A book review - Daniel Negreanu's More Hold'em Wisdom for all players
When it comes to my poker development, I love reading and often re-reading books as they can remind me of the pearls of wisdom seemingly freely provided by the pro's in all the intriguing Poker texts out there. One of my favourite poker players, Daniel Negreanu the 'kid' poker shares his intelligent concepts on playing tournaments poker in his down-to-earth book 'More Hold'em Wisdom for all players' in which he discusses the following six main points to consider:
- - Don't lay odds on your pre-flop raises (don't make your bets too big when a smaller bet will likely win the pot as wel).
- - Protecting your chips before protecting the flop. For example, in a marginal hand where it is close between your hand and your opponents err on the side of caution.
- - Avoid coin flip situations such as 55 (51.78%) v AK unsuited (48.22%)
- - Don't bluff too much
- - Understand your stack size and never give up. This was a big one for me too. I once lost nearly all my stack after losing against 10 10 all in early in a competition when I held AK - I stayed calm, accepted losing and built my chip stack right back up to a massive stack. Being short stacked isn't that bad I'm beginning to realise.
- - Good tournament play is about survival
In the first blog article I wrote on cardmates.net I described a situation where I was in a highly favourible position when having made a final table in a tournament with a decent sized chip stack and the first prize of about $100. I stupidly went all from early position, after my initial raise was re-raised, and got knocked out by QQ. I should have headed the advice in point 2 of avoiding coin flip situations, especially when on the final table! At the time, I definitely regretted my play here, especially as I was making a move from a weak powerless position, but at least I know now.
Secondly, these days I never slow play aces or kings as doing that has either cost me money or I annoy other players by slow playing a big hand or they're have me steaming when they flop lucky or hit a biggie on the turn. I usually tend to avoid slowplaying these days as I don't want anyone 'chasing me down' in later hands and targeting me, unless it calls for it.
And thirdly, I completely agree good tournament play is about survival - the longer you stay in, the more chance you'll have of making the money (sometimes it's harder being the chip leader).
THE WAR OF POKER
Taking time off from the 'war of poker' to do other things like reading, socialising or exercising can be a good thing to re-charge mentally, physically and emotionally as the battle on the poker tables can be a lot more energy sapping than you realise. It can allow you to reflect on what you did well and badly and what things you can take into the game next time to improve.
I can really recommend reading Daniel Negreanu's book 'More Hold'em Wisdom for all Players' if you want some really strong advice on how to become a better poker tournament player. This book would make a great start. It is a book which is written clearly and in an uncomplicated way which is both easy to understand and an enjoyable read. I applied some of the advice given in the earlier chapters and I felt like it gave me an immediate edge during the next tournament I played in.
So why choose this book to review? I choose this book written by Negreanu because primarily I would have to say Daniel 'the kid' Poker Negreanu is my favourite player, but also this is the best easy-to-follow guide for effective tournament play that can turn you in to a winning player. I also often look for him on YouTube for further Poker guidance or for bit of entertainment. He has a really positive attitude, is funny and is one of those individuals with a big charisma and always with a big smile on his face.
Negreanu's approach to the game has also been somewhat original and in this book he also briefly discusses his then emergent 'small ball strategy' that he recommends using for building a decent chip stack. (This is now an oldish book).
According to Negreanu, his small ball strategy is 'play that can keep your stack from dwindling and is a less risky approach to winning'. (Page 30) He says: 'Lets look at an example of how a small ball player plans to build her stack. With the blinds still at $100/$200 and a $25 ante, the small ball player will attack a pot that no one has entered, preferably from late position. Her hand doesn't matter all that much, but being suited or connected helps.'
He continues: 'Let's say small ball player hold 6 hearts 8 hearts (not a very strong hand according to David Sklansky in No Limit Hold'em Theory and Practice). Rather than call or make a large raise to steal the blinds, small ball might raise to just $500. He's almost inviting the player in the big blind to call. More often than not, that's exactly what will happen, growing the pot to $1325. The flop comes A spades 9 clubs 2 hearts. The big blind will often check, and this is where the small ball player must bet despite not having anything at all. A bet of about $800 should do the trick.'
In this chapter, Negreanu then says. 'It will force the big blind to fold, unless, of course she happens to have an A or better. If that happens, small ball better fold quickly.' 'Another example is that when small ball gets lucky and when the 6h 8h hits a good flop. If the flop comes 5-7-9, there's no way that any player could figure her for a straight. If his opponent has two pair, trips or even an over pair, the trap will be set. Small ball will be looking for her big payday.' (Page 30-31 More Hold'em Wisdom for All Players)
In the same chapter, he also discusses the 'dead money approach' which is: 'risking a large amount of chips in order to win small pots'. Negreanu says; 'Both approaches are effective, but the dead money approach has limited long term prospects; it's a play that should be used sparingly. It will never win you a huge pot, but could cost you much of your stack. With the small ball approach, you can accomplish two objectives: You'll continue to build your stack slowly, and occasionally, you'll hit a big flop and double up.' (Page 31)
Just in response to a good comment by a fellow blogger here on cardmates in my latest post '3 reasons why I love Pot Limit Omaha' he said he thought it was a good idea to be aggressive when you hold a strong hand in Pot Limit Omaha which I definitely agreed with. However, I also added that in my opinion (and from my research - in the book transitioning from NLHE to PLO) it is also a good idea to sometimes be cautious as well. I have suffered in the past where every time I hit top set with say QQ in Pot Limit Omaha, only to be outdrawn on the river again and again after carelessly going all in on the flop. In page 32 of this book review, Negreanu implores that 'undoubtedly the best approach to no-Limit tournaments is to be aggressive, but at the same time, you must avoid major risks in marginal situations.' This is exactly the same advice given in David Sklansky's and Miller's No Limit Hold'em Theory and Practice as well.
DIFFERENT STRATEGIES TO USE IN TOURNAMENTS
Another technique that Negreanu shares is one that I really liked as well, called the stop-and-play-go strategy. Rather than reciting it word for word, I'll try to explain it from memory in my own words. In this play, say you are short stacked in a tournament and in early position. The usual play would be for players just to go all in with this hand, but with the stop-and-play technique instead of going all in, you just call your opponent and try to force him or her out later in the hand. Had you gone all in straightaway the opponent may have had good pot odds to call with a hand like K10 and got lucky!
Overall, this book is really worth a read to pick up some new tricks, concepts and words of advice and if you've found find yourself getting frustrated with seemingly bad misfortune on a regular basis in tournaments this is definitely the book for you. It may be that you have been going all in too much or over doing certain types of play. Who knows? This is an unspoken, humble guide to Poker play to make your play better and ultimately make you more money in the long term by helping you to finish in more regular final tables. For all the other gold nuggets Negreanu provides in the book you will have to read it for yourself!
The book can be downloaded on the excellent site archive.org
Next stories coming up: Do or don't mix drinking alcohol with playing poker? The benefits of going alcohol free! - My funny Casino story - strengths and weaknesses as a Texas Hold'em player