Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Don’t Do Anything Stupid!

Some of the best poker advice I ever received came from someone who didn’t even play the game.

You see, after a tournament I think about what went wrong. Perhaps I’d played well, consistently increasing my chip stack when — boom — I made a stupid play and blew most of my chips.

That’s the exact scenario I discussed with my friend. I told her I was playing my usual game, staying within my system, and then inexplicably veered from that approach and entered a big pot in a risky situation.

Her response was simple yet powerful: “Don’t do anything stupid!”

That comment really resonated with me. To this day, when I play in big poker tournaments and find myself considering a potentially stupid move, I hear her voice and usually let go of the hand.

So, what defines a stupid play in tournament poker? It’s generally when you do one of three things: bluff in a situation when you shouldn’t, call a large bet with a weak hand hoping to catch an opponent on a bluff, or gamble in a coin flip situation for a large percentage of your chips.

Here are a few tips to avoid making stupid plays.

When you play in big dollar buy-in poker tournaments, pay attention to the pace at which blinds escalate and the amount of starting chips you receive. In most high-stakes tournaments, there’s ample time to play patiently so there’s no excuse to make risky blunders early on.

Perhaps the tournament starts with 20,000 chips each and blinds of 50-100 increasing every 90 minutes. With that structure, don’t force the action; there’s no need to take excessive risk. Save those risky plays until later when they may be needed. For example, say your stack gets low in relation to the blinds. That’s when you might be forced to make a risky all-in move in an attempt to steal the blinds, even with a marginal hand like A-7.

Taking excessive risks early in a tournament is a common mistake made by many amateur players. Beginners push the panic button too soon. That’s just a stupid play, particularly in big buy-in events that offer so much reward for patient play.

Consider this example.

Blinds are 200-400 with a 50 ante. You’re dealt A-7 in first position and have 15,000 in chips. Sure, others in the tournament have more chips than you and you’re way below average in chip count, but it’s too early to make a desperation play.

Bide your time. Wait for a better hand. Wait until you have better position. In this situation, fold the A-7 and avoid the risk of going broke.

Another error commonly made by amateurs is that they take unnecessary risks when the game is progressing smoothly and they’re nicely building a sizable stack. Too often, these players will either attempt an ill-timed bluff or they’ll gamble all their chips in a coin flip situation that could have easily been avoided.

Listen to my friend’s advice and don’t do anything stupid.

Remember, it’s important to consider the tournament structure. In a smaller $300 buy-in event, for example, you might start with 3,000 chips and blinds at 25-50 and increasing rapidly.

In this situation, you simply can’t play patient poker. Inevitably, you’ll be forced into all kinds of risky moves. Luck plays a bigger role in these smaller buy-in tournaments so risky play is actually rewarded.

No matter how you cut it, playing stupid poker is a recipe for disaster. Sharks will always be lurking at your table. They’re waiting to feed on stupid mistakes made by all players no matter what their skill level.

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

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