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Home > Poker Pros > Articles > Daniel Negreanu > 001

Articles - Daniel Negreanu

I Got Punk’d
by Daniel Negreanu

It was February 2005 and I had made the Professional Poker Tour (PPT) final table as the chip leader. Yet, for the first time in my poker career, I’d have to wait more than a week to play that final table. In the meantime, the L.A. Poker Classic had a record number of entrants again for the World Poker Tour (WPT) event, and I was feeling great about my play and my chances to do well.

My starting table looked very promising, as it was full of players I’d never seen. I assumed that they either won satellites at Commerce Casino to get into the event or possibly won a seat online. During the fi rst level, I was really dancing and had my chips up to $17,000 with little risk. Then, the following hand came up: With the blinds at $100-$200, I limped in from under the gun with 5-5 and two other players limped in behind me. The small blind went ahead and raised it to $800, which meant it would be $600 more to me if I wanted to see the flop.

Well, I loved the situation, being able to play a small pair in position against a raiser who likely had a legitimate hand. If I flopped a set against an overpair, I’d surely bust this novice player. So, I called, and to my surprise, the other two limpers mucked their hands, leaving me with position throughout the hand.

The flop came J 8
2. My opponent checked quickly, but I wasn’t about to fall for the check-raise here. If he had A-K, I figured that I’d know on the turn — so I checked behind him.

The turn brought the 7
, and once again my opponent checked. OK, so now I was thinking that my opponent had to have A-K. With such a scary board, it would be suicide to slow-play an overpair any longer.

I’d made up my mind that my small pair was the best hand, but if my opponent check-raised me, he likely had fl opped three jacks, or had at least a pair of aces. I went ahead and bet $1,000. It was enough to get the information I needed and make him pay to hit an ace or a king, but not commit me to the pot too heavily. My opponent just called, and the river card, the 8, paired the board. My opponent checked again, and now I was absolutely certain that he had A-K. No other hand really made sense for him to play it the way he did. The key question I had to ask myself now was: Would he pay me off with ace high in this spot? After all, it looked like I could have a busted draw, and with so much money in the pot, if I bet just the right amount, it might force him to call.

I finally decided to bet $1,250. If he called that bet, it would leave him with $3,000. Psychologically, I wanted to bet an amount that he felt wouldn’t cripple him if he was wrong. Then, out of the blue, he check-raised me all in for $3,000 more!

All I could think to myself was, “Wow, what a silly play with A-K. It’s so obvious he doesn’t have a hand, I’m forced to make this call.” I deliberated for a little while and wasn’t able to get a read. So, instead, I focused on the betting pattern of the hand:
1. A small raise preflop from out of position, denoting strength
2. A check on the flop, denoting either a check-raise or fear
3. A check-call on the turn, showing total weakness
4. A check on the river, denoting that he had given up on the pot
5. A check-raise on the river, denoting either a bizarre, random bluff attempt or a very strong hand

Faced with all that information, I decided that it was far too likely that my pair of fives was the best hand, so I called. My opponent turned over two aces.

In other words, I got Punk’d. The play was so unorthodox that it threw me for a loop. I felt like I had a dead read on the hand based on the betting pattern, but instead, I lost an additional $4,250 on the river when I didn’t have to. Hey, what can I say, the gentleman gambled by not protecting his hand against all of the potential draws out there, but in doing so, he was able to maximize his winnings on the hand. My hat’s off to him, his play turned out perfectly.

After that hand, I never fully recovered. I still had enough chips to play my game, but that hand seemed to take the wind out of my sails. I felt like I was playing great all afternoon, but that hand literally had my head spinning.

I was knocked out of the tournament a few hours later. Oh well, there was still a final table for me to play, nonetheless. In a few days, after the WPT finished up, they would change the set for TV, going from WPT to PPT, where I was the chip leader. I’ll have more on that debacle in the next issue. 


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