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Hand History Time Capsule: Daniel Negreanu

Negreanu Defeats Tough Final Table at the 2004 WPT Borgata Poker Open

by Erik Fast |  Published: Dec 01, 2011


Daniel NegreanuDaniel Negreanu is one of poker’s most recognizable names, and is one of the few players to achieve notoriety amongst the general public. He is sharp and outspoken at the table, and has the results to back up his fame. His rise to stardom may have something to do with the fact that in 2004 Negreanu had one of the greatest runs of any tournament player in history, just as poker’s popularity was booming. He made 11 final tables and won four massive titles, finishing the year with the prestigious title of 2004 Card Player Player of the Year and more than $4.4 million in total earnings.

By the time the 2004 World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open main event had rolled around, Negreanu had already had a career year. It was his performance at this final table that catapulted his 2004 performance from merely great to legendary. The $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em championship event had attracted 302 entrants, building a prize pool of $3,020,000 and a first prize of $1,117,400. After three grueling days of poker, the final six were set to play it out for the title and prize money.

An All-Star Final Table

Negreanu was joined at the final table by several of the biggest stars of the day, including David Williams and Josh Arieh who were fresh off their second and third place finishes respectively in the 2004 WSOP main event. Rounding out the final table were Phil Ivey, Chris Tsiprailidis and Brandon Moran.

Williams held a strong chip advantage to start, and was looking to improve on his runner-up finish at his most recent final table. Blinds began at 12,000-24,000 with a 3,000 ante. Early in the action, Ivey raised to 70,000 from the cut off with the AClub Suit 3Diamond Suit. Williams asked for a count from Ivey, then he elected to call with the 5Spade Suit 5Heart Suit, and the flop brought 10Diamond Suit 4Club Suit 2Diamond Suit. Ivey bet 105,000 and Williams then announced that he was all in. Ivey folded, leaving himself very short, while Williams extended his lead.

Shortly afterwards, Brandon Moran raised to 80,000 with ADiamond Suit 7Heart Suit. Arieh called with 3Heart Suit 3Club Suit, and Ivey picked up the ASpade Suit QSpade Suit and moved all-in for 323,000 more. Arieh announced that, “this might be a bad call, but I’m going to do it just to get rid of Phil,” as he made the call. He found himself slightly ahead in a classic race, and after the board ran out JClub Suit 10Club Suit 4Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit 7Spade Suit, Ivey was sent packing in sixth place with $105,700.

Negreanu On The Rise

With the blinds still at 12,000-24,000 with a 3,000 ante, Negreanu raised to 60,000 from the button with QDiamond Suit QClub Suit and was called by Arieh in the small blind with 5Heart Suit 5Club Suit. The flop brought the 9Diamond Suit 9Club Suit 7Spade Suit, giving both players two pair but maintaining Negreanu’s lead. Arieh checked, Negreanu bet 120,000 and Arieh called. The turn brought the 8Diamond Suit and now Arieh opted to bet 230,000. From the crowd, a fan yelled out to Negreanu, “Raise him!”
“That’s what I was thinking about doing,” said Negreanu, “but I’ll just call.”

He did just that and the river brought the 9Heart Suit. Arieh checked and Negreanu bet 360,000 with nines full of queens. Arieh made the correct fold with his inferior pocket pair, but Negreanu put some doubt in his mind by showing him the QDiamond Suit. Arieh groaned, “oh my god, I was right! The other one is the ten of diamonds.” Negreanu won the massive pot and got under his opponent’s skin at the same time.

Shortly afterwards, Negreanu eliminated Brandon Moran in fifth place when his JSpade Suit JClub Suit held against the stock trader’s AClub Suit KHeart Suit. Moran earned $135,900 for his efforts, while Negreanu raked a million chip pot and moved into second chip position, just barely behind Williams.

And Then There Were Three

After shooting up the leader board, Negreanu began to get involved in more pots. His reputation as a loose player and his recent level of activity undoubtedly played a role in the next key hand. With the blinds now at 20,000-40,000 with a 5,000 ante, Negreanu raised to 160,000 with the AClub Suit 9Heart Suit. Chris Tsiprailidis looked down at the 5Diamond Suit 3Spade Suit and instead of folding, decided to move all-in for 530,000 more. Negreanu counted out the chips necessary to call, and then looked up at Tsiprailidis and said, “you might be messing around.”

He grabbed two handfuls of chips and smashed them into the pot with a cry of, “Gamble!” Tsiprailidis jolted out of his nervous pose as if hit with an electric shock.
Negreanu knew he had made the right call, laughing as he said, “I caught you didn’t I!”
The board ran out QSpade Suit QHeart Suit 10Heart Suit 6Heart Suit 9Club Suit and Tsiprailidis was sent packing in fourth place with $181,200.

Familiar Territory

Mere months after finishing second and third in the 2004 WSOP main event, David Williams and Josh Arieh both found themselves once again in the same position: playing three handed with the title within reach.

