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Alec Torelli’s “Hand of the Day”: Would You Call This All In vs. Daniel Negreanu?

Daniel Negreanu and Alec Torelli battle at the EPT Grand Final


  • Alec Torelli returns with another edition of "Hand of the Day."

Alec Torelli is a poker professional originally from California, but travels the world full time with his wife, Ambra. Torelli has over $1.5 million in live tournament earnings (including two World Series of Poker final tables and two World Poker Tour final tables) as well as over $500,000 in online tournament earnings. Outside of poker he and his wife manage a million-dollar online business which travels the world with them.

In Torelli’s “Hand of the Day” series he analyses hands played by him and submitted to him by others. This week he discusses an intriguing tournament hand he played versus Daniel Negreanu.

* * * * *

Today’s hand from the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo is one of those that sticks with you long after the cards are dealt.

I was up against one of my childhood heroes, Daniel Negreanu, with whom I had battled throughout the day. We had been seated at a previous table earlier that afternoon, and while there got into a big confrontation in a three-bet pot, where I (barely) got the best of it. So later when we got moved to the featured table together, and I was seated to his immediate left, I knew we were destined for fireworks!

Daniel has one of the most creative, unconventional styles in poker. And it works precisely because he takes lines that nobody expects. In the hand, in typical Daniel fashion, he used his magic like only he can do, combining charm and excellent planning to talk me into a fold! Damn you, Daniel!

Nothing but credit to him here, as I was so confident I was making a correct, monster laydown. Oh well, at least I have a story to tell.

P.S. For the curious few, here’s a breakdown of exactly why I folded:

For me to correctly call the river, Daniel has to be bluffing 25% of the time. That means that 25% of the time, Daniel has to do all of the following:

  1. Lead into a field of 4 players on a {Q-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}{2-Clubs} board, and call a raise with a hand that is worse than mine.
  2. Still have a worse hand than mine after leading a {J-Clubs} turn.
  3. Continue bluffing on an {A-Diamonds} river, after knowing that I’m likely to call with any hand that calls the turn. (What hands can I possibly have that raise the flop and call a bet on the turn when the flush card comes that would then fold the river? I would snap-fold {K-}{K-} on the turn because it’s in bad shape versus his range, so my river range is confined to sets and flushes.)

Even if Daniel is bluffing 100% of the time when he has bluffs, he can only successfully bluff with specifically the {A-Clubs} in his hand. Otherwise, he cannot be certain that I don’t have the nut flush when raising the flop, which would constitute a large part of my holdings.

Let’s take a look at the hands which Daniel can have that contain the {A-Clubs}:

  • {A-}{A-} — 2 combos: {A-Clubs}{A-Spades}, {A-Clubs}{A-Hearts}
  • {A-}{K-} — 4 combos: {A-Clubs}{K-Diamonds}, {A-Clubs}{K-Spades}, {A-Clubs}{K-Hearts}, {A-Clubs}{K-Clubs}
  • {A-}{J-} — 3 combos: {A-Clubs}{J-Spades}, {A-Clubs}{J-Diamonds}, {A-Clubs}{J-Hearts}
  • Nut Flush — 8 combos: {A-Clubs}{Q-Clubs}, {A-Clubs}{10-Clubs} down to {A-Clubs}{6-Clubs}, {A-Clubs}{4-Clubs}, {A-Clubs}{3-Clubs} (we already counted {A-Clubs}{K-Clubs} above)

He can’t have {A-}{10-}-offsuit or worse, because he folds those preflop from UTG+2. Thus, the percentage of the time that I win, specifically when Daniel has the {A-Clubs}, is still rather small at 6/17 = 35%.

So, you say, I need 25% equity to call and I have 35% equity. Well, not exactly.

My above equity is only against the hands which contain the {A-Clubs}. What about the other hands? Daniel can have no other bluffs, but still have plenty of other hands that beat me.

Here are some of the possibilities:

  • {Q-}{Q-} — 3 combos: {Q-Clubs}{Q-Spades}, {Q-Clubs}{Q-Hearts}, {Q-Spades}{Q-Hearts}
  • {A-}{A-} — 1 combo: {A-Hearts}{A-Spades}
  • Strong Flushes — 6 combos: {K-Clubs}{10-Clubs}, {K-Clubs}{Q-Clubs}, {Q-Clubs}{10-Clubs}, {10-Clubs}{9-Clubs}, {10-Clubs}{8-Clubs}, {9-Clubs}{8-Clubs} (This conservatively assumes that Daniel never has lower flushes, which if he ever does, gives more credence to folding.)

All of these hands beat me, meaning my equity versus his other value betting hands is zero.

Now it’s time to calculate my total equity versus all of his possible holdings.

The percentage of the time I win is 6/(17+10) or 6/27 or 22%. Since the odds I’m getting are 20,000/7,000, or 2.85-to-1, I need ~26% equity to correctly call, which means this is a slightly losing call.

Again, 22% is close to 26% but there is one key flaw in our assumption.

The math assumes that Daniel takes this ambitious line out of position 100% of the time he has the {A-Clubs}. This is simply not true. Most of the time he folds the flop; thus, we can conservatively divide his bluffs in half, since he doesn’t get to the river with most of them!

Conversely, the opposite is true. Almost every time he has a strong hand for value, he would play it this way, meaning that all of his strong hands are likely in his range. Thus, our real equity is closer to 11%, making this a clear fold.

Lastly given the nature of tournaments, where preserving chips is more important than gaining them, and the fact that in early levels in a soft field there is much greater opportunity later on, I still believe folding to be the correct, long term play in my spot, despite folding the winner.

Now, in this specific situation, perhaps Daniel’s eager chatter should have inclined me to call (in a vacuum), but then again, the fact that he pulled it off is what makes the hand one for the ages!

Props Daniel.

Want to be featured on future episodes of “Hand of the Day”? Simply submit your hands to Alec here.

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