Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: A Personal Checklist for Playing Your Best Poker

No matter how many years you’ve played this game, it’s still important to review a personal checklist about your own game every time you sit down to play.

That’s how to know that you’re doing everything possible to play your best poker.

Make sure that your checklist contains these three subjects: playing fundamental poker, playing disciplined poker, and playing observational poker. If you are constantly aware of these topics, positive results will follow.

First, play fundamental poker. The tactics and strategies you employ must fit the style and composition of the game that you’re playing.

Sometimes you’ll find that your actions are skewed by the playing style of others at the table, and that’s not good. It is, however, inevitable if you aren’t focusing on your personal fundamentals.

For example, say you’re playing in a tough game with several players bluffing and making sophisticated plays. Obviously, you’ll need to make some adjustments to deal with these players. What often happens, though, is that when you return to facing weaker opponents, the adjustments you’ve made to hang with the better players will actually work against you.

You see, the same fancy plays used to deal with pros can lead to tournament elimination when used against amateur players.

When entering a new table, focus on playing an appropriate and fundamentally strong game. If the table warrants a different approach, adjust your play accordingly. Realize, however, that you’ll need to return to basic ABC poker when that session ends. Trust me; this is a difficult but necessary change to make.

Second, play disciplined poker.

Okay, so you’re playing both fundamental poker and a style that is appropriate for your table. Now, just stick with it.

When circumstances start to turn bad, some players get impatient and make ill-advised moves. For example, one guy might constantly reraise you before the flop. Just because you’re fed up with his antics doesn’t mean you should make a silly play. Don’t panic. Instead, let him continue to push until you find the right situation to trap him for all his chips.

Remember, though, no plan is bulletproof. Still, it’s essential to have a plan and to stick to it, especially in the face of adversity.

Finally, be observant.

Don’t get lazy! Unfortunately, it happens to all of us. Remind yourself to be observant every time you sit down at a table.

Playing fundamental and disciplined poker will only get you so far. If you don’t pay full attention to what’s happening at the table, you’ll lose your edge, costing yourself valuable opportunities to make really good decisions.

It’s easy to play on autopilot. But the simple truth is that you’ll win more often when you know exactly how your opponents play. You can’t afford to miss the physical tells and betting patterns that you’d likely miss if you don’t pay attention.

It’s the power of observation that delivers that extra edge

Observation skills are generally weakest among online players. These players are accustomed to frenetic internet action but bore easily in live tournaments where the pace is much slower. They just don’t pay as much attention as they should.

Having keen observational skills is what separates the best players in the world from everyone else. Make this your top priority.

Watch every action that occurs at a poker table — in every single hand. Sure, you’ll miss some things. But if you strive for perfection and fall a little short, you’ll still end up with far better results.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s newest book, More Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.

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