If you haven’t been following the Doug Polk vs Daniel Negreanu Heads Up Grudge Match, you’ve been missing out.
Doug jumped out to a lead of almost a million, but Daniel has since cut the deficit to just under $500,000.
The match has already provided amazing entertainment value to those following the action. But on top of all that, the grudge match is also giving serious poker players a great opportunity to improve their game by studying high-level play from two of the most respected poker players in the world.
With this in mind, we’re going to be analyzing a couple of interesting bluff spots from Doug and Daniel’s first $200/$400 session that was played live in Vegas. Let’s jump in.
Note: The entire 3.5+ hour session can be watched here (the actual poker starts 5 minutes into the video):
Our first hand begins with Daniel opening the button to $1000 (2.5x) with 8♥ 8♦. Doug then 3-bets in the BB to $4125 (~4.1x) with K♣ 5♦. Daniel calls and we head to the flop with $8250 in the middle.
Everything looks good from both players preflop. Doug’s 3-bet with K♣ 5♦ may seem loose, but these types of hands are good to 3-bet at a low frequency in heads-up.
Remember that the ranges of both players are going to be significantly wider than what you would encounter in the typical 6-max game. Daniel is going to be raising over 80% of his buttons and for this reason Doug is going to need to defend a wide range of hands.
Facing the 3-bet, Daniel has a clear call. His hand is too strong to fold, and not strong enough to 4-bet.
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The flop comes T♣ 4♣ 3♦, and Doug bets $5,400 (⅔ pot). Daniel calls the bet and we go to the turn with $19,050 in the pot.
Despite the flush draw on the board, this is a pretty dry flop. Doug should expect to win with a continuation bet on this board a fair bit of the time. Even if he doesn’t, his backdoor straight and flush outs set him up for some good double and triple-barrel bets on good turns and rivers. He could also win, of course, if he hits a king.
As far as sizing, Doug could use a small or large-sized bet on this board. In this case, I think K♣ 5♦ falls really nicely into a big-bet bluff range. Daniel doesn’t flop a big hand on this board very often, and by betting big, Doug can use his overall range advantage to put more pressure on Daniel’s marginal holdings.
That said, this board also isn’t too bad for Daniel either. Of course, Daniel would prefer the whole flop to be undercards to his pair, but in heads-up pocket eights is in reasonable shape here against Doug’s whole range. Daniel should probably be planning to call at least one more big bet from Doug on safe turn’s and then evaluate again on the river.
Both players are playing well so far, let’s head to the turn.
The turn is the 3♣, making the board T♣ 4♣ 3♦ 3♣. Doug puts out a small ⅓ pot bet of $6,000. After tanking Daniel decides to fold.
The turn not only completes the flush but pairs the board as well, making this spot very interesting for both players. Doug now has the second nut-flush draw, and Daniel has improved to a decent two pair.
Let’s start off by thinking about this turn from Doug’s point-of-view.
In general, the flush completing on the turn is going to be better for Daniel’s range than Doug. Daniel is also more likely to have hands with a 3 in his range than Doug, but not by much.
However, Doug still has the overall range advantage on this turn. Doug can have all of the suited broadway hands in his range that might have completed to a flush, along with all of the big overpairs that are still in good shape against the middle of Daniel’s range.
Considering all of these factors, I think a small bet from Doug is perfect in this situation.
By betting small, Doug’s overpairs and Tx holdings can still get value from the middle of Daniel’s range that might have been forced to fold if Doug had used a bigger sizing. Additionally, a small bet doesn’t bloat the pot and protects Doug from value-cutting himself against the top of Daniel’s range.
As is always the rule with poker, every bet needs to have a balanced range of bluff and value hands. In this case, K♣ 5♦, with its potential pair outs along with the second-nut flush draw, is a great bluffing hand to mix with Doug’s small-bet value-range.
Over to Daniel, who is now in a tricky spot: Facing a ⅓ pot bet, Daniel is being laid 4 to 1 odds. This means Daniel only needs 20% equity to make this a correct call.
Not having a club certainly isn’t good here, but even without a club, I think this is just slightly too tight of a fold from DNegs.
This hand may in some ways illustrate the difference in experience levels at heads-up between Doug and Daniel.
If this were 6-max or an MTT, folds like this from Daniel would be considered disciplined laydowns. But in heads-up, too many tight folds can be very costly against aggressive players like Doug.
Our second hand starts off with both players being deeper with effective stacks at $57,000 (142BB). Doug opens the button to $900 (2.25x) with T♠ T♦. Daniel then 3-bets to $4000 (4.4x) with 6♣ 5♣. Doug calls and we head to the flop with $8,000 in the pot.
Again, both player’s preflop play is correct. Doug should almost always 4-bet this hand at 100BBs, but calling is fine at deeper stacks. Daniel’s 3-bet is standard at any stack depth.
The flop comes K♣ Q♠ 4♦ and Doug is still in the lead with his 3rd pair against Daniel’s 6-high. Daniel makes a very small 20% pot continuation bet of $1,900 dollars. Doug calls and the pot is now $11,200 going into the turn.
Daniel misses the flop, but this dry high-card board still gives him the overall range advantage as the preflop 3-better. There are also a number of draws Daniel could turn. With this in mind, I like the continuation bet.
The downside to Daniel’s small sizing, however, is that he’s going to get very few folds. Doug has a no-brainer call with his pocket tens.
The turn is the A♥ and neither player improves on the board of K♣ Q♠ 4♦ A♥. Doug and Daniel both check and we head to the river.
With no pair or draw, Daniel is probably forced to check here 100% of the time. The ace might seem like a good card to bluff, but Doug would’ve called the small flop bet with a lot of Ace-high hands and Jack-Ten. With this in mind I don’t think its obvious that this card helps Daniel’s range more than Doug.
Daniel does check and Doug once again has a clear decision checking back with his showdown value.
The 8♠ bricks off on the river, making the final board is K♣ Q♠ 4♦ A♥ 8♠. Doug still holds the lead with his 3rd pair. Daniel, however, makes a roughly ⅔ pot bet of $7,700, and after some deliberation Doug makes a frustrated fold.
Nice bluff from Daniel and sensible fold from Doug.
Daniel’s line here seems pretty good. He’s at the very bottom of his range, which as a general rule means he should bluff. On top of that, he does have a credible number of value hands he could be representing here.
Doug has a close decision with fourth pair but a fold is probably the right play. Doug still a sufficient number of higher pairs in his range that he could call with to keep Daniel from exploitatively bluffing, and in general Daniel has a pretty tight image.
We hope you’re enjoying all of the educational content Upswing is putting out for the Doug vs Dnegs grudge match. Expect to see a lot more free analysis coming out throughout the whole challenge.
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As always, we would love to hear any comments or questions you might have regarding today’s post. What do you think of Doug’s tricky turn bet in hand 1 and what do you make of Daniel’s unconventional line in hand 2?
We look forward to hearing from you, and until next time good luck at the tables!
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