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My Two Mistakes from WSOP 2015

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Jul 15, '15

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As I've gotten older, more mature, and better at tournament poker, the mistakes I make are much smaller, but not any less significant. When you look at professional golf as an example, what makes them better is not that they consistently hit perfect shots, it's that their misses are not as big as the average golfer. When they are 105 yards out they are trying to sink the shot. They rarely do, but they often get the ball to within 5 feet of the hole.

The two mistakes I'm going to share with you may not seem all that big, but they are the two that stick out to me so I thought I would share them with you:

Hand #1 Justin Schwartz threw out a 500k chip in the cutoff with 80k-160k blinds and didn't say anything. I know limping is part of his game plan, but he had smaller denomination chips that he could have called with. My thinking was that he did this on purpose to make it look like he meant to raise so that the rest of us left in the hand would be less likely to attack his limp.
I picked up 7d 8d on the button and limped. This is exactly the type of hand that plays well post flop and I didn't think it was necessary to isolate Justin. The small blind folded and the big blind checked his option.
The flop came Kd 7s 6c and both players checked to me. Here is where the mistake comes: I bet 250k. The big blind folded, and a short stacked Justin check raised to 600k. I called with lots of back door potential with a 3 card straight, 3 card flush, and a pair.
The turn was the 3 of clubs and he went all in for about 3 million. I didn't think about it for very long and folded my pair.

So what is the mistake? My bet sizing on the flop allowed Justin enough room to check raise me as a bluff. If I bet 450k he would have to risk a million or so to bluff me and that wouldn't have left him enough wiggle room. By betting just 250k in a spot where I could easily be bluffing myself, I opened the door to get outplayed. I found out later that he had QT of clubs so he turned a flush draw but I was still ahead. I don't think folding the turn is a mistake, besides, he had 15 outs to beat me, but that could have been avoided had a I made a more substantial bet on the flop.

Hand #2 Blinds at 150k-300k Alex (short stacked) raised from middle position at a 5 handed table to 600k and I defended the small blind with Ac 6c and we went heads up to a flop of 10-10-3. I checked, he bet just 350k and I called. The turn was a 9 and we both checked, and once again it went check check on the Jack river.

So what is the mistake? This one is a little more subtle so think about this one for a minute...

Some would argue calling preflop is a mistake. I disagree with that, and that's not the mistake. When I checked and he bet 350k I felt like I had the best hand, but wasn't certain. The play was to check raise to one million and put the pressure on Alex to guess. A 10 is a card that is very likely to be in my hand (9T, JT, QT, KT, AT) so even if he had a hand like 88 he may consider folding. Truth is though, he rarely has a hand like that and bets only 350k. To call my check raise he would have to call more than 25% of his stack and then be in no mans land on the turn whether I bet or check.

Turns out he had Q9 and hit the 9 on the turn to beat me that hand. Many would look at the hand and think "unlucky." I don't see any value in that. What's the point in labeling it as lucky or unlucky? Did I play the hand the best way that I could? No. There is value in analyzing your plays, not your variance.

My last hand was the A4 vs J3dd hand on an AKTdd flop. Some will argue that against a player who opens 100% of buttons in that spot, that moving all in preflop is a better play. I think for most people that is absolutely true, but not for me, and not in that situation. The reasoning for that is a little lengthy but I'll try to explain it in brief the best I can:

My goal was to win the tournament not make the final 9. I knew that Joe was abusing the bubble and the other players were not fighting back. I felt fine playing both in position and out of position against his very weak range post flop. My strategy wasn't to just guess when he had a hand preflop that was strong enough to call a reraise, it was to see flops with him and eek out value wherever I could and rather than double up in a flip situation, GRIND my way to a double up.

It was working. I was able to go from 4 million in chips to 9 million without being in an all in situation. I was clawing my way back into the match by seeing flops and moving in with some hands when necessary.

