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Thoughts on the Match/Rematch

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Mar 21, '11


In my last blog, I didn't really add much of an opinion to what happened in the match, instead, I just outlined the 14 biggest pots. I wrote the blog right after the match, so it's probably best I didn't include any real thought behind it, because I was, understandably, not in the best mood!

It's been about 24 hours, and I've definitely had time to reflect on the match, and also put in plenty of work since then. A few hours after playing Isildur1, I sat with Kangis for about 1200 hands and won back 35,000. I was also experimenting with a few things during the match, and that continued today when I woke up.

I played a short 400 hand session vs DuggerGerngy winning $5000, then played 910 hands vs Justin Bonomo and picked up 45k. So since losing the $150k I clawed back $85k within 24 hours and hope to continue to improve/practice for a rematch vs Isildur Sunday, March 27th on

When I started practicing for this match a few months ago, I started at the $5-$10 level and played various players, including Justin Bonomo, Eugene Katchalov, and Nanonoko. That went really well. In 15,413 hands I won $46,081, or 29.90 big blinds per 100 hands. I also ran lucky in all in pots. While I won $46,081, if the cards broke even in all in pots where there are no decisions left to be made, I would have only won $39,180, about $7000 over par.

At the $50-$100 level, my luck ran out for the most part. I started out great picking up $100k vs K_O_S_T_Y_A, but then it was all downhill from there. In total, after 11,982 hands I'm stuck $333,731, or 27.85 bb/100. That's a lot of money and would be discouraging, except for the fact that when I factor in how unlucky I've been in all in situations, I rate to only be losing $138,000. Still a lot of money, but when you are playing the best young players in the world for "practice" I didn't expect it to be easy. If you ever want to be the best you can be, sometimes you have to pay for lessons, and that's essentially what I was doing here.

Having said that, my learning curve has been substantial and rapid. Since I tackled online poker at the start of 2010 my skill level both 6 max and heads up has improved dramatically. I've played less than 40,000 hands of $100-$200 6 max, $5-$10 HU, and $50-$100 HU combined. In the old days, that would have seemed like a ton of hands, but to the multi-tabling grinder this "a weekend."

I was so frustrated with how my match vs Isildur1 went. I knew I'd have to get lucky to win, as he is the more experienced player, but not only did he outplay me strategy wise, he got hit in the head with the deck too.

I can't do much about the bad luck, but I can do something about him outplaying me. Whatever happens next Sunday, whether I win or lose, the fact that Isildur1 is the better player won't change. He is very tough to play against, and I got a lot of chuckles from various twitter followers who had the "fool proof" strategy to beat him! They were pretty funny, anything from, "Don't call his overbets" to "When he jams the turn he has a flush draw." It's just that simple I guess. Ha!

Truth is, Isildur1 played very differently against me than what I expected. I wanted to go into the match fresh, without really listening to anyone else's view of how he played, but I obviously had heard things about his reputation. I wish I hadn't, because it did affect my decisions in certain situations.

The reason he won, aside from the lucky all ins/coolers, was that he figured me out pretty quickly and developed a counter strategy that left him protected for the most part. By the time I was prepared to make some adjustments, the match was already essentially over.

There is more to losing those big key pots in a match than most people realize. Normally, if I was just playing a cash game, if my opponent was on fire I'd just quit. Not because I believe in "luck" and that it's "not my day," but because when someone is winning they are at a psychological advantage which will allow them to play better. The true test of a poker player is how well he plays when things are going terribly.

The best poker player in the world, Phil Ivey, routinely calls it quits early in sessions when things are going badly. It's the exact opposite of what 99% of poker players do! Most players chase, and just want to get "unstuck," which means they'll often play for days when they are losing. That's a terrible way to approach poker as a business and it's buried plenty of people.

Had a few of those key pots went my way instead of his, I have no idea what would have happened. I'd obviously have won what was in the pot, but how else would that affected the match? Poker is a long term game and it requires an incredible amount of emotional stability and toughness to fight through the worst of times. Every player who's ever played for any length of time has endured bad runs that make them wonder, "Am I the unluckiest player in the world?" The answer is no, just ask Mike Matusow :-) Mikey believes he is the unluckiest player in the world, so you can't make that claim, it's taken!

I elected not to play the Wynn Classic, and instead devote my time to playing heads up on PokerStars all week in preparation for my rematch next Sunday. I haven't decided how I will approach the next match, a lot of that will depend how this week goes. I'll be doing some experimenting, as I mentioned, and I won't know exactly how I'm going to play him until the match starts. If you want to rail, check my twitter feed as I'll usually tweet when I'm playing. My twitter name is "RealKidPoker."

Daniel Negreanu is the 2004 CardPlayer Magazine and World Poker Tour Player of the Year. He presents his poker strategies in one-on-one virtual training at and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column.
Read all of Daniel Negreanu's poker blog and poker articles at Full Contact Poker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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