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Poker News: August 12, 2007

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Copyright © 2007

HEADLINE: Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Motivation dictates level of competition

Author: Daniel Negreanu

What do you want to get out of poker? What's your motivation?

For most people, the answer is simple: money. Money-motivated players are vastly different from others who are driven to challenge themselves against the best in the world.

If winning money is your goal, then game selection is extremely important. You should avoid games loaded with professionals, while also making sure your skill level matches well with opponents.

The best places to win easy money would be in lower-limit games. Whether it's Las Vegas, California, Atlantic City, Tunica or at home, finding soft games isn't that difficult. You might consider some of the
lesser-known poker rooms where you'll find plenty of tourists just out for a good time.

Don't swim with sharks
Other casinos, however, are known for high-stakes action. That's where the sharks look for chum. If you're trying to avoid the pros, don't go
to their houses. Play where they won't.

Before you sit down in any game, watch for a while. Get a feel for the action. A game with a lot of raising and reraising might not be the best place for you. Instead, look for a game with a lot of callers and passive play. A game like that is much easier to beat, and your bankroll won't fluctuate as much as it would against aggressive players.

What if your motivation is to become the best player you can be?

If that's the case, and you want to fast track your way to the top — so start there.

Seriously, if you want to improve your skills quickly, ignore the advice I've given up to now.

To get good fast, it's going to cost you. Don't even think about jumping into the shark tank unless you're wealthy enough to handle the huge swings of high-stakes poker.

Recently I was invited to play in a game with some extremely wealthy guys. They just love to play and can afford to bet as high as the sky. When I play in a game like this, my motivation is purely financial. I'm not going to learn much from these guys, but I'm happy to help them improve their games — for a price, of course.

But that doesn't define what motivates me. You see, my motivation is to be the best player I can be. The only way I can do that is to play against the best.

Many people don't understand why five sharks would play when there are easier games to beat.

Well, I can answer that.

When sharks play against other sharks, they all get better. It's almost like sparring. As a result, it makes it even easier for them to dominate in other games.

Expensive lessons
Of course, most people don't have the bankrolls to sit in the biggest games in the room against the world's best players. But that doesn't mean they can't take some shortcuts to improve their games.

The only way to improve is to play against great opponents. Do your best to hang in there with them. Yes, you'll probably lose, but it won't be a wasted effort. The lessons you'll learn from top opponents will help make you a better player quicker than grinding it out for years in small games.

For an aspiring professional, try a steady regimen of playing in soft games for money about 80 percent of the time. Play the remaining 20 percent to improve your skill level against the best players you can find.

Daniel Negreanu writes for Card Shark Media. Comments should be directed through an e-mail link at


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