Daniel Negreanu: High Stakes Poker Meltdown

17 March 2009, Created By: Daniel Skolovy
Daniel Negreanu: <i>High Stakes Poker</i> Meltdown
Episode 3 of High Stakes Poker Season 5 aired last night, and like the previous two episodes, it made for some solid TV. The storyline emerging from this episode was the implosion of Daniel Negreanu.

It's no secret that HSP has never been too kind to Kid Poker. We all remember the set-over-set, turned-quads-over-full-house hand that cost Daniel his stack against Gus Hansen a few years back.

The recurring theme seemed to be Daniel putting his opponent on a better hand and yet calling off his chips anyway.

Of course, in Daniel's defense most of these hands were coolers he was destined to go broke with - but the three hands in the latest episode were not.


Hand 1 Setup

Daniel Negreanu limps in under the gun and it's folded around to Barry Greenstein, who raises to $4,000. Everyone folds to Daniel, who makes the call.

The flop comes 8 9 Q. Daniel checks and Barry bets $5,500.

Daniel calls and the turn comes A. Daniel check-calls Barry's $15,000 bet.

The river comes K and Daniel checks. Barry insta-bets $50,000, and Daniel agonizes before eventually calling.

Barry shows J T for the flopped straight and Daniel mucks his A 8. Barry's straight is good for the $201,800 pot and is enough to start Daniel down the path of no return.

Hand 1 Breakdown

Daniel limps in under the gun with A 8. Maybe not ideal, but perfectly fine given the way the game has been playing.

It is folded around to Barry in LP, who raises to $4,000 with his J T. He is in position and wants to isolate Daniel's under-the-gun limp.


Daniel Negreanu
This isn't the small ball I had in mind.

Daniel makes the call, which, given the stack sizes ($200,000ish effective), is perfectly fine despite the fact that he will play the rest of the hand out of position.

The flop comes 8 9 Q and Daniel checks his bottom pair.

Barry bets out $5,500, or just over half pot, with his flopped straight.

Daniel calls; he has bottom pair best kicker and a backdoor flush draw. He calls to see a turn because he is almost getting 3-1 against a possible continuation bet.

The turn comes A and Daniel checks once again. Barry bets $15,000 with the nuts.

It is entirely possible Barry is betting a worse hand at this point, so Daniel's turn call is perfectly reasonable.

The river comes K. Again Daniel checks, and Barry fires $50,000 fairly quickly.

Daniel tanks before eventually calling. This is where the wheels start to fall off Daniel's game.

There are really not too many hands that Barry is betting this river with that Daniel beats.

All of Barry's value-betting range (which is the bulk of his range) absolutely smashes Daniel's two pair. Daniel's hand is really only a bluff catcher, and is Barry bluffing on this river enough to make a call profitable? Likely not.

Daniel calls and finds his two pair to be no good, and Barry is shipped the $201,800 pot. This isn't the worse hand by far, but it sets up the next two.

Hand 2 Setup

Doyle raises from early position. Barry makes the call in middle position, Eli Elezra calls on the button and Daniel calls in the big blind.

The flop comes A K Q and Daniel checks.

Doyle bets $9,000 and Eli makes the call.

Daniel now check-raises to $24,000. Doyle folds, and Eli calls.

The turn comes J. Daniel instantly checks and starts whining about how that is the worst card in the deck and how he knew it was coming.

Eli bets $35,000 and Daniel instantly folds.


Peter Eastgate
Eastgate not the only one to take some HSP bumps.

Hand 2 Breakdown

Doyle raises it up from early position with A 9 and Barry calls with 2 2. Eli makes the call on the button with K Q and Daniel calls in the big blind with A 8.

We will skip past the preflop portion of the breakdown because everything is quasi-standard.

On the flop Doyle bets $9,000 with his top pair, average kicker, perfectly reasonable in a game where the entire table plays 35% of hands.

Barry folds and Eli chooses to smooth-call with K Q and his flopped two pair.

Daniel now all of a sudden chooses to check-raise, which on its own isn't a great move. I mean, does he think he has the best hand? If so, which worse hands are calling? Some pair and straight draws, I guess.

Or is he turning his hand into a bluff and just hoping to pick the pot up now?

Either way it doesn't make too much sense.

Eli elects to flat-call with his two pair, and the turn comes J.

If Daniel hadn't before, he certainly drops the ball now. He instantly checks and starts complaining about how that is the worst card in the deck and how he knew it was coming. Which for obvious reasons is a completely horrible thing to do.

