Hellmuth Makes Brilliant Read Against Negreanu in the High Stakes Duel


In this week’s PokerNews strategy column, I look at another hand from Round 1 of the $50,000 High Stakes Duel II between Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu. Hellmuth makes a brilliant read and lets his hand go when he knows he is beaten. Should he have bet the turn for protection though? Negreanu, who is fresh off winning his first live event in eight years, said in the match that he would have folded had Hellmuth opted for a huge bet on the turn. Let’s get into it.

The hand began with the blinds at 500/1,000 when Hellmuth (61,000) limped with the {10-Clubs}{8-Hearts}. This is fine as you should learn to develop a limping strategy when playing heads up. Negreanu (37,000) checked and that brought about a flop of {10-Diamonds}{7-Spades}{6-Diamonds}. which he also checked. Hellmuth then continued for 1,000 with top pair and a gutshot straight draw before Negreanu check-raised to 5,000.

This is a spot where a lot of players make the error of trying to get all their chips in, just shoving them all in. The problem with shoving is that you will always get called when you have the worse hand, and if you are ahead and get called then your opponent will most likely have a premium draw that has a lot of equity against your hand. Instead, Hellmuth’s main concern should be trying to keep Negreanu in the hand with all of his junky draws.

Hellmuth actually has a very good hand to call down with, and I think that’s the right play. Indeed, Hellmuth did just call and the {k-Spades} appeared on the turn. Negreanu checked and action was on Hellmuth. When Negreanu checked the turn his range can be better defined as potentially having a weak made hand or a draw, though if Hellmuth thinks that Negreanu might check-raise a bet then he should check behind here.

Hellmuth vs. Negreanu

However, Hellmuth does not need to be overly afraid when the turn brings an overcard that does not connect very well with any of the available draws that Negreanu might have. The only kings that make any sense for Negreanu are the king-high flush draws. I think this is a spot where Hellmuth has the best hand a large percent of the time, but nonetheless, he does check it back to bring about the {5-Diamonds} on the river, a card that completes some of the junky straights and of course the diamond flush.

Negreanu bet 7,500 into the pot of 12,000. What do you do in this spot? Fold? Call? Raise to 31,000 to put Negreanu all in?

If you believe your opponent to be more cautious then this hand becomes an easy fold; however, if you’re playing against a strong player who is aggressive, like Negreanu, then this hand becomes a call. I don’t think you should ever go all in as you’re only going to get called by better.

In this scenario, Hellmuth folded, and do you know what he was up against – the {2-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds} for the Negreanu flush.

“On the turn, the solver would decide to continue bluffing with Negreanu’s hand, so his check was likely a mistake.”

From a GTO perspective, the solver likes a bet 82 percent of the time with {10-}{8-} offsuit on the flop. As this was a limped pot and this flop hits Hellmuth’s range, Negreanu should not be doing much raising. However, he did and according to the solver when facing a raise Hellmuth should only three-bet just a paltry 1.49 percent of the time.

On the turn, the solver would decide to continue bluffing with Negreanu’s hand, so his check was likely a mistake. The largest bet size on the turn for Negreanu that the solver would opt for would be a pot-sized bet, though you want to be careful about using extremely large bet sizes against opponents that are known to trap, like Hellmuth.

On the river, the solver likes Negreanu to bet all of the draws that came in, and it prefers a 62-percent pot-sized bet. The question is, should Hellmuth call with his hand? The solver would call with his hand around 75 percent of the time facing Negreanu’s bet. As I said, you have to be aware of whether you think your opponent tends to over or under bluff and adjust your strategy based on your read.

Hellmuth had the right read here and managed to get away from it and save himself some valuable chips.

For more on this hand, check out my breakdown in the following video:

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com. Sign up to learn poker from Jonathan for free at PokerCoaching.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.





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