The M-Concept was introduced by Dan Harrington in his book “Harrington on Hold’em – Volume II: The Endgame”. Dan Harrington is a well known professional poker player and two times World Series of Poker bracelet winner, including winning the WSOP Main Event of 1995. The M-Concept/Zone System let’s you determine the status you’re in when playing a poker tournament. According to your calculated (effective) M, you can find yourself in one of the predefined zones, where different strategies apply.

Theoretically, the M gives you an estimation of how many orbits you will last without contributing any chips into a pot, except for paying the necessary blinds and antes.

The poker M-Calculator below the content shows you exactly where you stand in a tourney, according to several factors and the results display your M, your effective M (which comes in effect with less then 10 players at a table) and the zone you’re in.

The criteria to calculate your M is as follows:

  • ( Stack / ( BB + SB + ( Ante * Players ) ) )

Comparable playing concepts exists, but professional poker players tend to lean towards the M-Concept more than the others.


$(only your own ante)




Effective M





  • Green zone
    You are in the comfort zone. Just keep playing premium hands in position and you’re fine for the moment. Try to find the right balance to make the most out of pots and limit your contribution to pots when you lose.
  • Yellow zone
    In the yellow zone, your main focus is to get back to the green zone, thus taking risks by playing more aggressive. Don’t be a fool though, know when you’re beat!
  • Orange zone
    This is where the trouble starts. Your starting hand requirements are less tight. Start making some moves to pick up blinds when you’re in position. You will be checking and calling more often than betting, as your stack doesn’t allow you to bet enough to chase players out of a hand.
  • Red zone
    Calling or betting will make you committed, so better wait for the first Ace or King and move all-in when first to act. You can expect to be called, as players will be eager to eliminate you. This gives you a decent chance to double, triple or even quadruple up and get you back in the orange zone.
  • Dead zone
    Calling is no longer an option. If nobody has opened the pot, you might as well go all-in with any two cards. Who knows, maybe Lady Luck is on your side.