Are You Truly Putting Your Opponent on a Hand?

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Submitted by Vic Porcelli, this article belongs to the Poker Strategy series.

We’ve all watched the great Daniel Negreanu call out an opponent’s hand.  Let’s go back to the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event.  Daniel starts the hand with a 7-4 spades in position.  (A typical starting hand for him)  His opponent, Matt Traudt holds a K-9 clubs.  The flop comes 8 hearts-7 diamonds- 6 diamonds.  Both players check the flop.  The turn is the 10 spades.  That gives Traudt the straight.  Traudt checks.  Daniel bets 4,000 chips.  Traudt check raises all in.  Daniel immediately says.  “I had you on the flop.  You got me on the turn. That card there, (he points to the 10 spades)  that changed the leader.   You had some kind of nine right?  King nine?  Daniel folds his hand and Traudt shows his hand, the King Nine of clubs.

So, is Daniel Negreanu a magician?  Make no mistake, he puts people on a hand better than anyone on the planet.  But how does he do it?
Believe it or not part of the answer is Daniel’s own table image.  He is the master of  “small ball” poker.  Raising virtually any two cards with expectation of a continuation bet regardless of the whether the flop hits his hand or not.  If he faces a re-raise, he’s out.  Due to the fact of his relentless exposure, other players know this style.  Mike Traudt knows it.  Which is why he would be in the hand with a K-9 to begin with.  Traudt did not re-raise Daniel pre-flop, so Daniel can be safe to believe that Traudt does not hold a premium hand like AA or KK.
On the flop, both players check.  If Traudt had any over pair, he would fire at that pot to make Daniel pay to draw either a straight or flush with two streets yet to come.  Then 4th street tells the story.  The 10 puts the straight draw on the board and Traudt checks!  That’s the key component to the story Daniel was trying to put together. Daniel puts in a bet, and Traudt check raises all in.  He clearly hit the straight.

But Daniel Negreanu always has to go a step further doesn’t he?  He calls out Traudt’s two cards exactly!  But why did he guess a K-9?  Why not A-9?  Had Traudt held A-9, he more than likely would have re-raised Daniel pre-flop.  But he didn’t.  So a K-9 made all the sense in the world to Daniel and Norman Chad suggests maybe we should send him to find Osama Bin-Laden.

Let’s put this into practice for you.  You can start to develop a story right from the pre-flop betting.  If you raise a A-Q from middle position, and you get re-raised from the big blind, you immediately must put that player on a hand better than yours.  The big blind knows he will be horribly out of position after the flop.  Would you want to be out of position with anything less than AA, KK, or AK?
Conversely if the button re-raises, you can expect he is using position after the flop as a weapon against you.  If you miss your flop and check to him, he will fire at the pot, guaranteed.  If you fire a continuation bet after missing the flop, he will more than likely raise you just to see where is.  If you missed the flop you will have to fold.

Let’s say you hold Q clubs-Q spades.  You raise and the cutoff seat just calls.  Your first piece of the puzzle is in place.  He more than likely does not hold AA or KK.  You know you are ahead pre-flop. The turn comes 6 diamonds-10 diamonds – J hearts.  You throw out a bet of about half the pot.  Your opponent calls.  Without a raise you have to assume he is on the flush draw.  If he hit a set he would re-raise you in a heartbeat.  The turn is a deuce diamonds.  You bet half the pot, he comes over the top and re-raised you all in.  You are beat. Throw away your Queens.  That’s a tough lay down to make with two over cards to the board, but you have to know that your opponent hit his flush. Throw it away.

You started with a great hand two Queens.  The board betrayed you and you had to fold the third best starting hand in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em.  But one of the most basic rules you must follow to be successful is that hand strengths change with each street and sometimes you have lay down a premium starting hand, which will be the topic of my next column.  “Don’t get married to a hand.”

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3 Comments to Are You Truly Putting Your Opponent on a Hand?

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April 7, 2009

Never have played poker before, but am interested in getting involved. do you have a site or older articles that are a little more basic?

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April 15, 2009

There are a few points here.
1/ Daniel is a great player, no question about it.
2/ What you see on the TV are just highlights chosen to make us say “woow”, let us remember that,
3/ Online multi-tabling or even single-tabling, there is no way to make that depth of analysis for each hand,
4/ In a live tourney, they have a lot of time to analyze their opponents, who do not change often.
Just my two cents to add to what you posted.

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