Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I like to peruse the Full Contact Poker online forums to read and comment on posts about interesting poker hands and whether they were played properly.

I find that many of the contributors consistently suffer from the same problem: they are far too preoccupied with statistically insignificant aspects of a poker hand.

My point is that the minor details of many poker hands are often unimportant and simply not worthy of in-depth analysis. Worrying about these insignificant details won’t have much effect on your bankroll at the end of the year.

You see, the best way to improve your poker game is to focus on the important aspects of the game, like eliminating big mistakes. Instead, I see too many players fretting about whether they are a 56.2% favorite or a 51.8% favorite.

Obsessing about statistics won’t make you a better poker player. In fact, you’ll end up wasting too much valuable time on that stuff when you should be concentrating on crucial issues, like getting a read on your opponents and studying the psychological aspects of the game.

If you want to plug leaks in your game, plug the biggest leaks first. Here’s how to get the job done.

Don’t call a big all-in bet on a whim. Unless you have a powerful hand, or you have some reason to suggest that you know your opponent is bluffing, there’s no reason to make what’s known as a hero call. Any call that jeopardizes a big chunk of your chip stack just because you think your opponent might be on a bluff is flat-out wrong.

Don’t bluff off all of your chips. This is a common mistake made by impatient players. Sure, you might get away with a big bluff once in a while but when you do get caught — and eventually you will — it could mean the end.

Protect your hand when you’re confident you’re in the lead. Don’t be greedy and try to milk your opponent for a few more chips when the pot is already large. The turn of a single card can change the lead fast. Toss out a big bet rather than let your opponents beat you for free.

When making a bet or call that represents, say, five percent of your chip stack, you just don’t need to worry about whether it’s the correct play.

For example, I see many players with average skills waste too much mental energy deliberating whether to play K-J from early position. That intellectual power is better spent focusing on the other players at the table.

Here’s the bottom line: A decision to fold, call, or raise with K-J from early position won’t have a significant effect on your long term results. It doesn’t matter if your play was inappropriate. If it was, you committed a marginal error at worst.

Okay, so how should you play K-J from early position? Arguments can be made in favor of all three options.

If the other players at the table are super-aggressive, raising when you call a bet or reraising when you raise, the correct play is to fold. If the other players are excessively tight, the correct play is to raise. And if the table is filled with bad players who won’t fold to a raise and tend to make big mistakes after the flop, the correct play is to call.

Look, in poker as in life, don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, focus your mental energy on those more important factors that will definitely affect your bottom line.

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

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