention to them and find yourself blinded out, or in trouble of being blinded out. The next time it is your turn to act in a game, try to think about this before looking at your cards and you will be in a better frame of mind to make a proper decision.

Good luck at the tables.


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