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Aug 05, 2019

Daniel Negreanu Shares His Secrets for Keeping His Poker Edge

By RTR Dennis

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When the mainstream media wants to interview somebody about poker, Daniel Negreanu is always one of the first options. He recently did an interview with CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter on Reiter’s Block.

This chat took place around the WSOP Main Event, so the WSOP was a topic of discussion. But Negreanu also got into other interesting aspects about how he’s managed to stay successful in poker for so long. That said, I’m going to cover what Kid Poker discussed regarding his success along with other subjects.

No Correlation Between Main Event Results and WSOP Tournaments Beforehand

Some players view certain WSOP side tournaments as warm-ups for the Main Event. However, Negreanu said that how he performs leading up to the ME has nothing to do with his eventual results.

“Well, surprisingly, none whatsoever,” he said. “There have been World Series’ where I’ve had really great runs and then did nothing in the Main Event, and vice versa.

“Really what matters is like how much energy I have and how lucky I get. Because, for as much as there are professional poker players in this game, luck does play a role.

“And there’s a lot of minefields when you’re dealing with upwards of 8,000 to 9,000 people, which we expect to play in this Main Event.”

Poker Has Evolved Greatly in Recent Years

Reiter brought up how Negreanu said, “The moment when you feel you’ve achieved poker Zen — you know what you’re doing — is when everybody passes you.” He continued to ask Kid Poker how much more difficult the game is today.

“The game of poker, the way it looked when I started playing in the late nineties, is very different from what you see today,” Negreanu explained.

“The advance of AI and different software programs you can use to figure out stuff that, in the past, old-school gamblers just figured out by trial and error.

“Now, there’s actual evidence of in this situation, this is what you should do. And that was never around before, and a lot of the top players at the very highest level used that to improve their game.”

The 45-year-old added that he sees poker players becoming even better as a collective in the coming years.

“The game will always continue to evolve and improve in terms of the quality of players. If you don’t study as well, you’re very likely to be surpassed by the young up-and-comers.”

Negreanu Explains How He’s Succeeded Where Other Old-School Pros Have Failed

Reiter brought up the fact that Negreanu has continued to be a successful player while other household poker names have dropped out of the limelight. Kid Poker offered some keys to his longevity.

“It requires some self-awareness, some humility, and some willingness. You’ve got to say, ‘Okay, I’ve been a pro for 20 years, but these young kids are learning things that I don’t know.’

“So let me learn something from them. Instead of taking the position that I’ve mastered it all and there’s nothing left to be learned.

“So, always be willing to sort of check in within myself every six months or so. And be like, “’Am I better than this crew and if not, what can I do to improve?’”

Using and Counteracting Game Theory Optimal (GTO)

Many poker players have implemented GTO into their game plan. Reiter was on top of this, asking Negreanu what he thinks about the subject.

What [GTO] does is, it’s a baseline. For example, let’s say you’re playing against the perfect computer,” explained Negreanu. “Well there is one play that is optimal against this player, against this computer.

“Now what I do, what I’ve incorporated while working with some coaches is I’ll try to figure out what is the game theory optimal play. Now, I’m going to adjust, right?

“So if the game theory says I should be bluffing 80 percent of the time here. Now I’m going to ask, ‘Whom am I playing against? Well I’m playing against you! You never fold.’

“So I’m going to deviate from that. I’m going to try and exploit by maybe only bluffing 20 percent or maybe bluffing zero percent.

“It’s important as a baseline to learn game theory in today’s game, but then you always want to adjust based on the opponent you’re playing, because not everybody is a robot.”

Negreanu Discusses WSOP Main Event Strategy

Reiter pointed out how Main Event fields are consistently large, leaving for lots of variation in skill. He then asked Negreanu how he handles such a diverse field in the early days of the tourney.

“The best way I would describe it is if you were a boxer, like the Floyd Mayweather style, where you keep your guard up and throw lots of jabs,” said the long-time pro.

“So I’m looking to build chips and doing so in a small ball way, where I’m taking a few big risks. I’m taking a lot of little ones, and looking to build that way. Really keeping my guard up and the goal in Day 1, the primary goal is survival. Secondary goal is chip accumulation.”

The entire chat between Reiter and Kid Poker is really good. The CBS host is very knowledgeable about the game. If you’d like to see more on what Negreanu had to say, you can check out the entire interview here.