Daniel Negreanu Poker Articles
Shooting Star 2004 Part II: The Weak LeadPoker article written by Daniel Negreanu and published in Card Player Magazine
In my last column, I shared a hand with you in which I used a no-limit hold'em weapon that isn't discussed too often: the weak lead. A weak lead is a smallish-sized bet into a rather large pot that often screams of weakness. Most top players recognize these bets and will often try to take the pot away from you by raising, whether they have a hand or not. In order to keep the vultures off your weak leads, you'll have to mix it up and set some traps with a weak lead every once in a while.
This tournament was unique for me, in that there were two key pots I played in which the action was extremely similar, as was my thought process. The second hand took place on day two with $800-$1,600 blinds and a $200 ante. Huck Seed limped in from mid-late position and I looked down at K-Q in the small blind.
Huck was the only player who limped in, but I knew that didn't necessarily mean he was weak. Huck is more than capable of limping in with A-K or even A-A, waiting to trap somebody.
So, I just completed the small blind and the big blind checked, so three of us took the flop: Khearts Jdiamonds 8spades. Now, that was about as good a flop as any for me, but with Huck limping in, there was always the threat that this flop had me trapped. I decided to play it carefully, and checked. The big blind also checked, and Huck fired out $5,000. I quickly and nonchalantly called. The turn brought an offsuit 6, and I again checked to Huck, who checked behind me.
The river brought a 5, and I thought Huck might call me here with a pair of jacks or maybe a king with a worse kicker. So, I made a smallish bet of $7,000. Huck called my $7,000 and raised me $25,000 more! Oh, no, you have to be kidding me 9-7?
A 9-7 would have given Huck a gutshot-straight draw on the flop, and the turn card would have made him open-ended. There was no reason to think Huck couldn't have 9-7, because if he did, he probably would have played it exactly as he did: limp in to see a cheap flop, take a stab at the pot on the flop, and then take the free card on the turn.
"Huck, Huck, Huck 9-7? What are you doing to me, Huck? That was pretty lucky, my man." As I was rambling profusely, I was also trying to get a read on Huck. Was Huck capable of bluffing in this situation? You better believe it! Was he equally capable of having a 9-7 here? Yup. So, that was my dilemma.
This decision was crucial, so I took more time than normal. I was looking for any and all clues that might help me figure out this problem. Well, I ruled out a set, A-A, or A-K. I guess I shouldn't really have ruled out a set, because he could have made three fives on the river. No, if Huck had me beat, I felt it had to be the 9-7, or possibly K-5. Nothing else seemed to make much sense. That still wasn't enough, though; I needed more.
Hmm When I bet the $7,000, Huck had a total of $47,000 in chips. Rather than move all in, he raised me only $25,000 and kept $15,000. What could that mean? (A) He was looking to get called and didn't think I would call a $40,000 raise, or (B) he was saving some chips just in case his bluff didn't work. My instincts were telling me that it was (B), but that alone wasn't enough for me just yet.
"Huck, are you serious? What are you doing? This is so weird. What could you possibly have?" I said, "Huck, Huck, Huck, you are so crazy, I just don't know what to do!" At this point, I was actually laughing out loud to myself. I'd seen Huck make similar bluffs in the past, but he also knew that I saw them. It was a typical he knows that I know that he knows that I know situation, and I didn't know if he knew that I knew that he knew what I knew or something like that.
There was one last clue that would help me solve this mystery Old Faithful, the weak lead. The way I had played my hand, Huck knew that I probably didn't have a 9-7. He also knew that chances were that my hand was not all that strong. I didn't raise before the flop, I checked and called on the flop, checked the turn, and made a weak lead at the river. My hand looked just like a jack with a good kicker, or possibly a king.
Huck may have seen my weak lead as an opportunity to take the pot away from me, or at least that thought crossed my mind. If I had checked the river, I think Huck would have checked behind me, but because I went with the weak lead, Huck could now represent a very strong hand by raising rather than betting.
"OK, Huck, if you have the 9-7, you got me; I call."
"Small pair," he said. Sweet! Once again, my weak lead on the river won me a sizeable pot against a crafty player. Of course, I made life more difficult for myself in both cases by using the weak lead, but since I thought both situations through entirely, I was able to put all of the clues together and make an informed decision.
You'll often watch poker on TV and wonder, "What are they thinking about for so long?" Well, after reading these two columns, I hope you have a better understanding of what goes through a player's mind when faced with critical decisions.
In both cases, the easy way out would have been to simply fold my hand and play it safe. Yet, since I gave myself just a little more time to add up all of the information I was given, the correct play became clear as day.
Having said all of that, I want you to understand that wasting time when there is nothing to think about is flat-out wrong. Stalling to get closer to the money is a practice that won't win you any popularity contests among the players, and in extreme instances could land you in the penalty box!
If you have a difficult decision to make, you are entitled to take some extra time and should take advantage of that. However, if you are dealt 7-2 offsuit in first position and waste everybody's time by stalling, you are hurting each and every player left in the tournament. That stalling messes up the great structures to which we are now accustomed and turns too many tournaments into crapshoots in the late stages.
The reason I mention this is because I'm afraid it is becoming a phenomenon born out of online tournaments, where stalling is common practice. Have some respect for the game and don't ruin your reputation by becoming an angle shooter.
As for the tournament, I was happy with my play, but I ran into a brick wall with three tables left and couldn't recover. I finished in a respectable 17th place, good for my fourth cash of the World Poker Tour's second season.
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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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