I've noticed that on pokerstars mtt's there's a chip graph with the average stack, but I'm not convinced that your stack in comparison to the mean is the best average, because there may be a few players very deep skewing the curve, so the obvious question is:

What measures do you use to know how well you're doing in a tournament?

  • Also remember that you should measure stack size exponentially in a tournament. For e.g. the gap between 2000 and 4000, is the same difference as 4000 and 8000 etc. So if you allocate 1 point to someone on 2000, then someone on 64,000 is only on 5 points. Think in this way so you don't get overwhelmed by how many chips they have.
    – Kenshin
    Jul 22, 2014 at 8:46

4 Answers 4


As a very quick estimation of where I stand, I do use the average stack as an indicator.

But, if I'm in a tournament with more than a few hundred players left, I'm constantly aiming to have at least twice the average stack. Even then I'm not entirely comfortable.

To put it differently, if I have average stack, I consider myself to be in a weak position and at risk of going out if I don't take down some pots asap.

Average stack moves so fast in MTTs, that you should aim for a multiple of the average stack at all times, to have any chance at weathering a bad beat or to tide you over while you're waiting for some playable cards in a playable position.


Average is a good benchmark especially early in a tournament. Later in the tournament it is more about your stack size compared to costs, costs being blind and antes, and how many players are at the table to modify the costs. Dan Harrington in his tournament books calls this scoring "M's". The very general conversation about "M" score is the lower the M the more aggressive and desperate you should play your stack. The higher your M the tighter you can play your stack.

Exactly what you should do with any particular M at any particular point in a tournament varies widely, depending on other factors such as other players M's, players left in the tournament, players tendencies Etc. M in itself, is just a simple scoring system, a sort of short hand for discussing tournament tactics. Rather then going through player A had 100, T-chips, I had 20 t-chips the blinds were 5-10, one can discuss it like I had 1.5 M, villain had about 7 M at the final table were the average was about 5 M.

After reading Harrington, I started thinking in M's during tournament play and it did help to simplify the whole process. I urge you to pick up Harrington's books on tournament play for more about scoring your position with M and the lengthy discussions he has.

Your particular M compared to other players in the tournament is a pretty good benchmark about how well your doing in a tournament. Of course the practicality of figuring every players M is a little tough, until the tournament is down to a few tables.


I consider 12 big blinds as my "shove" meter. When I fall below that I'm shoving with live cards. So I always think to myself how much above I am from that amount. That usually helps me feel for how I'm doing since this measure will also change with each tourney level.


Comparing your stack to the average stack is meaningless. Being below the average stack does not mean your chances are gone, and being well above the average stack does not mean you are almost guaranteed to be ITM or at the final table. I have experienced being very short stack early in tournaments (like 5BB), and make my way up close to the final table. I have also seen guys who managed to build a huge stack early of 200+ big blinds, and blow it up in just a few hands in mid tournament.

If you want to see where you are, you can see your instant ranking. But knowing that you are among the last, whatever you do will not end you back up in the rankings. So that won't help much either.

Or you can look at your stack in terms of big blinds. If you have 10 BB or less, you can consider you are very short stack, and should play push or fold. push when you think you have a good position and good hand. Between 10 and 20 BB, you can consider playing a few more hands, but cannot afford to "gamble". 20 BB and above, you are ok. Above 40 BB, you have a very decent stack.

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