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2015 WSOP on ESPN: How Would You Respond to Negreanu’s Check-Raises?

Daniel Negreanu
  • How would you play these two hands from the 2015 WSOP Main Event after Daniel Negreanu check-raised into you?

  • Daniel Negreanu demonstrates how the check-raise can be a useful postflop tool from out of position.

Coverage of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event continued on the ESPN networks last night with two more one-hour episodes. Action picked up at the start of Day 5 when just 237 players — survivors of the 6,420-player starting field — were left.

Those knocked out at the start of the day earned $34,157 each, and the payouts remained flat thereafter as finishing 163rd-225th was worth $40,433 and 100th-162nd worth $46,890. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, there were a number of preflop all-ins featured during the two hours as shorter-stacked players looked for double-ups to improve their chances of getting deeper.

Daniel Negreanu was again frequently the focus, with many of his hands from the feature table shown. Following the theme of the night, Negreanu was himself involved in a tense all-in situation at the end of the second hour after four-betting with {K-Spades}{K-Clubs}, watching Salvatore DiCarlo five-bet all in, then after appearing seriously to consider the possibility of folding his kings calling to put himself at risk.

While we probably needn’t worry too much about spoilers when talking about events that happened two-and-a-half months ago, we’ll leave the outcome of that hand aside for now. Instead, let’s look at a couple of other interesting hands involving Negreanu from earlier in the coverage.

Both of these hands saw Negreanu playing from the blinds and check-raising after the flop, challenging his opponents to decide how to answer. As we’ve done before, let’s play along, although this time we’ll try to play against Negreanu and figure out how we’d respond to the Poker Hall of Famer’s moves.

Hand #1

The first of these two hands came during Level 21 where the blinds were 8,000/16,000 with a 2,000 ante.

Omri Moga — like Negreanu from Canada — was dealt {A-Hearts}{9-Clubs} in middle position and opened with a raise to 35,000. Moga looked as though he began this hand with about 800,000, a little less than what he had to start Day 5.

It folded around to Negreanu in the big blind who had almost exactly 1 million in his stack, and he called Moga’s raise, making the pot 96,000. (We won’t disclose Negreanu’s cards just yet so you can play along with Moga here.)

The flop came {4-Hearts}{Q-Hearts}{A-Clubs}, giving Moga top pair. Negreanu checked, and Moga continued with a bet of 30,000. That’s when Negreanu pounced with his check-raise to 85,000. Moga thought a moment, then called. Pot 266,000.

The turn brought the {3-Hearts}. Negreanu checked, and Moga chose to check as well. (“No more check-raises for you, Kid Poker!” commented Lon McEachern, describing Moga’s check back.)

The river then brings the {7-Spades}, leaving Moga still with his pair of aces and a nine-kicker. Negreanu doesn’t hesitate very long before reaching for chips, betting 225,000 — almost 85% of the pot.

For Moga to raise here would seem an obviously unrecommended play. That said...

Moga chose to let his hand go, and while Negreanu didn’t show his cards, we know from the broadcast he held {K-Clubs}{10-Spades}.

Phil Laak offered some post-hand analysis, describing preflop play as “standard” then suggesting Negreanu’s flop check-raise was “a little unorthodox” but nonetheless well reasoned.

As far as the river decision goes, though, Laak leaned toward Moga calling. “The way this hand plays check-check on the turn,” he says, “when Negreanu bets the river I think Moga’s supposed to call here.” Laak notes how to call wouldn’t have cost Moga a “ton” of his stack, although he did have less than 700,000 when facing the 225,000-chip river bet.

How did you play it? Did you agree with Laak or not?

Hand #2

A little later they’ve moved to Level 22, with blinds of 10,000/20,000 and a 3,000 ante. The Dutchman Marco van Opzeeland opened for 45,000 from middle position, and it folded to Negreanu in the small blind who called.

2015 WSOP on ESPN: How Would You Respond to Negreanu’s Check-Raises? 101
Chad Power

Chad Power of Pittsburgh — with whom we’ll play this one — looked down at {Q-Spades}{Q-Hearts} in the big blind, and he chose just to call rather than three-bet. Both Power and van Opzeeland began this hand with around 1.5 mllion, while Negreanu looked to have about 800,000 to start.

There was 159,000 in the middle when the flop rolled out {3-Hearts}{2-Hearts}{A-Diamonds}.

Negreanu and Power both checked, then van Opzeeland fired a bet of 76,000. The action back on Negreanu, he check-raised to 176,000.

Okay, you’re Power. Maybe this is an interesting decision, or perhaps it’s an easy one...

For Power, seeing Negreanu check-raise into two opponents — including one who had raised preflop and continued with a bet after an ace fell — the decision wasn’t difficult at all as he folded right away. Opzeeland — who had {K-Hearts}{J-Spades} — paused for show before folding, too, and Negreanu collected the pot.

Whereas Negreanu was earlier check-raising with a gutshot draw and a desire to test Moga’s flop c-bet, here he had check-raised with a strong made hand as he had {2-Spades}{2-Diamonds}.

Both hands presented interesting, not-so-simple spots for both Negreanu and his opponents. Both also well demonstrated how the check-raise can be a valuable tool when playing from out of position postflop.

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