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Poker News: August 18, 2007

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Copyright © 2007

HEADLINE: Daniel Negreanu on Poker: It doesn't take much to outplay a dummy

Author: Daniel Negreanu

There's an old poker saying that goes something like this: "If thou attempts to bluff a bad player, thou becomes one."

The meaning behind that adage is extremely important. Learn what it means and your poker results will improve immensely. I like to call it dummying down your game.

You see, sophisticated moves are totally lost on players who aren't really paying attention, or who don't truly understand the value of their own hands. The best way to profit from these players is to play a fundamentally sound game.

Don't get cute. It's a waste of time.

I hate to say it, but even in the main event of the World Series of Poker, it's extremely important to dummy down your game. Despite the $10,000 entry fee, most participants are amateurs with low poker skills.

When you find yourself up against some weak players, make the conscious decision to simplify your game. Dummying down is not hard to do.

Here are some key strategies.

• Avoid bluffing. Bad players call too often to make bluffing a profitable long-run play.
If you raise with A-K and two bad players call, don't waste any more money after the flop if you don't improve your hand. If the flop comes 8-6-3, you should be willing to check and give up if somebody bets.

• Value bet marginal hands. Since bad players call way too often with weak holdings, punish them for their foolishness.
Bet not only when you have the strongest hands but also when you have mediocre cards that are likely to be the best hand.

Let's say the flop comes Q-10-4 and you hold A-10.

If a bad player checks to you, bet your pair of 10s for value. If he calls, continue to bet the hand to the river. Don't worry too much about what he has. Unless the board becomes messy, say, with a jack and a nine, bet your hand all the way to the end and hope that your opponent makes a stupid call with a terrible hand.

Note: There is a big difference between betting a pair of 10s for value and bluffing. Despite the fact that you don't have a strong hand, you aren't bluffing either. You have a hand that rates to beat a bad player, so make sure that you're paid for it in full.

• Skip the trickery. When playing against skilled opponents, you must find ways to disguise the strength of your hands. Smart players do this by betting their hands in ways that might confuse a thinking opponent. There's no need for that strategy against a bad player. Check-raising and setting traps are pointless moves. Instead, as boring and uneventful as it might seem, simply bet your hands in a straightforward manner.
Trying to be tricky will only cost you money.

Let's say, for example, that you have a flush draw against a skilled opponent. You then hit your flush on the river and decide to check-raise since your opponent is so aggressive. That play can work against a strong opponent, but it's doomed to fail against a beginner. That's because a novice will surely call if he has any sort of a hand, but he won't bet if you check first.

Winning at poker isn't flashy and glamorous. You profit by capitalizing on opponents' mistakes. That's especially true against less-skilled, less-observant and plain bad players.

So, dummy it down when facing, you know, dummies.

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


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