In the "The Zone System" section of Harrington on Hold'em II, the lowest level Action Dad describes is entitled "The Dead Zone" where (by accident) a player ends up with an M of less than 1.
In tonight's Party $2k added, I stumbled into this neighbourhood for the first time in quite a while. (Trapped another almost identical medium stack all in..... runner runner str flush....waah waah...) I was left with exactly 9/16 big blinds on the button, and the antes total 9/16 big blinds (9 handed; ante costs you over 10% of your stack each hand).
The decision to be made is when to get those chips in. It definitely needs to be soon, but you still want to consider your starting hand choices and the tendencies of your opponents. You have no fold equity. Frequently when you have a short stack you want to ~open~ push your stack in (and fold if any player has entered the pot in front of you). Harrington states that it is essential to be the first player in the pot, but I would argue with a stack roughly the size of the small blind, then under the right circumstances you would like a nice size raise in front of you to both protect your hand and give you even better pot odds.
Let's consider 3 possible scenarios:
1) Folded to Hero on the button who has 87o (0.5625bb). Small blind is a loose passive, Big blind is a tight passive, both with medium size stacks. This scenario provides you 3:1 pot odds, and the most likely scenario is that a flop will be seen three ways and will only drop to headsup if one opponent flops or turns a hand. 87o has no high card strength, and plugging into PokerStove shows the hand has ~30% pot equity vs 2 random hands. Expected value: 0.675 big blinds, likelihood of surviving 30%.
2) tight MP+2 player opens for 2x big blind (his standard raise), folded to Hero who has A2o in CO (0.50bb), loose player on button, tightish players in blinds (however, big blind has medium stack and can easily afford 1xbb to see the flop). This scenario again looks like close to 2 opponents seeing the flop. Assuming a hand range for MP+2 of any pair, ATs+, KQs, and one other opponent with a random hand, Hero's pot equity is ~23.5%. Expected value: 0.47 big blinds, likelihood of surviving 23.5%.
3) MP player with huge stack raises 3.5x bb. His open raising standards have included some speculative hands, which will be classified as any pair, any A better than A5s, A7o, any 2 broadways, and suited connectors down to 76s. Folded to hero in CO+1 who finds JTo (0.4375bb). One loose passive in CO, the remaining players are fairly tight. This scenario offers a better than average chance of a headsup pot with a hand that actually stands to be a coin flip or better to a substantial part of Villain's range. PokerStove computes a pot equity of 39% against Villain's range. Expected value: 0.85 big blinds, likelihood of surviving 39%.
As you can surely tell, I elected to get my chips in during scenario #3. I wish I could say I picked the best spot, quintupled up, and went on to take down the MTT. It would make a nice story, and it would really emphasize the importance of not giving up in an MTT and the importance of paying attention. Alas, Villain shows KQs, flops a K and no miracle happens.
Bah, hopefully there will be a better story to tell next time....