Don't Try This at Home: A Cautionary Tale for Poker TV Viewers

26 September 2006

With High Stakes Poker, the Professional Poker Tour (PPT) and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event on my viewing list this summer, my DVR was bursting at the seams with poker programming. And on just about every show I watched, Daniel Negreanu was front and center.

I watched as he needled Minneapolis Jim Meehan into making terrible calls on the PPT. My jaw dropped when he called out the exact hole cards of his amateur opponents in the WSOP Main Event. Negreanu, it seemed, was able to play any two cards and make a winning hand. Whether he was flopping huge hands or making huge bluffs, he was able to bully his way to the final table of the PPT event at the Commerce Casino and he beat over 8,500 players in the Main Event of the WSOP, finishing 229th.

High Stakes Poker Comes to the Todd Household

A number of channels advertised on Comcast's channel guide have been replaced by local or leased access channels in my old home of Cambridge, Mass. Not much of the programming on these channels is in English.

And while The Poker Gal decried the loss of CMT, I was secretly thrilled, as I never had to sit through another Kenny Chesney video. I was happy to pay for programming I couldn't understand if it replaced undesirable programming I'd be forced to watch.

My opinion of the arrangement changed, however, in January, 2006, when GSN started broadcasting the first season of High Stakes Poker. I'd grown tired of the televised final table format and looked forward to watching high-stakes games for real money.

Then I realized that GSN was pre-empted on our cable system. I was disappointed, but since our DVR was already near capacity with approximately 47 episodes of The Simpsons, I figured there was enough TV in my life.

Over the summer, The Poker Gal and I moved and discovered an alternative to the dominating cable provider. A welcome by-product of the change in service -- other than the lower price -- was the addition of GSN to our television lineup.

Unfortunately for me, I started watching the PPT before I watched High Stakes Poker. Had I seen how disastrous it can be to play like Negreanu, I might not have done so poorly in the first two weeks of our league.

The problem with watching Negreanu is he makes it look so damn easy.

When I started my weekly Wednesday Series of Poker (WSoP) satellite league, I tried playing like Negreanu. Well, let's be a little more clear … I played every hand that Negreanu would have played.

I played any connected cards, unsuited one-gappers, suited two-gappers, it didn't matter. And I didn't just play them, I raised with them, I re-raised with them, and I bet every flop, turn and river.

I ended up winning a few early pots. But it didn't take long for people to start looking me up (we were playing Limit Hold'em). And once they did, the success rate of this strategy went down the drain. People played back at me at every opportunity. Every time I was in a pot it was like open season on my chips.

There were several reasons why Negreanu's style didn't work for me. I was watching Negreanu play No-Limit Texas Hold'em, not the limit variety I was playing, and Negreanu was playing deep-stack poker while our tournament structure is a medium-stack single table event designed to end in just under three hours.

But the most important difference is that I am not Daniel Negreanu. I can't look my opponent in the eye and tell him the exact two cards he's holding. I can't tell when a player will fold a medium-strong hand to a raise. And I always seem to put people on a bluff when they have the top hand.

I tightened up a great deal in weeks three and four and my play improved dramatically. At the end of those tournaments, the cards didn't cooperate and I ended up third in both. But I managed to get some much-needed points to move up the ladder.

I still have plenty of leaks in my game and I know I'll probably have to be very lucky to win the title Saturday. But if I've learned anything over the last six weeks, it's that I need to find a style of play that fits me, and it's not Daniel Negreanu's.


AT OffSuite

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