Harrington's Zone System - Tournament Poker

Tournament Poker Advanced No Limit Holdem

Harrington's Zone System was created by Dan Harrington and presented in his book, "Harrington on Hold'em, Volume II: The Endgame". The system separates a tournament into five zones based on the player's stack size when compared to the blinds or antes. The zones will affect the right strategy you play and vary greatly.

"M" refers to a ratio of your chip stack compared to the blinds or antes. Let's say you have $750 in your stack of chips and are playing $25/$50 with no antes. Therefore, you have 10 times the starting pot, making M=10.

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Green Zone: M is 20 or more

When you are playing in the Green Zone, every weapon is there for you and you can use varying styles of play. This is where you want to be and remain. You just have to take care to balance play so that you keep building your chip stack as well as protecting what you already have. You can be conservative or aggressive in this zone because you can afford to switch up your styles.

Yellow Zone: M is 10-20

When you hit the Yellow Zone, tight play is required. The blinds and antes can begin to hurt you and you have to take a few more risks. Some hands become less playable, for example small pairs and small connectors. The implied odds just won't turn the profit you need to protect your stack.

Orange Zone: M is 6-10

When you are in the Orange Zone, you can not afford to make advanced moves. You can't go over the top against a big raise and then re-raise. Even if you go all-in, you won't be betting enough to discourage someone with a big stack but a weak hand from calling you. You have to worry about being first-in when you do choose to play a hand, unless you hold a super-b hand such as AA-KK. You have to protect your chips for when you have the right cards to go for an all-in or all-in re-raise when you are in the big blind and know there is a steal. You can't make any marginal calls in the big or small blind. You can't afford to limp along with drawing hands as you can in Yellow or Green Zones.

Red Zone: M is 1-5

About your only option in the Red Zone is to go all-in. Even a minimum raise makes you committed to the pot and you can't drop the hand. If M is equal to or less than 3, you can be called by any two cards when you make your all-in raise. Small pairs and even small suited connectors should be played as a means to making that all-in move because you need to take blinds and antes, hoping to get lucky if you do get called, or grab a great hand and get called. If you are in the late position, you can move all-in with numerous hands such as AA-22, any two cards 10 or higher. A-x, K-x, Q-x, suited connectors, or when you are in a situation where M=3 or less, any connector such as 9-8 unsuited.

Dead Zone: M is less than 1

Once you hit this Zone, you are pretty certain to be out of the tournament very soon. Any move will get you called. You have to count on luck to get back in. Think about your playing style before you hit this Zone. Did you blind yourself down to the point you found yourself in the Dead Zone? If so, you made a major mistake. You should never end up here by losing a big pot when you had more chips and the other player had fewer chips than you held at the time. Make your move when you are first-in, before the big blind, coming in with any two cards when any opportunity arrives. At least you might go one-on-one against a random hand and stay in a bit longer. If your unsure of any of the terms in this article, please refer to our poker terms page which gives a run down on terms like big blind, etc. For easy to beat tournaments you might want to check our small poker sites page, where overlays and soft competition are available daily.

Texas Holdem Poker Strategy Guide:

Strategy Article 1. NL Holdem Short Handed Sets

Strategy Article 2. Limit Holdem Playing Flops

Strategy Article 3. Basics of Tournament Poker

Strategy Article 4. Multi-Table Poker Strategy

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