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Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us -- Playing Against Maniacs

Daniel Negreanu Breaks Down A Low-Stakes Cash Game Hand


Daniel NegreanuIt’s great to see pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth battling it out on poker’s biggest stages for millions of dollars, but the truth is that most of us will never get the same opportunity, nor will we really learn anything from their play that directly applies to our own games. The truth is that while we all aspire to be the next Phil Ivey, many of us will do so from the comfort of our friendly neighborhood home game or the low-stakes tables at a nearby cardroom.

In an effort to provide valuable tools and tips that are relevant to even the smallest games, Card Player is pleased to unveil the brand new series Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us, which will focus on everyday situations that occur against the poker world’s most casual players.

ProDaniel Negreanu

Concept — Playing against maniacs

Daniel Negreanu is one of the few players in the world who needs no introduction. There isn’t anything that “Kid Poker” hasn’t done in poker. He has multiple bracelets, a World Series of Poker player of the year award, millions in tournament earnings, and lots of success in the biggest side games around.

Back in 2009, Negreanu made a challenge to himself to start with $10, have a few strict guidelines, start at the micro stakes, and try to run that $10 up to a high stakes bankroll. Since he has experience with the micro stakes, Negreanu sat down with Card Player to break down a micro stakes hand played on the Merge network by one of our readers.

The Hand

In a $.05-$.10 six-max no-limit hold’em game, our hero ($10) is in the cutoff with AHeart Suit 6Heart Suit and when it folds to him, he raises to $.30. The small blind ($5.99) is his only caller and they see a flop of 6Club Suit 4Club Suit 2Heart Suit. The small blind checks and our hero bets $.46 and was called by the small blind. The turn was the 8Spade Suit and the small blind checks again. Our hero bets $1.20 and was called once more by the small blind. The river is QHeart Suit and the small blind moves all in for $4.03 and was called by our hero. The small blind showed ASpade Suit 7Club Suit and our hero scooped the pot with his pair of sixes.

The Interview

Steve Schult: So it folds to our hero in the cutoff. Is the raise with A-6 suited too loose? Should we be playing very tight in micro stakes games?

Daniel Negreanu: A raise to three times the blind is standard in this spot and I’m fine with it.

SS: The small blind is running a 76 VPIP (voluntarily put into pot), a 21 preflop raise percentage, and has a 12.5 aggression factor (ratio of bets/raises to calls). He is obviously very active. So when he calls here out of the small blind, are we able to narrow his hand range down at all?

DN: Not really. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 76 percent of hands (laughs).

SS: So the flop comes 6-4-2 and the small blind checks. Our hero bets $.46 into $.70. Do you like the sizing of his flop bet?

DN: First off, I’m never folding this flop. As far as his sizing goes, I like his sizing. I probably bet anywhere between $.45 – $.50.

SS: When the small blind check-calls, are we able to deduce anything about his hand yet?

DN: It’s so difficult with a player like that. They are so bad they could be calling with like Q-J just to take a card off. It doesn’t really narrow down anything at all.

SS: By that logic, would you want to bet a little more just to extract value?

DN: Overall I think you just want to play normal because you have such a big hand, that you don’t necessarily want to get him off Q-J. Just go ahead and play it standard.

SS: The turn card is the 8Spade Suit and the villain check-calls $1.20. What’s going on at this point?

DN: I probably would have bet a little less than $1.20. I would have been closer to $1.00 or $1.05. I would have liked to bet closer to 60 percent of the pot, rather than 75 percent there because that is a card that could beat you too. He could have 7-8 or something like that.

SS: So is the reason for the smaller sizing for pot control?

DN: A little bit. If you do get check raised, it’s a little easier to call the check raise. And you can also get a few more light calls from some of his really weak hands. On top of that, if he does have you beat, you are able to save yourself some money.

SS: Are there any cards on the turn that could come that would make you want to check back the turn?

DN: Probably not. Not against that guy.

SS: The river is the QHeart Suit and now the small blind moves all in for just over $4 for a pot sized bet. What do we think he has and are we going to call?

