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Strategy Snapshot: Negreanu Plays the Player
In the ongoing Strategy Snapshot series, PL.com looks at a key hand from a major poker event and breaks it down from a strategy standpoint.
Players: Sammy Farha a couple of hands earlier. In that hand, Antonius had no hand and no draw, but decided anyway to fire three barrels - flop, turn and river. Farha called him all the way and took down a huge pot with two pair.
The hand against Farha might be one reason why Negreanu decides to call here. Maybe he senses that Antonius is bluffing again.
Whatever Negreanu thinks, he is putting himself in a very tricky situation. He could have the best hand, if Antonius has an ace-high flush-draw with an inferior kicker or is on a stone cold bluff. He could have the best draw, if Antonius raised pre-flop with A-K, K-Q or K-J and doesn't have a diamond.
But he could also very well be behind.
This uncertainty is the biggest problem with Negreanu's call. Even if he's ahead, he can't be sure of it; and if he's behind, he can't be sure of what cards he wants to see on later streets. Everybody who plays poker knows that expensive mistakes are quite common in those situations.
The 8c comes on the turn. Negreanu checks and Antonius bets $40,000 into the $46,800 pot.
This is a great bet - especially since Antonius did exactly the same thing against Farha earlier in the game, and also because Antonius is usually a loose/aggressive player who plays semi-bluffs strongly. Let me put it this way: If it was Greenstein who made this bet, Negreanu would have folded instantly. But now Negreanu thinks about it.
Negreanu calls - still in the same conundrum, however. He simply doesn't know where he stands. But this call indicates that he actually believes that ace high, jack kicker is the best hand, and consequently, he doesn't want to see a diamond on the river - at least not a diamond and another pot-sized bet.
This is when the hand becomes really interesting. The river comes Ac, and Negreanu has for the first time made a real hand - top pair. He instantly checks.
Commentator Gabe Kaplan says:
"He called $40,000 with the hand he had on the turn. Now he has got top pair. And if Patrik had the ace of diamonds, his kicker might not be better than a jack."
Antonius bets $115,000 into the $126,800 pot.
Let's think about what Kaplan said. Negreanu might think the ace is a good card since he can have Antonious out-kicked. But then Antonius makes a pot-sized bet, which he probably wouldn't do if he just had an ace.
If Antonius was semi-bluffing with the ace of diamonds on the flop and the turn, and then picked up top pair on the river, he would probably check it down hoping that Negreanu has a busted flush-draw and a pair of kings or something in that range. Or maybe, just maybe, make a small value bet with top pair.
But Antonius made a large bet.
Negreanu is obviously aware of this, and he doesn't like Antonius' bet at all. He says, "I was calling without that card; I don't know if I should call him now. I was going to call if the ace didn't hit."
This is quite interesting. Negreanu went from having nothing to having top pair; nonetheless, he's a bit disappointed. Most intermediate poker players would love that ace on the river and call instantly. Negreanu, on the other hand, senses that Antonius' bet is too large.
Despite his doubts, Negreanu makes a crying call. Antonius shows the flush and rakes in $356,800.
Negreanu played the player, but he picked the wrong spot. When he decided to play the hand on the flop, he put himself in a tough situation.
And when Antonius bet on the river, Negreanu failed to listen to his instincts - there was no hand he could beat except a total bluff. On the other hand, against Farha, Antonius bluffed coast-to-coast. So he was obviously capable of doing it.