Once I got over 8 million it allowed me to start defending my blind a bit more liberally against Joe. A few rounds in a row I had defended the blind, once with an all in reraise with KT, a much better hand to move all in with than A4, by the way, considering how he was playing.

So the reason I chose to call with A4 rather than reraise was threefold:

1) It balances my calling range from the blind a little bit
2) I WILL get extra value post flop when I hit an Ace. He can't check an Ace
3) I avoid getting it all in preflop in spots where I will almost certainly be a 2-1 underdog when called


Once the flop came out, the hand played itself and it wasn't meant to be in the end. Had I won that pot, though, I would be sitting on a very healthy stack of about 14 million. That's the way I do it. Chop away, chop away, chop away, see flops, try to get it in good when necessary, and then hopefully the hand holds. It didn't this time, but I'm quite happy with how I played overall and stuck to my game plan throughout.

I said this to a friend yesterday and I will leave you with this, "The game is much simpler than people want to make it out to be. It's only complicated when you choose to complicate it."
 
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 CardPlayer.com.
 

Comments

Rhys1
over 6 years ago

Hand #1 It's always better to raise the limper and get information about the strenght of his/hers hand. Of course, a limper can possibly trap you holding a monster hand and by just calling your raise, but I doubt a short stack would do that. A short stacked limper who has a big hand would in the most cases shove when raised. By raising from the button you also get information about the blinds. By limping you give the blinds an opportunity to call and check with let's say 76 and K6 and then your flopped pair has no value. By limping and then betting 1/3 of the pot when checked to you shows weakness, you are exposed to a bluff, and that's exactly what happened.
Hand #2 There are two better options than calling pre-flop: 3-betting and folding, it depends of the size of your stack. 3-betting is IMHO the best option, you represent a big hand, and if your opponent calls, another bet on the flop is in the most cases enough. You are Daniel Negreanu and people respect you, so take advantage of that. If you decide to call with Ac6c out of position you have to have a plan if you fail to connect. Both leading out and check-raising is ok, but you chose a donkey call with A high and a crap kicker. And again, you don't have information about your opponent's strenght, and worse you give him a free card to connect with worse hand.
Hand #3 With your stack, calling here is the worst option. You are against a huge stack and 3-bet shoving is not much better, he'll call you with any two cards, he is not under pressure at all, and he can gamble - you can't. Better wait and put the pressure on the short and middle stacks, and with a better hand. A4 is a crap hand and you know it.

 
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Zack2
over 6 years ago

Def learned a bit into your mind and since ive been in these spots before i learned a bit more on how to play them too. Feel like your last hand it might have been time to switch it up and make a play. I know you like flops and small ball and it was working great, maybe against the rest of the table it was the strategy. But the chip leader knew that so maybe it was time to just shove. I understand just calling and hitting the Ace to gain extra value. But your banking on him not hitting and continue and fold to your bet. You a lot better than, well everybody so maybe your more comfortable with A rag but i know i would not be. If he hits anything decent or its a draw flop he is going to call you with that stack and a marginal hand, with a chance to get outdrawn. What bothers me is how i dont read anything about having a tell on the opponent like you explained in scenario #1. Id prefer having a soul read in that situation. If you think the A is good and you really dont think he is strong, shove and collect those chips. If not just fold. Folding might increase the value of you getting more credit for a hand if you shove a couple of hands later. You were BB. You can collect those chips and maybe try to put pressure on the other stacks when the button moves a little more. Esp if they were playing tight like it seems. Id just rather have seen you attack the chip leader with a stronger hand if you wanted to out play him on the flop. I know he is the guy to double you up but he is running hot. He folds a lot of hands with the fear of doubling you up. I know your looking to win the tournament, but i dont think thats going to happen with A4 in that spot. In the end hard to really say much since your style clearly works and mine allows me to comment on the tournament instead of playing it lol. Still congrats, if someone told me if i would come in 11th in the main event next year id ask where to sign.

