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How World Series of Poker's Daniel Negreanu has changed his approach

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NBC Sports Chicago recently caught up with six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu to talk about the type of player he's evolved into and a key moment from the beginning of his career.

Negreanu, who was promoting the subscription streaming service PokerGO®, has cashed in 112 WSOP events, earning $14,908,224 in them.

"There's two ways of playing. One is called the Game Theory Optimal approach and the other is Exploitative," Negreanu said over the phone. "So the Game Theory Optimal approach is designed so that if you're playing against the perfect robot, there's one specific play or one way of playing a hand that is correct. And now, when you play exploitatively, you might know that but you go, 'I know this would be correct, but this guy here, he always folds. So I'm going to bluff him. More than I should.' 

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"So what I learned over the last couple of years is how to incorporate both Game Theory Optimal play and Exploitative because I was purely one-hundred percent Exploitative until the last few years that I learned it was important to have some balance of myself because when you do veer from Game Theory Optimal you do become exploitable yourself and some of the top players are doing that against me."

Negreanu, now forced to play online like many others, is trying to eliminate the tendencies he sometimes displayed earlier in his career.

 

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"I wouldn't describe them as risks, I would say that I've had tendencies that if somebody is paying attention... So for example, as simple as this, when I bet all my chips on the river, I'm not bluffing. If my top opponents know that, now they can start making really big folds and their exploiting a weakness in my lack of balance in the situation because what you want to have, on the river you want people to think like, 'Well, alright... he could be bluffing, he could have it.' When they know specific things about what you'll do in a situation, they can take advantage of you," Negreanu said.

Daniel won the first WSOP event he ever played in, the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold'em event in 1998 when he was 23. As he pulled all the chips in, Negreanu became the youngest player to ever win a WSOP bracelet at the time.

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"I was just happy to be in the money, then I was at the final table and I was like, 'Wow, this is cool.' All of a sudden, I found myself heads up in a form called Pot Limit Hold'em, which I never really played before. ... In the final hand, we both had about even chips and I had ace-queen of hearts and he had the jack-10 of clubs and the flop came queen, jack, four with two clubs and one heart. So I had the top pair, he had the second pair, but he had a four card flush, a three card straight... He had a ton of outs. 

"The turn card was a blank, the river was a little black card and I couldn't even see it because I was just so emotionally invested, but I did see some people cheering for me, raising their arms. I was like, 'Alright, that means it's not a club.' And it was the six of spades. I won on the very last hand. An absolute what's called a 'coin flip' situation. The odds of me winning the hand right after the flop were around fifty-fifty."

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