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Daniel Negreanu is one of the world’s most accomplished poker players, but even he makes plays that are exploitable.
In this article series, you will see a hand Negreanu played on High Stakes Poker and learn the adjustments you could make to exploit his strategy.
The goal of these articles is to ingrain in you the 3 pillars of exploitative poker, which will help you take advantage of your opponents’ mistakes and maximize your win-rate.
This article covers the preflop decision made by Negreanu. Parts 2 and 3 will cover the flop, turn, and river.
Before diving into the hand, let’s answer a simple but critical question: why play exploitative poker?
“Playing GTO is what leads to a draw, and I want to win!”
First, let’s give the Devil his due, there are many reasons to study game theory optimal (GTO) poker strategy.
As you will see later in the article, Uri often relies on GTO as the metric to determine if an opponent is too loose or too tight. By using GTO to contextualize his reads, he is then able to expand on them to make exploitative adjustments.
However, this is not what most GTO players are doing.
The reality is, if you are blindly following preflop charts and spending hours trying to memorize tiny details of solver solutions, it’s almost certainly hurting your win-rate compared to if you had spent that time developing a more holistic approach.
After you’ve mastered the principles laid out in this course, poker will become not only be more profitable but also more fun.
Uri Peleg’s 3 Pillars of Exploitative Poker
- Know what types of mistakes your opponents can make
- Recognize when someone is making a mistake
- Know how to take advantage of that mistake in the best way possible
Now, let’s get into the hand.
The location: High Stakes Poker in the Aria Casino, Las Vegas
The stakes: $200/$400 with a $400 BB ante.
- Daniel Negreanu – $110k
- Kim Hultman – $79k
- Doyle Brunson – $110k
Daniel Negreanu is in the Hijack and raises to $1,600 with 6♦ 4♦. Kim Hultman is on the Button with Q♣ J♠ and calls. Doyle Brunson is in the Big Blind with 9♥ 8♠ and also calls.
Referring back to the 3 Pillars of Exploitative Poker, let’s analyze Daniel’s Hijack open and how to adjust to it.
1. Know What Types of Mistakes Your Opponents Can Make
When it comes to preflop, everyone is making mistakes constantly.
Even players trying to follow GTO will often play at least slightly too tight or loose. Once you notice their imbalances, you can adjust to exploit it!
2. Recognize When Someone’s Making a Mistake
Daniel’s 4x open from the Hijack with 64s is way too wide.
A standard Hijack raising range contains around 23% of hands and does not include 64s. Even with the ante (which incentivizes looser play), you probably can’t profitably open this combo to 4x from the Button, let alone the Hijack.
This begs the question: how wide is Negreanu actually opening from the Hijack?
People who have watched Negreanu for years already know that he loves to play junky suited-connector-type hands whenever he can.
Since he’s opening with 64s, it’s reasonable to assume hands like 75s, 85s, and 96s are also part of Negreanu’s Hijack opening range (at least some percentage of the time).
After doing a little range work, Uri estimates that Negreanu’s Hijack opening range is somewhere around 26.6%. This is about 3.6 percentage points higher than the GTO range for this position. To help put this into context, consider that a standard Cutoff opening range is ~30%.
3. Know The Best Exploit
Given that Negreanu’s Hijack range is so wide, the first adjustment to make is a mental one.
If you were playing against Negreanu, you would need to conceptualize that when he raises from the Hijack, his wider range makes it more like he’s opening somewhere between the Hijack and Cutoff. In other words, it’s like he’s raising from half a position later.
You can safely extrapolate that Negreanu does this from the other positions as well. When he raises from the Cutoff, for example, you can build an effective counter-strategy by treating it like he raised from half a position later (between the Cutoff and Button).
The specific adjustment would be to play more hands — and especially 3-bet more hands — when Negreanu raises. With the many junky suited hands in his raising range, he will be forced to surrender the pot to your 3-bet (good for you) or make a very loose call and play the weak hand against your postflop (also good for you).
This might seem like a small deviation, but introducing simple (and in this case fairly safe) range adjustments like this can add up to huge win-rate increases over time. That’s especially true for preflop adjustments (since you have to play preflop in every single hand).
Negreanu’s preflop looseness also introduces an opportunity to play more aggressively against him postflop, but let’s save that for part 2 of this series.
We’re just scratching the surface on this one. In the next article/video we’ll examine how Hultman and Brunson could’ve better played their hands preflop (and how to exploit their mistakes), as well as dive into the first part of this hand’s postflop insanity.
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