Hand of the Week: Negreanu Waves Magic Wand, Gets Set to Fold


If you’ve read Dan Harrington, you “know” that you have to get your chips in the middle if you have a set.

Not everybody complies with that, though.

In our hand of the week this week high-stakes regular Alec Torelli folds a set to none other than all-time leading money winner and master manipulator Daniel Negreanu.

Was it the reverse tells that ultimately made Torelli let the set go? Negreanu's reputation for making "impossible" moves?

Read on (and watch) to find out.

Flop to River

It’s the early stage of the EPT Grand Final 2014 and the blinds are 100/200. Daniel Negreanu (stack: 13,000) raises to 400 from second position. Alec Torelli sits right behind him and calls with    

Dario Sammartino also calls, as do the blinds Dani Parlafes and Luca Pagano, who are just getting great pot odds. There's 2,000 chips in the pot and the flop falls      

The blinds check and Negreanu bets 1,150. Torelli raises with his set to 2,500. Everybody but Negreanu folds. There's now 7,000 in the pot and Negreanu has about 10k left.

The turn is the   Negreanu leads out with a bet of 3,100. Torelli asks how much Daniel has left and then calls. With 13,200 chips, effective stacks are down to 7,000.

We've arrived at the river   Negreanu pushes all-in and Torelli goes into the tank. When Negreanu actually tells him his hand (“Do you have fives?”), Torelli mucks his cards.

Negreanu held     His push was a little bit of a value bet and a little bit of a bluff at the same time.

You should definitely watch how this hand played out, as the table talk on the river and the reverse tells of Negreanu (how he’s sipping water and oozes confidence) are really worth it and might have an impact on how the hand ends.


Players don’t fold sets very often. Torelli doesn’t only get very good pot odds, but he wouldn't bust if he called and was wrong. That makes it twice as interesting to find out why Torelli gets rid of his cards here.

Daniel Negreanu
Loose raise?

Let’s start at the beginning. Daniel makes a rather loose raise from early position and Torelli calls with a speculative hand.

In the early stages of a tournament it’s certainly correct to call with a low or middle pair out of position, hoping for a good flop, then to fold it if there’s a re-raise behind.

If the blinds were higher Torelli would have had to fold with the same stack size.

Five players go to the Q 5 2  flop and Daniel makes a very questionable bet. All he has is an overcard and the backdoor nut flush draw.

A c-bet into four (!) players is not a very promising move. Torelli has flopped middle set, which will almost always be the best hand.

If he calls now he might invite all sorts of draws to come along. Thus, it’s correct for him to raise. He gets rid of some of the players and he builds the pot.

Tricks Up His Sleeve

After all the other players have folded the action comes back to Negreanu. There's 5,650 in the pot and he only has to pay 1,350 to come along, equaling pot odds of more than 4 to 1.

Alec Torelli
Torelli: Wise to Negreanu tricks?

The problem is he has absolutely nothing.

It would be possible, of course, that Torelli raises here with a flush draw. And he might even have the worse hand.

But after his pre-flop call, his range looks more like AQ+ or KQ+ and low pairs than suited connectors, which are rarely played especially from this position.

A fold would have been the proper move, but Daniel is an imaginative player and he has a couple of tricks up his sleeve.

Bold Semi-Bluff

The J on the turn is pretty much the best card Daniel could hope for. Had there been a blank on the turn, he would probably have check-folded.

Alec Torelli
Good reason to ask.

Surely, Daniel already rolled the idea of pseudo-outs around in his head on the flop – outs that could give him equity and the chance to semi-bluff.

He immediately takes the chance and bets out. It’s a small bet, right along the lines of the small-ball poker he likes to advocate.

He’s basically representing a flush, although he’s aware that his opponent will almost never fold. However, he’s indicating that he’ll push all-in on the river almost all of the time.

There are a few hands that he might be able to force to fold, like A-Q, and Daniel also holds the flush ace, making it a lot less likely for Torelli to have a flush.

Torelli has good reason to ask Negreanu for his stack. He also knows that his opponent will most likely push the river and that there’s virtually no chance anymore to make Negreanu fold.

Let’s take a look at the math. If Torelli moves all-in, the pot is 23,000 and Negreanu has to call off 7,000. That corresponds to 3.3-1 and is a call with almost all possible hands.

The Task on the River

Torelli calling the turn is correct. He has position so he can still decide on the river whether he wants to call the push or not.

For example, if there's another club on the river he has quite an easy fold. But if the board pairs he’s pretty sure to have the best hand.

Daniel Negreanu Day 4
Another one for the scrapbook.

As it turns out the river is the A. Not too surprisingly Negreanu follows through and moves all-in.

It’s both a value bet and a bluff, and you’ll have to admit that despite Negreanu having two pair there isn’t really a hand in Torelli’s range that’s worse and would still call.

However, the Canadian might be able to fold a hand that’s better than his. With the nut blocker A in his hands, he can still represent the flush and he deduces correctly that Torelli has a difficult decision as he might have pocket fives.

Torelli gets very good pot odds and he would be left with a solid 90 big blinds even if he loses the hand, but he still elects to fold.

First, he doesn’t think that Negreanu can still have a bluff. And second, the friendly inquiry about having fives suggests he’s not afraid of them and finally convinces the American that he’s beat.


Daniel Negreanu risks his tournament life very light heartedly here, but his plan works against a very strong opponent.

The turn and river are both very unpleasant for Torelli’s set and, on top of that, Negreanu sometimes makes “impossible” moves.

For us spectators it's a highly enjoyable performance with quite a surprise ending.

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