“Harrington on Hold ’em” Review, Part 3

[II] “Volume II1 was the real eye-opener for me”, Iggy the Improver admitted to Roderick the Rock. “I mostly played cash games before I joined started playing here, so I’m not really used to the dynamics of tournament play. Ever-increasing blinds, short stacks, money bubbles, deal-making…”

[RR] “And that’s without even mentioning table balancing, dead buttons, reentries, and add-ons”, Roderick contributed.

[II] “The book actually starts with Making Moves, which isn’t specifically for the endgame. That chapter really should have gone into Volume I, which was 64 pages shorter anyway.”

[RR] “He probably had a publishing deadline to meet ;-).”

[II] “Good stuff nonetheless: bluffing, continuation betting (and defense against), probe bets, squeeze plays, semi-bluffs, back-alley muggings, dark tunnel bluffs (okay, he advises against that one), slow-playing, massaging the pot, check-raise bluffing, Post-Oak bluffing, BSB play, and smallball versus longball. He probably could have expanded each of those into an entire chapter if he wanted to.”

[RR] “If he’d written five volumes instead of three, he might have scared too many potential readers away. You were already complaining beforehand about its current length.”

[II] “The next section was the best. I’d already heard of Harrington’s colored zones,2 but it was interesting to get the details from the horse’s mouth. But I don’t like the name ‘Inflection Point’. In math, the term means that the curvature has changed direction. Green-to-yellow-to-orange-to-red is really more of a rainbow continuum. I think you make the same play whether your M is 10.1 or 9.9.”

[RR] “I think that he was referring to the sharp changes when you win or lose a big pot or the blinds go up. In some faster tournaments, a blind increase can halve your M instantaneously. A drop from 12 to 6 certainly qualifies as a significant difference.”

[II] “Fair enough. But I think it’s the zones that matter, not the somewhat arbitrary and mathematically infinitesimal ‘points’. Even Harrington himself rounds all his M calculations so roughly that he could think he was in one zone when he’s actually in another. To use the Crayola 64-color scale, between orange and red, there are orange red and red orange crayons, which are so close to each other that most men can’t tell them apart. As long as you know roughly what color you are, you can adjust properly.”

[RR] “His colored zones are probably the most famous thing he’s ever written about. I especially like his football analogy, even if ‘Red Zone’ has completely different meanings in the two contexts.”

[II] “Agreed. The Green Zone is like having plenty of time on the clock. Then as you work down toward the Red and Dead Zones, you need to hurry up, abandon the running game, and avoid the middle of the field unless you’re at the two-minute warning or are prepared to use a timeout.”

[RR] “Stealing the blinds is a sideline completion for a first down. It gets you a little closer but not much (buys you one more loop around the table).”

[II] “Folding is like spiking the ball to kill the clock. It gets you another hand but otherwise hasn’t helped your cause.”

[RR] “Pushing all-in with a small pair is a Hail Mary. If it gets intercepted… game over!”

[II] “Except that if you get called and double up you still have a long way to go to win.”

[RR] “So it’s more like scoring a touchdown when you’re down 21 in the 3rd quarter.”

[II] “Also, both sides can be in Harrington’s Red Zone as one side drives toward a potential game-winning score in the final seconds, like being heads up to win a tournament with crushing blinds.”

[RR] “Of course, some hyperaggressive maniacs act like the clock is running out all game and run a fast-tempo, no-huddle offense for four quarters.”

… {to be continued}


  1. Harrington on Hold ’em, Volume II: The Endgame. See the introduction in Part 1 from two weeks ago.
  2. See More About M.

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