Daniel Negreanu Ė Poker Articles
Look Within Yourself for AnswersPoker article written by Daniel Negreanu and published in Card Player Magazine
Sometimes when nothing appears to be going your way, you may begin to question your own theories about the game. More often than not, itís just a bad run of cards that affects your mindset, but as one who doesnít rely too heavily on luck, I try to look within when things arenít going well.
To be more specific, I havenít been all that pleased with my results in the larger buy-in no-limit holdíem events recently. Consciously, it doesnít seem as though Iíve been playing any differently, so perhaps it has been just a regression to the mean ó as in, I play like a maniac and eventually that caught up with me!
So, I did a little soul-searching and decided that maybe I should try a new approach. Thatís one of the most interesting aspects of a game like no-limit holdíem; you really can develop a battle plan even before you take on your first hand, and you can change it from day to day or even from hand to hand! In most limit games, the hands usually play themselves, as there is not much room for creativity.
Thatís not the case at all in no-limit, and if you believe it is, you just arenít trying hard enough. The psychological warfare starts well before you take your seat: ďWhoís at my table? Letís see Ö hmm Ö I know most of these guys and they all expect me to play superfast and raise lots of hands. Looks like Iím going to have to throw them a curveball and set some booby traps.Ē Thatís just a simple and obvious example of the preparation that should go into one of these events.
So, anyway, I was sitting there thinking that maybe Iíve been dancing around too much (playing too many marginal hands), and itís causing me to be eliminated prematurely. I mean, I watch guys like John Juanda and T.J. Cloutier, and they play very conservatively early on. Then, later, they utilize that image to pick up a pot here and there. Itís hard to argue with their results, so I thought Iíd give it a go.
Quickly, I realized Iím not T.J. Cloutier and Iím certainly not John Juanda. Their style of play simply diminished my strengths and exploited my weaknesses ó not exactly the combination I was looking for. It took me about three tournaments before I realized I had to scrap that idea and look elsewhere to make adjustments. That style of play just wasnít me.
After all, there is no one correct way to play no-limit holdíem. Players like Layne Flack, Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, and Dave ďDevilfishĒ Ulliott play nothing like T.J. or Juanda, and theyíve had great success at the game with their respective styles.
So, after analyzing and overanalyzing my play as well as others, I came up with two contributing factors that have caused me to post subpar results in these events:
1. Bad luck. Donít worry, Iím not going to subject you to some boring horror stories of how I lost with quads over quads or anything like that. However, the truth is, luck plays a larger role (especially in tournaments) than many people think, in more ways than one. A key pot will usually take place in a tournament in which, statistically, the outcome is close to being a coin flip (a pair versus two overcards). How you fare in those pots will have a big impact on your results. Of course, ideally, you want to avoid such high-risk endeavors, but situations often arise in which you simply donít have a choice. You are going to go through streaks when youíll lose more than your fair share of coin flips. Thatís just part of the game.
Itís the by-product of those tough losses that we need to address. Unless you are completely emotionless (which would be a sad way to live your life, in my opinion), bad luck can do severe damage to your confidence, which can lead to bad decisions at the table. If you are constantly thinking, ďOh no, not again, I have two kings and this guy reraised me. The way Iím running, he probably has aces, and if not, Iíll probably get them cracked, as usual,Ē you could be in trouble. If youíve played poker long enough, itís likely that youíve gone through a period in which you felt like you just knew you were going to lose ó and you probably did.
So, what are you supposed to do about it? Is there a herbal tea out there that can get your mind right? Not that I know of, but if you hear of any bad-beat remedies, let me know! Thus, with no secret potion or magic beans at your disposal, you simply have to make a conscious decision to concentrate on playing each and every hand the best you can, and avoid worrying about the things you canít control.
2. Bad decisions. They, of course, come from things not going your way. When cluttering your mind with the negativity that comes from bad luck, all of your mental energy might not be in the right place. If, rather than thinking about the actual details of a hand, you are obsessed with the fact that youíve lost with aces six hands in a row, that might cloud your judgment and cause you to make a crucial error.
Bad decisions are born from a lack of focus combined with a lack of confidence. In order to be at your best, you have to separate the past from the present, and devote 100 percent of your attention to the here and now.
So, on that note, itís now 12:01 a.m., and the first day of the World Poker Tour Championship $25,000 buy-in no-limit holdíem event starts in 12 hours; itís time for me to get some much needed rest. Iím afraid this column may have been more for me than for you, but I hope you got something out of it, nonetheless Ö I know I did.
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With over one hundred poker articles spanning the last five years and a new poker article written every two weeks and published in Card Player magazine, Daniel Negreanu brings the world of poker to the tables of countless poker enthusiasts and poker players alike.
As a regular Card Player columnist, Daniel's poker articles have helped many readers learn the game of poker from the early days of an upcoming professional poker player to the realization of a true poker champion last year as Daniel became the 2004 Card Player Player of the Year, as well as, one of the most successful tournament players in history with 36+ worldwide wins and bragging rights as the WPT All-Time Top Money Winner.
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