Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: The Silent Dialog in Limit Hold’em

Limit Hold’em is a beautiful game to play. Maybe it’s not as dramatic as No Limit — with those exciting all-in bets — but the betting in Limit has a flow to it that’s like a language of its own.

This dialog is often non-verbal but it speaks volumes.

Let me illustrate this point in a typical hand.
Playing a $10-$20 limit, Charlie raises the pot to $20 from middle position. That bet says, I have the best hand boys, and I’m going to attack those blinds. Then Joe reraises the bet to $30 from the dealer position: Sorry Charlie, I think I’m the one with the best hand.
All of the other players fold, and the flop comes Ks-8d-4c. Charlie is first to act and checks.  He’s saying, okay, tough guy, since you reraised me before the flop, go ahead and bet.

Joe isn’t ready to slow down just yet. He bets: Charlie, I’m not scared of that king. Who knows, I might even have one myself. 

Having made the obligatory check to the raiser, Charlie now fires back a raise at Joe. Not so fast Joe, I liked that flop and I’m ready to dance. You game? Let’s make it $20.

Joe stares at Charlie and reaches for more chips. What, did you think I was kidding, Charlie? When I said I had the best hand, I meant it. Reraise!
The action gets back to Charlie who decides to just call. All right Joe, I’ll stop raising, for now. But I’m not letting you have this pot just yet. Let’s see another card.
The turn card is the 2c.

This part of the unspoken poker conversation should usually go the same way for Charlie. Since he didn’t reraise on the flop, he should check the turn. Otherwise, the conversation just doesn’t flow; if Charlie were to bet, it just wouldn’t make much sense.

But he does anyway. Um…er, I know you reraised me on the flop but I’m still going to bet.
Joe glances back at Charlie with a puzzled look on his face. Now you’re betting? You didn’t reraise me to $40 on the flop, and all of a sudden I’m supposed to believe that a deuce helped? If it did help you, why wouldn’t you check-raise me?  You know I’m going to bet for sure.
Here’s the way the hand is supposed to play out. Either Charlie should make it $40 and bet the turn, or he should just call the $30 and check. Any other play doesn’t go with the flow of the conversation.

This is what Charlie should have said: Okay Joe, you go ahead and bet and we’ll see what I decide to do. I might be trapping you, or I might be a little scared. You’ll never know which it is.
Joe then bets the turn. I’m not scared of a little old deuce, and I’ve got a monster hand. Let’s make it $20 to go.

Charlie then springs back into action. Gotcha!  I’m the man with the best hand and here’s $40 to prove it.

 

Joe makes the reluctant call. Wow, Charlie, looks like maybe you do have the best hand, but I’m going to pay the price to see it.
The river card is another deuce, and Charlie makes his last bet at the pot. I wasn’t kidding and I’m not stopping now.

Once again, Joe calls. I guess you might have me Charlie, but the pot is too big now, I have to call you.
Charlie then turns over pocket eights for a full house. Joe sends his hand to the muck face up — big slick, A-K.
As you can see, the combination of betting and non-verbal dialog made sense throughout the hand.

When professionals play Limit Hold’em, all the bets seem to have a rhythm that makes sense. Every action has a meaning, and it’s usually predicated on the play from the previous street.

Playing wildly may help you win some No Limit hands, but Limit poker is more of a science than an art. Both are beautiful games, but a different approach is required for each one.

 

Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.

 

© 2007 Card Shark Media. All rights reserved.

 

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