The goal of poker (as far as I know) is to attempt to keep your hand unknown and to not give your opponent any information to work with. Even your average first-level-thinking kitchen poker player knows that you need "a good poker face." (Wow do I hate that expression.)

Once Daniel starts complaining about how bad that card is for him, he tells the entire table that he has given up on the hand.

Had he just kept his mouth shut his opponent would have no idea if he had check-raised the flop with top pair and a gut-shot.

It's entirely possible that Eli would have checked behind, giving him a free river card to either suck out with or bluff at.

Either way, as soon as he opens his mouth he forfeits the $75,000 pot to his opponent and lets the entire table know that he's on tilt.


David Benyamine
Mr.B no stranger to the benjamins.

Hand 3 Setup

For hand three the stakes have been increased to $500/$1,000 with a $200 ante.

Daniel kicks the hand off with a raise to $2,800 from middle position. Peter Eastgate makes the call directly to Daniel's left and David Benyamine calls in the small blind.

They take a flop three-way of 2 4 7. Daniel bets $8,000 into $13,800 and Eastgate calls.

Benyamine now check-raises to $41,000.

Daniel thinks for a minute before calling and Eastgate folds.

The turn comes 4 and Benyamine bets $35,000. Daniel goes on a weird tangent about this being a fun hand, then shoves all-in for $156,200.

Benyamine turbo-calls with 4 4.

Four of a kind is by far and away the best hand in the $416,200 pot, versus Daniel's J J.

The river comes a pointless card and Daniel is felted.

Hand 3 Breakdown

Daniel opens it up for a raise for a little less than three times the big blind with the J J. Perfectly fine, though I think a bigger raise is better. Players love to see flops in this game so you may as well get a bunch of money in the pot when you're likely to have the best of it.

Eastgate and Benyamine both make the call with small pocket pairs. Again, standard: if either of them hits a set he's bound to win a huge pot.

The flop comes 2 4 7 and Daniel bets $8,000 for value with his overpair.

Eastgate calls on the button with his pocket pair that missed the board in case Daniel is just continuation-betting with two overcards.

Benyamine check-raises to $41,000 with his flopped set. He wants to get money into the pot in order to build the pot big enough to win someone's stack by showdown.

Daniel chooses to call the check-raise. He knows Benyamine is perfectly capable of doing this with a flush draw or even a straight draw. So calling to see what happens on the turn is fine.

Eastgate folds - clearly his underpair is no good.


Daniel Negreanu
It's play like this that cost the Leafs a playoff spot for the 10th straight year.

The turn comes 4 and Benyamine underbets $35,000 into $103,800 - a bet that is absolutely magnificent.

Let's say for example that Negreanu does choose to just call the turn bet. That puts the pot at $178,800 with only $120,000ish left to bet on the river.

So despite betting extremely small on the turn, it still builds the pot big enough that he can shove the river without overbetting.

That makes it a brilliant move, combined with the fact that because it's such a small bet, it can induce his opponent to do exactly what it does: spazz out.

And spazz out Daniel does, choosing to ship $156,200 into the middle and turning his made overpair into a bluff.

When Daniel ships, there is no worse hand that Benyamine ever calls with. If Benyamine were to have a draw and Daniel shipped all-in, Benyamine would have to call $121,000 to win $416,200, and on a paired board would not be getting nearly good enough odds to call.

So since Benyamine never calls with a worse hand, Daniel's bet must be a bluff. But does Benyamine ever fold a worse hand? I'm thinking not.

Daniel's shove therefore accomplishes nothing other than setting a condo's worth of money on fire.

Benyamine makes the easy call with his quads and has Daniel drawing dead in the $416,200 pot. The river falls the meaningless A, and Daniel is left with the decision of whether to rebuy or not.

HSP is a television program; it would be impossible to show every single hand they played in the taping sessions. They take only the most interesting hands and edit them into an hour-long time slot.

Without a doubt there are a ton of hands we will never see due to time constraints and editing.

If I had to guess I'd say there were probably several other hands we missed where Daniel ran bad and lost average-size pots, because by the time that JJ hand played out it was pretty clear that he was on tilt.

It does seem like par for the course for Daniel to run bad on HSP, but at the end of the day despite how the cards are running you have to ask yourself if you played your best. I'd bet if you asked Daniel, he'd admit that he really didn't this time around.

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