 
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AceupmySlv
over 6 years ago

All fine except last hand. You can defend the play all you want, but it is definitely NOT the correct play here regardless. If he is opening the button 100% of the time, he is probably only defending that reraise about 30% of the time (his top 30% preflop range). So, he is folding about 70% of the time and the 30% he does call, you are still only a 45% to 55% dog to the all in calling range. 70% to take it down there and then 45% chance to win the other 30% of the time? pretty damn good odds!

Your logic is you want to play small ball with him and if an ace comes, you know he will bet it and you can then reraise all in for more value. An Ace is only coming on the flop a low% of the time (10%-15%?, sorry, don't actually have this exact %), so what do you do with a hand like A 4 when an ace does not come? He is most likely cbetting no matter what, so now you are lost and need to decide whether push or fold. If you call with A high then this means you should have just pushed pre-flop then. If you fold, now you have lost a good portion of your stack for no reason at all. Just MO of course.

 
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Juan3
over 6 years ago

If Daniel's hand holds, we'd all be saying what a great play it was and he got max value even though he had to fade. But tbh I have to disagree with the play regardless of the outcome. I don't think messing around with Ace rag from out of position against the big stack is a profitable play. He is going to apply all kinds of pressure. What's the plan when we miss our ace? Check raise barrel with air and hope he folds? Lead out and again, hope he folds? Float from oop and then donk stuff it on the turn? I just don't like any of these plays vs a big stack who as others have stated, can gamble with any kind of a hand or draw to knock out the best player at the table. So was the plan to check fold when we miss? How is that a good play when short? That's what fish do. They try to hit. Of course DN is not a fish, so what's the plan when we whiff? There are spots and then there are better spots. And sometimes there are great spots. This spot was mediocre at best. Ace rag if we're going to do anything is best to ship it against a button open who's range is ATC basically. We have the most fold equity at this point in the hand. One, because it's our entire stack and two, it's preflop where he can't really realize his equity without seeing a flop given his wide opening range. I understand the playing for the win mentality, but there will be better spots against other players. I think there needs to be a balance between taking marginal spots in order to give yourself the best chance to win the tournament, vs, forgoing those marginal spots in order to have a better shot at making the FT. Once at the FT, then play for the win. But making FT should have been paramount being so close to it. I'm not saying fold away and hope you squeak in, I'm just saying find better spots and let go of very marginal, high variance spots. But alas, who the heck am I to be commenting here and criticizing one of the greats. Just my two cents for what it's worth.

 
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WPS22
over 6 years ago

It's baffling that he thinks that turn fold was fine,in hindsight, because the guy had 15 outs.

If you want to say the guys range crushes yours or something, then ok, but saying that it was ok to fold because you ONLY had 65-70% equity, when you only needed a little over half of that to call, is amazing.

 
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CrazyBenny
over 6 years ago

Backseat driving! Your just making excuses for bad playing! Your on the button and you raise with a 7-8 suited. PU. You just didn't get away with it. What you were lacking on that hand was your typical luck that you always had. That's why your where you at!

 
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Barry2
over 6 years ago

A4 vs J3dd was an easy push for anyone. Increasing your stack by 30% with little risk gives you the best chance to win the tournament. The fold equity there is massive (again, for winning not just making final 9). I understand your logic, it is just flawed.

 
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Muddpye
over 6 years ago

Daniel u just ran into a guy who had big time leverage with his stack…. and with J3dd he hit as good a quality a flop with his hand as there is in poker…4 flush and a got shot. Had you re-raised all in pre flop with your A4 perhaps he calls you with his leverage and says "screw it I like my 2 suited live ones" anyhow. You stayed true to your methods and played crazy good cards and really rallied the poker community behind you. Variance, like you said, is not worth analyzing. I admire your play tremendously. ~ I can tell you in your position I would have gone all in short stacked against a volatile chip leader or I would have folded and waited for a better time. One or the other for me especially short. If you fold you have the opportunity to play in position and work on augmenting your stack with less headwinds and a higher likelihood to use your talent for the ultimate chance of winning the tourney. ~ Folks like you are so damn easy to root for!

