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High Stakes Versus Daniel Negreanu

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Mar 18, 2015

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I recently had the pleasure of playing the $25,000 buy-in High Roller event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. The following hand took place during Day 2 before we got in the money. I had been playing a fairly tight, aggressive strategy, mostly due to being overly card dead. My opponent in this hand, Daniel Negreanu, had been playing a reasonably loose, aggressive strategy. He was winning lots of small pots with few major confrontations. He raised from the hijack four times so far into my big blind. I folded three times (due to having awful cards) and defended once. When I defended, I check-folded the flop when I failed to connect with the board. We have a bit of history such that he knows I can be somewhat wild, but given the recent past, he probably assumes I am in line most of the time.

At 2,500-5,000 blinds with a 500 ante, Daniel raised to 11,500 from the hijack. Everyone folded around to me. I decided to call 6,500 more out of my 180,000 stack from the big blind with AHeart Suit 9Club Suit. Daniel started the hand with more chips than me. Both reraising and calling are acceptable options. Since I know that Daniel likes to call reraises when in position, I decided to call because I did not want to play a large pot out of position with a hand that could easily be dominated versus a world-class player.

The flop came ADiamond Suit 8Spade Suit 3Spade Suit. I checked, Daniel bet 15,000 into the 30,000-chip pot, and I called. I don’t think there is much merit in check-raising the flop, because it allows Daniel to fold most of his hands worse than an ace unless he has a flush draw, which will be getting the correct price to call. By check-raising, I allow him to play almost perfectly, which would be a disaster. Leading is also not a great option because if he either calls or raises, I have no real way of knowing if I have the best hand or not. By check-calling, I force Daniel to stay in the pot with all of his hands that are crushed, such as JHeart Suit 10Heart Suit and 2-2, while making it difficult for me to lose a large pot when I happen to be beat.

The turn was the QClub Suit. I checked and Daniel thought for a while before checking behind. I don’t think his check on the turn tells me much about his range. Daniel is certainly good enough to check behind on the turn both for pot control and to induce a bluff from my marginal made hands and missed draws on the river. I think he would also check behind most of the time when he has nothing. While I cannot deduce much information from his check, I tend to think it weights his range more towards either total junk or made hands worse than mine, such as A-4 and Q-J.

The river was the 3Club Suit. At this point, I am chopping with all aces besides A-K, A-Q, A-8, and A-3. I beat all queens. I also beat all busted draws. Should I bet? If so, how much?

By checking, I give Daniel the opportunity to bluff with his missed draws and awful made hands, such as KSpade Suit 9Spade Suit and 4-4, hoping to make me fold an eight or marginal pocket pair. In general, I don’t think this would be a very good bluff in this situation, so I don’t like checking to induce a bluff. It is worth noting that checking makes it impossible for Daniel to raise if I bet the river, which is certainly a valid concern.

If I bet, I don’t think Daniel will ever fold any ace. He may decide to fold a queen if he gets the vibe that I actually have an ace. He may also call with an overly-wide range if he thinks I am bluffing with a missed draw. I have to decide which bet sizes will make Daniel think I am bluffing. This is a difficult spot because I have no clue how he views me in this exact situation. Especially when playing against world-class competition, do not fool yourself into thinking that you know what your opponent thinks about you and your range. I have no real idea of how Daniel will react to any of my possible bet sizes. Will he view a large bet as strong or weak? Will he view a small bet as small or weak? How will he view a “standard” medium sized bet?

I eventually decided that I should bet because I didn’t think Daniel would raise the river too often as a bluff. I bet 21,000 into the 60,000 pot, which is the bet size that I would pick with both my made hands and bluffs against a strong player. This sizing gives my opponent decent pot odds to call, while also allowing me to bluff cheaply. I have no clue if this bet size is ideal, but after thinking for around two minutes, Daniel folded. He later told me that he had king-high and that he almost called. While he could be leveling me, his statement makes me think it was a decent bet size, because if he could beat a few more potential bluffing hands, he probably would have called at least some percentage of the time. So, what bet size do you think is best? Should I have made a bet in the first place? Let me know by Tweeting to me @JonathanLittle. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker.