Daniel Negreanu has been known to tout the bold claim that he could walk into any amateur home poker game and win. The man has two World Poker Tour titles, six World Series of Poker bracelets, and is generally considered to be one of the best players in the world. But how could he know whether he was going to get good cards? The thing is, Kid Poker wouldn’t need the best cards against beginners. Betting against Negreanu to win a home poker game would be like saying Cristiano Ronaldo might not score in a high school football match.
Negreanu is considered to be a genius at poker, but he has got there through years of experience and practice. The methods he took to get to that stage can be used by anyone. Something that the poker player is known for is his penchant for switching between other card games as a way to enhance his overall mathematical and strategic skills.
As a modern player, Negreanu does this by playing Hearthstone while he isn’t at the felt. Well known card sharks from years gone by like Stu Ungar were known to play blackjack to sharpen their minds. Anyone looking to replicate these greats could try a similar tactic. There are numerous blackjack options online where players can play against live dealers. Playing a mix of variations from Quantum to Premium can train players for a range of scenarios. The former involves deep thought while the latter encourages speedy decisions. Likewise, Hearthstone and other fantasy card games are easily accessible and free to play. These titles can help hone mathematical and strategic attributes.
To a beginner player, Negreanu’s statement that he could easily defeat his opponents at any amateur poker game seems outlandish. What if he only got dealt terrible hands each time, or one of the other players kept getting dealt the nuts? The fact that there is some chance involved in poker means that surely he couldn’t say with certainty that he was going to win in any game.
Some of these points are valid to an extent. If Kid Poker was to enter one hundred home poker games, he may only win 95 of them. There is, of course, the chance that someone else at the table could run like a god and simply win by having the best cards. But what makes Negreanu one of the greatest in the business is the fact that he has developed a way of playing which minimises the need to rely on having good cards all the time.
There is a lot of mathematics involved, and the Canadian player is easily able to work out his chances of winning a hand based on probability. But one of Negreanu’s major skills is the fact that he is able to read opponents well and work out what kind of hand they may be holding.
He does this by carefully observing how they act on every street. For example, if they bet big pre-flop but then check after the flop, they might not have hit something or they could be trying to conceal a monster. He will keep watching them to gain more information, and then put this all together in a Sherlock Holmes-style way to come to a conclusion about what cards they have.
Negreanu can spot small psychological tells really easily as well, and only the best players in the world are able to conceal these. For example, when holding a strong hand, players often glance down at their chips subconsciously. This is because they know they need to bet. If Negreanu spots this tell and then the player checks, he may suspect that they are trying to hide and slow play a good hand.
Negreanu’s statement about winning home poker games is probably true, as he is a genius when it comes to the cards. However, he doesn’t keep the way he developed his skills secret, and others could easily follow in his footsteps by adopting his methods.