Playing with a Plan – Daniel Negreanu Style

I'm a big fan of Daniel Negreanu.

It's always fun to watch him play. Not only because of his lively and friendly table talk. But also because of his tremendous poker skills and talent.

I wanted to share one of his hands with you today, as it shows a concept that is incredibly helpful if you want to improve your postflop play. And that is: play with a plan!

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Playing with a plan

In this particular hand, Daniel decides to call a 5x pre-flop raise in position with 9-T of diamonds. He then calls a pot-sized continuation bet on a flop of 9s-5s-4c.

Now this is exactly a spot where most players will get themselves into a whole lot of trouble. The player who open raised 5x from EP and then fires a pot-sized c-bet on the flop, is an amateur player. And at this point it's incredibly unlikely that he's messing around with an absolute bluff. His range really looks like a strong overpair here.

Most players who make the call here, do so based on their hand strength alone: a top pair of 9's. While it is a good hand, if you think about villain's likely range, we have like 20% equity max here. We have 5 outs to improve to two pair or trips, giving us roughly 20% to improve by the river.

The odds of improving on the turn are roughly 10%. Now that villain bets full pot on the flop, we would need 33% equity or more. Yes, we do have implied odds: once we hit our two pair or trips we could potentially win a huge pot if villain indeed has the strong overpair we think he has.

But even with those implied odds, this seems like too thin of a call if we only continue in the hopes of hitting our hand.

A Plan for when You Miss

But.....

  • What if you had a plan for when you miss?
  • What if you decide to call here, thinking you can also win the hand a certain percentage of the time by bluffing your opponent off his hand on a later street?

If you add that bluffing equity, this may very well be a perfect spot to call.

This is the spot where a lot of players get themselves into trouble. They call here with the intention of trying to hit their hand. But they don't really have a plan for when they miss, and will usually just give up if they miss and their opponent keeps betting. A good idea.....if you want to throw your chips away.

Negreanu, however, thinks deeply about the game and is already thinking about scenarios where he can bluff his opponent on later streets.This board looks pretty good for it. There are two spades on board and a couple of straight draws. Any spade or straight card on the turn or river will look very scary and will offer great opportunities to bluff our opponent off his hand.

Even if he has the hand that he is telegraphing to us here: an overpair of Q-Q, K-K, or A-A.

Check out this classic hand, with extensive breakdown by The Poker Guys. And by Daniel Negreanu himself, who joins the conversation and tells exactly what he was thinking at the time. Interesting stuff!

Back to You

Playing with a Plan

Try to develop your own poker thinking by developing a plan for future streets. Calling down with hands that have marginal equity, with the sole intention of trying to improve, is a mistake that many players make.

But if the situation is good (a nice board and an opponent that plays pretty transparently) and if you think you have a good amount of bluffing equity, proceeding in the hand may actually be very profitable.

Once you start thinking ahead, developing a clear plan for play on future streets, you will become a much, much better poker player.

photo credit: larrykang Daniel Negreanu via photopin (license)

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