Pommo #5

Pommo responds to a spot of criticism from a certain Mr Negreanu

He did agree with the basic principle that mixing up your raises pre-flop is a must

When reading my emails a few days ago, I was shocked to find one telling me that a column I’d written was the basis for an article by Daniel Negreanu. Unfortunately, his piece pulled apart the column I wrote in PokerPlayer, Issue 12 when I talked about the size of pre-flop raises. He was pretty critical and, despite agreeing with a few basic principles, I felt he’d completely misunderstood what I’d written.

Now I have a lot of respect for Daniel Negreanu – it’s hard not to with his status in the game. But it would be nice, if when criticising someone, he could read the piece he’s criticising a bit more thoroughly. In the article I make the point that people often raise too much pre-flop with hands they’re scared of seeing a flop with (I used the example of 8-8). In Negreanu’s article, he criticises me for saying that I advise making a huge raise pre-flop with hands like 8-8. That’s gripe number one.

I also stated that when trying to steal the blinds in the latter stages of a tournament, you don’t need to raise as much as three times the big blind. Negreanu said that this makes you predictable: if I make a small raise you know I’m bluffing and if I make a big raise you know I have a hand. I agree that if you stick to those set rules you’ll become very predictable. However, I don’t expect anyone who reads articles with the aim of improving their game to be at a level where they wouldn’t realise that. By advising people to raise less when stealing blinds and antes, it goes without saying that sometimes you’re going to have to mix it up a bit. The vast majority of players will play passively against this sort of poker and can be steamrollered, but of course some players are going to try to combat your constant stealing.

This is when common sense prevails and you decide to mix it up a bit. You make the same small raises with big hands when you know the big blind wants to fight back, and once the table has seen you can make these small raises with big hands, they’ll be even less inclined to tangle with you.

I do, however, understand how that could be confused – my column is only so many words long, and sometimes it’s not enough to try and explain fully what I’m trying to get across. However, I would’ve hoped I might have been given the credit for being able to adjust to changing circumstances at a table – the same credit that I give to anyone who’s reading this!

Pot, kettle, black

Negreanu actually highlights this style of play in his exit hand in this year’s WSOP $2,500 Short-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event. After consistently making small raises with trash, he then does the same with A-A, but unfortunately goes broke when his opponent, Dutch Boyd, flops a set. In that very tournament, only an hour earlier, Negreanu was all-in on a Jack-high flop with K-J, up against a very good friend of mine’s A-A. With only five outs to win what was a huge pot, Negreanu was talked into calling by David Shallow and was rather lucky to hit a third Jack on the river. Thankfully, he did agree with the basic principle that mixing up your raises pre-flop is a must. It might sound obvious to some people, but I know that a lot of the time laziness prevails and we don’t stretch ourselves enough. He also states that against terrible players a raise of twoand- a-half times the big blind makes the most sense, as you’re a favourite to outplay them after the flop. I agree with this, but don’t think that only terrible players should be isolated with this treatment. A raise of this size is designed to be small enough to encourage them to call out of position, so you can possibly extract more than just the blinds and antes while still not going to a showdown unless you have the best hand.

So if you feel you’re a good player, it would make sense to say you could often outplay any terrible-to-average player after the flop. The opponent doesn’t have to be terrible, they just have to be worse than you to make this a +EV move.

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