Three-handed play was fast and furious as each of the players scrambled to take the lead in pots. With the blinds still at 20,000-40,000 with a 5,000 ante, Arieh limped in from the button with JClub Suit 9Diamond Suit and Negreanu checked his option from the big blind with 9Club Suit 6Club Suit. The flop brought the 10Club Suit 5Club Suit 3Diamond Suit and Negreanu bet the minimum: 40,000. Arieh raised to 120,000 and Negreanu quickly called. The turn brought the 7Diamond Suit and Negreanu checked. Arieh bet 225,000 and with a flush draw and a double-gutshot straight draw, Negreanu called. The river brought the 4Heart Suit, completing Negreanu’s straight. He bet 550,000 and without much delay Arieh announced that he was all in, following through with his multi-street stone-cold bluff.

Negreanu called with the straight, and just as in the WSOP main event, Arieh was eliminated in third place. For his efforts he took home $286,900.

Heads-Up Battle: Williams Turns The Tables

Negreanu entered heads-up play with roughly a 2-to-1 chip advantage over Williams. Williams had entered the final table with the chip lead, and it had seemed that Negreanu had mostly tried to stay out of his way until they arrived at heads-up play.

In an article he later wrote for Card Player, Negreanu recounts the heads up battle, saying, “my plan was to wait him out, hoping that he would make a big mistake in a key pot. In the meantime, though, I didn’t find any good situations to set a trap, and I was being grinded down. David was really playing great poker. He went out of his way to stay unpredictable, and I was having a tough time gaining any momentum at all.”

Williams seemed determined to not let Negreanu win the majority of the pots with his small-ball style. With the blinds increased to 30,000-60,000 with a 10,000 ante, Negreanu raised to 250,000 from the button with the 9Heart Suit 3Heart Suit and Williams called with KSpade Suit 10Club Suit. The flop brought the JDiamond Suit 7Spade Suit 4Spade Suit and Negreanu fired a continuation bet of 250,000. Williams raised to 700,000 and took down the sizable pot without showdown.

In another key pot, Negreanu limped from the button for 60,000 with KSpade Suit 2Diamond Suit and Williams checked from the big blind with 9Heart Suit 9Club Suit. The flop brought the 6Spade Suit 6Club Suit 3Spade Suit. Both players checked, with Williams playing his overpair deceptively. The 9Spade Suit fell on the turn, giving Williams a full house and Negreanu the second nut-flush draw. Williams checked again, Negreanu bet 60,000 and was quickly raised by Williams to 200,000. Negreanu called and the river brought the 6Diamond Suit. Williams bet 500,000 and Negreanu went into the tank, seeming genuinely frustrated by his opponents constant jabbing. He talked through Williams possible hands before ultimately making the call with king high only to be shown nines full of sixes, and just like that, Williams overtook the chip lead.

Big Hands, Big Rewards

Williams had come from behind by constantly applying pressure and not allowing Negreanu to outplay him in the small pots. Negreanu was ground down to around one million in chips, and needed to turn it around quickly. He limped-in for 60,000 from the button with AHeart Suit 2Club Suit. Williams raised from the big blind to 260,000 with the QSpade Suit QClub Suit and Negreanu called. Negreanu hit the perfect flop, 9Club Suit 2Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit. Williams moved all in and Negreanu called instantly. Williams was not able to hit one of the two remaining queens, and Negreanu doubled up with his trip deuces.

Williams still held a strong chip advantage. A few hands later he raised to 285,000 with QDiamond Suit 7Heart Suit and Negreanu looked down at the KDiamond Suit KClub Suit. Williams made a small reraise to 420,000 and Williams called. The flop brought the JDiamond Suit 5Diamond Suit 2Spade Suit and Negreanu lead for 400,000. Williams paused for a moment before announcing that he was all in. Negreanu announced a call almost instantaneously. This time Williams was making a move, and was drawing dead after the turn brought the 3Heart Suit. The meaningless 5Spade Suit ensured that Negreanu would double up, essentially pulling even with Williams.

Negreanu won a few more hands before looking down at the ASpade Suit ADiamond Suit. Williams had limped in with KDiamond Suit 6Diamond Suit and Negreanu raised to 400,000.

Williams called and the flop brought the KClub Suit JClub Suit 8Spade Suit. Negreanu bet out 400,000 and Williams announced that he was all in. Negreanu leapt to his feet and asked, “What’s that? You’re all-in? I call.”

Negreanu’s pocket aces were tabled, prompting Williams to say, “Nice slow roll.”
The turn brought the JDiamond Suit and Negreanu was one card away from the win, although he didn’t know it at the time, but he had Williams covered by just 100,000. The QHeart Suit hit the river, giving Negreanu the title and the $1,117,400 first place prize. Williams had finished runner-up yet again, earning $573,800 for this second-place finish.

How the Hand Histories Look Now

Daniel Negreanu was already a well respected pro, with considerable success in his career. However, this was his first WPT title, and at the time the biggest cash of his career. At a time when televised poker was exploding, he came through with a huge win, defeating a tough final table that featured Phil Ivey, Josh Arieh and a tough and unpredictable David Williams.

Negreanu used his well-known small-ball strategy to win as many of the small pots as possible, all the while priming his opponents to play back at him. This paid dividends when he picked up big hands late in the game. The 2004 WPT Borgata Poker Open truly was a final table for the poker history books in its own right, but it is perhaps even more important in that it acted as a catalyst in converting Daniel Negreanu from one of poker’s brightest stars into one of the game’s first true icons. ♠