 
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Mr. Honest
over 6 years ago

You finished 11th out of almost 6500 people. Not to shabby. If that A4 holds your back in business. They look like mistakes now but you were playing your game and it went that way. What can you do? Good job.

 
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Chris80
over 6 years ago

Exactly. A4 could have made on the "right day". Check your stars for the day and you'll see why it went the other way. At that level, it is all out of your hands, in the hand of fate.

 
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Joseph22
over 6 years ago

I was there watching Daniel and was cheering for you. You explain how you play post flop for value and I agree with that strategy but I have a question. You had AA vs JJ in a hand after reraising pre you didn't Get much value post flop. Were u expecting him to move in on you?

 
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Chris80
over 6 years ago

You're a great poker player but are pretty much oblivious to the fact that you have *set* lucky and unlucky days. Lucky days not only giving you better hole cards and draws but also giving you the 50/50's on average as well as timing. Google lucky days, here's an unlock code for you to start learning the other third of the game: 15266759

 
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paulstar
over 6 years ago

A4: FOLD and wait!
Short stacks gain biggest advantage when 10-handed, so wait!
At 10-handed, short stacks can be much more patient and wait for solid EV shoving situation.
You have 2 full rounds of play (with your stack size) to either wait for someone to get knocked out or to pick-up a premium hand with better EV.
If neither happen, you then have almost 4 million (10 bigs) and are at the mercy of luck because your shoving range obviously becomes wider, and you still have a small chance of getting premium hand in those next few hands when at 10 BB.
Therefore, folding A4 far outweighs the risk of running into a better hand, because winning increases your stack by less than 20% and only buys you a little more than a round of play - NOT WORTH THE RISK considering your 'tournament chip value' (not critical yet) where there is still enough value in your stack size giving you 'waiting ability' for one of two potential factors: reaching ten-handed OR picking up an even better hand/spot in next 2 rounds of play.
Some may argue that this 'is' a good spot to shove against his range and that your chip sizing still has fold equity. But my argument against 'fold equity' is that by waiting you are no longer banking on fold equity because you are going to raise a hand premium enough where you DON'T want them folding, or hopefully reach ten-handed during your wait for that premium hand. Furthermore, although it's a 'good' spot against his range, it's not worth the risk of gaining less than 20% verse getting called by a better hand PF because the 'tournament value of almost 6 million chips' is strong enough to wait - period!
Mathematically speaking, to debate your theory Daniel, the only hand that calls your A4 you when you hit the ace is usually one that beats, so other than that you are only gaining his additional C-Bet (assuming he missed) when you CR the flop after hitting the Ace. So you need the exact formula of >> you hitting, him missing, all to gain whatever his C-bet is 'if' he bets (because that's not always a guarantee) and no more chips to earn after that if he has air (though there is the chance he may call you if he hit second pair and would never put you an ace since you didn't shove PF, although again that's too perfect a situation to ask for to try to extract more chips). It's OK to grind that way to try and gain his extra C-Bet when you have wiggle room in your chip stack - but you have none, so if you're going to take that risk in the first place, then just shove PF! Both calling and shoving are wrong but shoving is at least better than calling.
Folding is the correct play when considering the two above COMBINED factors that explain why you should wait.....

