Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Save a Little by Cutting Corners

In No Limit hold’em tournaments, size your bets based on your opponent’s skill level. You can cut corners by betting wisely — save a little here and make a little extra there.

It’s one of my basic premises for tournament play: Choose to bet the lesser amount when a smaller-sized bet will accomplish the same objective as a bigger one.

You see, it’s really tough to hit a flop. That’s why players are often glad to see their opponents fold after they’ve made a post-flop bet. Say you flopped a hand like top pair. Well, there’s always the chance that someone else did even better, possibly flopping two pair or even three of a kind.

In tournament play, reduce your risk by targeting beginning players whose play is predictable. One way to exploit these players is by betting a bit less when you’re bluffing and a bit more when you have a strong hand. Beginners simply lack the sophistication to pick up on this betting pattern.

But don’t try this same strategy against skilled players. Professional players will eat you for lunch! They’ll see right through your gambit.

Let’s take a look at an example.

With blinds at 100-200, you decide to raise from late position with Q-J. A weak beginner calls from the big blind, leaving you heads-up with 1,100 in the pot. The flop comes As- 4c-4s, completely missing your hand and probably missing your opponent’s hand as well.

Against a thinking professional player, you might bet something around 800 if you were trying to steal the blinds. A bet of that size would make it a little too expensive for the pro to try to bluff the pot away from you if he had nothing at all.

Had you bet a lower amount instead, say 500, the pro might conclude that you don’t have an ace. He might consider reraising to 1,200, even with a marginal hand like J-9.

That’s not how it would work against a weak beginner.

Beginning players are predictable and rarely bluff. They tend to focus only on their own hand and simply hope to catch the one card they need to improve. This creates the ideal situation to cut a corner by betting a little less since your bet size won’t affect the outcome of the hand anyway.

Let’s go back to the sample hand.

Instead of betting 800 chips to try to steal the pot from a rank amateur, bet a smaller amount equivalent to your pre-flop raise. If he does have the ace, he’d probably call anything, making the size of your bet totally irrelevant. The smaller bet, however, will save you 300 chips. And those kinds of savings can really add up throughout the course of a tournament.

What if your novice opponent doesn’t have the ace? He’ll fold regardless of how much you bet. So there’s just no reason to risk more than you have to.

Let’s say, though, that you do happen to have the A-K. Make the bigger bet. The amateur will react the same way to a bet of 800 as he would to a 500 chip bet if he also has an ace. In this situation, a bigger bet will maximize the value of your hand.

Here’s one last thought to remember: The other skilled players at the table will know exactly what you’re up to. They’ll recognize your betting pattern. They’ll assume that you don’t have much of a hand and are just trying to run a bluff against a weak player. But that’s okay; they’re not in the hand anyway!

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

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