DN: I mean, jeez, who knows what he has really. It’s very unlikely that he just has a queen, so what is he really representing here. If the guy is that bad and that weird and you are getting 2:1, you might not like it, but you can’t really narrow him down to too much. If he happened to hit the queen on the river, then fine, you can have it. If he was bad enough to slow play something earlier, go ahead and give it to him. I just don’t think you can really fold against a guy that is that bad. I probably just pay it off and hope that he had something stupid like a missed flush draw.

SS: What kind of cards on the river would we fold to his jam?

DN: The worst card is like a five or a seven. Those cards make it a lot more likely that he made a straight, but realistically without more information and just knowing that he plays 76 percent of hands, he is as aggressive as he is, and he’s been playing bad, you usually just have to call the river. The line is so stupid that if he has it, he’s earned it. You are getting 2 to 1 and I don’t think you are a 2 to 1 dog with any river card against a guy like that.

SS: Let’s say the small blind checks the river to us. Are we going to value bet the hand or check it back?

DN: I actually wouldn’t bet the hand for value if I don’t improve on most cards. He could be weak enough to be checking an eight and if he does have a missed draw, he’s probably not calling. So we are only getting value from a four or a deuce. There is a slight danger of being check raised and then what do you have to do? Fold? I would just be happy to check the hand down on any river that didn’t improve me.



5 years ago

Okay so he goes in depth talking about Daniel Negreanu's Goal to grind $10 from the Micro stakes at .05/.10 into a High Stakes Bankroll (Not sure what he consider's a High Stakes bankroll) If he's playing 50/100 -- 100 Big Blinds that's 10k a buy in and the Pro's recommend 20 buy in's for your level, so that's 200k i'm guessing is his rough goal ? Then the writer never mentions how Daniel is doing thus far, when he started, or if he has a goal in mind of a time frame to complete this task. I would like to know Where daniel is at in his current adventure, how much he's made, what stakes hes playing, what stakes were the hardest to move up in so far ? I want to know more!


5 years ago

All ya had to do was Goooooogle it


5 years ago

Posted in: Blog | Aug 14, 2012

Back in 2009, pro Daniel Negreanu decided to challenge himself. Despite having millions in poker winnings in the bank, he set a goal to turn $10 into $100,000 within three years by playing ring games online.

Negreanu’s rule was that he would not move up in limits until he had 500 big blinds at the next limit, starting at $0.01/$0.02. Why sweat it out at the small stakes?

“It’s kinda fun,” Negreanu wrote in his blog. “It will help me have a better understanding of these lower limit games and the best approach to beating them.”

The legend quickly seemed to lose interest in the pursuit. (He is already past his stated three-year deadline.) But Negreanu picked the challenge up again Monday, resuming by sitting at a $.25/.50 no-limit hold’em cash game with a total bankroll of $221.70.

Negreanu says that this time around, he’s not giving himself a deadline


5 years ago

Great way to start the article by telling us that we can't learn anything from the way the pros play 'at their level'. Should we stop reading blogs and buying books? Although not having experience beyond 2-5, I find huge similarities to how the game is played (both cash and tournament) from watching the higher levels.

Although we dont want to give the Maniac too much credit here, applying pressure is part of the game and we have to choose whom to apply it to and when. Can the player reload? No one wants to be felted and although we should be playing at stakes beyond our bullets, we all know this happens on a regular basis. Our Hero has the advantage of the online stats presented to him and can make an easier call. Whereas in the live game you may only have an hour in front of some players to help determine your decision.

Is this call all the easier since it's only 'a gallon of gas' or does DN think it is just as easy at 300-600 when $30k is pushed into the middle by Dwan or Laak? It really shouldn't be .. should it?


almost 5 years ago

Don.t forget, the pros that Daniel is playing have proved themselves time and time again. No one at his table has a VPIP of 70 plus and an aggressive factor of 12.5, not even the most aggressive pros. I would imagine that if you were playing in a standard ring game this player would be easy to spot and probably won't be around for too long. Still, this is a tough call to make, even against a maniac who doesn't seem to fold here. Then again, what is he trying to represent? You have to figure with his aggressiveness factor that you would have heard from a hand like a set or flopped straight with the two flush draws available. A check raise is almost certainly likely on the turn. There is a possibility of somethin fishy like a Q 4 spades but that is unlikely as well. However, he would have prob raised with that hand as well.