 
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paulstar
over 6 years ago

A6 may not have been a mistake.
If you are intending to CR flop and that fails if he checks, then a turn bet is almost always in order except depending on your 'read' of the player.
***I believe there was the possibility (though I may be wrong) that you picked up a subtle read on him when the 9 hit, and decided to be done with the hand!***
Any turn card between a seven and king (except a ten) creates a semi-wet board, so now things have changed dramatically. It went from a flop of "He is only checking the flop if he has a monster or air" to a turn of "He could have paired the turn card 7,8,9,J,Q,K or any one of these cards also creates a potential straight draw that he may semi-bluff raise with, where a 9 or J is the worst of all turn cards because has the widest range of opening up total potential straight draws and/or over-card draws". In either case, although a turn bet is still in order with these added threats, and the reason you didn't pull the trigger was because you may have felt his strength in a tell where he either hit the turn or it gave him a nice draw, where in both these cases the strength of the tell is usually approximately the same.
I like to be optimistic in crediting you in a situation where you may have overlooked your own read, because we often get hard on ourselves when someone gets 'lucky' (as he did after hitting the 9) and this jogs are mind to become bias against often 'good' reasons for making a play - in this case your check of the turn!
Paul Sokoloff

 
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paulstar
over 6 years ago

Don't listen to people who tell you to 3Bet PF with 78s.
You have made millions in your career by playing them PF the way you did.
You have positive implied odds by calling.
You risk the minimum to potentially gain the maximum; plus you have position for stealing to a checked flop, because the pot is small and not worth fighting for, plus NO ONE knows where you stand in the hand since you called the button.
If you raise PF and are called by only Justin, then your hand now has reverse implied odds with 78! It's also still slightly reverse if one of the blinds calls, though not as bad.
There's the possibility that he meant to raise and accidentally didn't, so calling is good!
There's the possibility he called with a huge hand hoping to get someone (particularly you) to raise so he can then 3-bet, so calling is good!
Too many reasons that making calling the correct play with your hand.
Now, regarding what you thought was a mistake: Hard to say for sure. I notice that players this deep in the Main, year after year, are usually this deep because they have made bold plays, and also played the player more often than the hand - though often played badly with incorrect reads, the one's who made either the correct plays on reads or got lucky when they were incorrect, are the one's that make it this deep, for the most part - and are certainly not slowing down this style of playing when this deep in the tourney, again, for the most part... so with that being said, I feel Justin was in CR mode anyhow and decided to go for the steal whether 250 or 450, either based on a tell he gets off you (less likely) or based on boldness and mathematics that he feels you don't hit that king if you didn't raise the flop (more likely). Yes, it would cost him significantly more to CR steal over a bet of 450 verse 250 but players are this deep for reasons beyond thinking mathematically carefully about their chip stack and are often playing their opponents more fearlessly, hence the term 'bold plays'. You may be right that 250 was too small, but in that case the only way to shut him out completely is to make a pot-sized bet, whereby now it is too big of a bet for him to come over the top of, unless he wants to put a majority of chips on the line over a 'read' with absolute air (extremely unlikely). I'm not saying a pot-sized bet is in order though, because in order to make that bet, you have to know that he: 1) has nothing 2) is in CR mode (with nothing) of bet sizes you make which give him enough room to gamble a CR that won't commit the majority of his stack.... and if you knew that about him and could make those deep kinds of reads regularly, not only would be the absolute best player to ever play the game, but also no one would even be close to you, and everybody would be fighting for second best all-time for as long as you play poker. In other words, you are not making that read most of the time, and therefor not betting a pot-sized bet most of the time! You took a shot with 250, it didn't work, and as a result you over-analyzed it when you realized you got bluffed off the hand (by someone who was most-likely bluffing you off the hand had you bet 450 too!).
I think you are being too hard on yourself over the A6 hand and the 78s hand, and the only error was clearly the A4 hand which should have been folded, though an A4 shove is not the worst play but is 'tournament chip' -EV considering your chip stack (not critical) and considering how close you are to ten-handed which hugely benefits short stacks.
Paul Sokoloff

 
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dummyhand
over 6 years ago

Thank god you are all on hand to give Daniel Negreanu poker advice.

 
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paulstar
over 6 years ago

***corrections from my posts:

a6 hand
...if you are intending to CR flop and that fails if he checks, OR YOU FROZE AND FAILED TO CR FLOP...
...and this jogs OUR mind....

78s hand
...he feels you don't hit that king if you didn't raise PRE flop (more likely)...

 
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