• The Problem With Playing Too Aggressively

    Date: 2005.03.28 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    At a recent World Poker Tour championship in Tunica, Miss., 100 players were remaining (out of 540 who had bought in), when I witnessed a showdown between 2004 “Champion of the Year” Daniel Negreanu and 2003 “Champion of the Year” Chip Jett. With the blinds at $500-$1,000, the antes at $200 a man, Jett opened for $3,100 with Ah-8h, and Negreanu called with Kc-Qc. Then the deal got very interesting.

    After a flop of Jd-5c-3c, Negreanu had a king-high flush draw and two overcards (cards that are higher than the ones on the board, in this case the king and queen). Jett studied the situation and counted his chips — he had $22,000 total. After a few moments, Jett moved all-in, and Negreanu replied: “I have to call you.” When the hands were flipped up, I thought, “Ugh, I hate Chip’s tactics here, what was he thinking?”
    Knowing how a player typically reasons, Jett was probably thinking two things:

    — Negreanu’s hand was weak enough that a $14,000 raise would get him to fold.

    — Negreanu might have a “drawing hand” (cards that have the potential of becoming a strong hand, in this case a flush), but Jett’s ace-high hole cards carried more favorable odds.

    What Jett didn’t fully consider is that when Negreanu bet out $8,000 (he had almost $90,000 in chips), he was sending a message: “I’m committed to playing this hand, and I’m certainly calling a $14,000 raise. So this is not a good spot to be moving all-in bluffing!”

    As it turns out, of course, Negreanu was drawing, and the second part of Jett’s plan was still theoretically in play. Even though Negreanu was drawing, Jett was not the favorite to win the pot. In fact, even though his ace-high was currently the best hand, he was a 3-to-2 underdog to win the pot.

    Why not just respect Negreanu’s $8,000 bet and throw your hand away, thus saving $22,000 in chips to fight on with? After all, there was only $7,000 in the pot when Daniel bet out $8,000. Is it really worth it to get involved in a pot that small with no pair and no draw?

    Winning no-limit Hold’em tournaments is all about choosing the right place and the right time to put your chips into the pot. This wasn’t it.

    In defense of Jett’s move, he made his play because he thought Negreanu was bluffing. Perhaps he sensed weakness in Daniel, and thought he acted accordingly. In fact, Negreanu was semi-bluffing with his flush draw — but plenty capable of betting $8,000 on a bluff in this situation. Jett simply made a bad read: He thought Negreanu was weaker than he really was.

    The rest of the story is that the 7c hit on the next card, to give Negreanu his flush, and Jett was eliminated in 100th place. Negreanu went on to make the final six players, hit the World Poker Tour television coverage, and eventually finish the tour in third place.

    Playing too aggressively could entail:
    a) Betting big with a strong hand
    b) Calling all of your chips with a strong hand
    c) Moving all-in every hand
    d) Betting small amounts relative to the pot size

    Answer: C