Hand of the Week: Negreanu Plays to Win, Collapses to Floor

The 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event has played down to a winner in Pennsylvania's Joe McKeehen.

What (or who) could have been, though, is still being talked about months after the final nine was set way back in July in Las Vegas.

Poker icon Daniel Negreanu came very close to earning a seat at that final table before he busted to McKeehen.

It was a dramatic hand that changed how the 2015 WSOP Main Event will be remembered.

Flop to River

We’re on Day 7 of the Main Event. There are only 11 players left and two of them are chipleader and former Risk world champ Joe McKeehen and poker's all-time money leader Daniel Negreanu.

The Canadian pro has been working a small stack for quite some time. With blinds at 200k/400k/50khe has 6.6 million chips. That’s 16.5 big blinds.

In this particular hand Negreanu holds  A spades A 4 diamonds 4  in the big blind. McKeehen has 43 million chips and is on the button. It’s folded to him and he raises to 800,000 with  J diamonds J 3 diamonds 3

Negreanu calls to defend his big blind. There's now 2.05 million in the pot and Negreanu is left with 5.825 million.

The flop is a true action flop:  A diamonds A 10 diamonds 10 K clubs K

Negreanu checks, McKeehen bets and Negreanu pushes all-in without much hesitation. McKeehen quickly calls.

Turn is the  3 hearts 3   river is the  Q hearts Q  to send Negreanu to the floor of the Rio and to the rail in 11th place.


Negreanu’s bustout didn’t only leave himself shocked but also his legions of fans. Let’s take a closer look to see if he could have done anything to avoid it.

Daniel Negreanu 2015 WSOP Main Event Day 7 7
Perfect hand for a shove?

Pre-flop McKeehen raises from the button, a move he would make with a large range of hands in this tournament situation.

His actual cards are not important here. There are now major pay jumps and he’ll only get resistance from strong hands.

Federico Butteroni folds his small blind and Negreanu finds an above-average hand in the big. A♠ 4♦ is way ahead of most of McKeehen’s range.

It blocks one of the aces and, considering the stack sizes, it’s a perfect hand for a shove.

Master of Small Ball Has a Different Plan

If Negreanu shoves there McKeehen would certainly have folded but the master of small-ball poker has a different plan.

With an all-in and a fold he would collect the blinds, antes and McKeehen’s raise. This would add 25% to his stack.

But by just calling he might be able to take even more chips from McKeehen’s stack.

Negreanu is also diminishing his variance, even if he’s risking folding the best hand on a later street (let’s say on a K-8-7 flop) as McKeehen might sometimes actually have a good hand that beats Negreanu’s A-4.

Joe McKeehen 2015 WSOP Main Event Day 6 1
Not bad for McKeehen, either.

An Action Flop if Ever There Was One

This is an action flop if we’ve ever seen one. Three Broadway cards with two diamonds hit both ranges pretty good.

Negreanu flops top pair, but it's far from the nuts so he checks to McKeehen. McKeehen has nothing to complain about either.

With a bad starting hand he’s flopped pretty much the optimum – a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw to give him 11 outs.

Naturally, the chipleader bets his draws and Negreanu now moves all-in. The Canadian holds top pair but he'd surely be very happy to just take the pot down here and add a significant amount of chips to his stack.

Including Negreanu’s all-in with 5.825 million there's now 8.575 million in the pot and McKeehen has to add another 5.125 to call.

Getting 1.67 to 1 pot odds with 40% pot equity, that goes without saying.

Negreanu Plays for the Win

On the turn McKeehen hits his three, giving him additional outs, but even 16 outs are now only worth 36% equity.

The river fills up McKeehen’s straight draw and ends Negreanu’s main event.

Could he have done anything differently?

A player who pays a lot of attention to the pay jumps (around $200,000 now) would probably have folded here, if he’s scared, or would have pushed all-in and – in most cases – won 1.65 million chips.

Daniel Negreanu busts 2015 WSOP Main Event
What might have been.

But Negreanu plays to win so he took a larger risk. If he can make his opponent fold on the flop he wins another 700,000. But if he can double up he wins another seven million chips.

With a stack of over 13 million Negreanu would have been a serious contender again and he would probably have made the 2015 November Nine.

As it happened, he busted in dramatic fashion.


It’s a crucial hand in the Main Event and Negreanu chooses the riskier play, only to find himself in almost a coin-flip situation on the flop.

He survives the first community card but the last one crushes him.

McKeehen couldn’t really do anything different after he raised pre-flop.

He just had lady luck on his side.

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