Idol Hands … $7 million decision

Two heads-up gurus battle for the big one

Daniel Negreanu KhQs
Daniel Colman Ad4d

Daniel Negreanu 70,000,000
Daniel Colman 56,000,000

Daniel Negreanu vs Daniel Colman

The million dollar buy-in “Big One for One Drop” event at the World Series is always going to be exciting. With such obscene money up for grabs and some of the world’s best or otherwise wealthiest poker players, the mental jousting is exhilarating and the stories compelling. Guaranteed not to disappoint, the heads-up battle was even more interesting than we could have expected. We saw two titans of the game pitted against one another in a battle of new school versus the old guard for a first prize of $15 million, $7 million dollars more than second-place money. Daniel Colman is a heads up prodigy and widely regarded as the best online heads up tournament player in the world. Daniel Negreanu was named the best overall tournament player of the last decade by the Global Poker Index and is a heads-up legend in his own right, once hosting an open challenge to any player that wanted to challenge him in any poker variant for up to $500,000 per match. The best of the Internet and the live felt were set to square off for $7 million dollars, and Negreanu would have home court advantage.

Blinds 600,000/1,200,000 with a 200,000 ante.

Colman has a suited ace on the button, more than enough to toss in a raise. He’ll raise just over the minimum.

Colman raises to 2,500,000

Negreanu has KQ offsuit in the big blind facing a small raise. His hand is far ahead of his opponent’s raising range, and is plenty strong enough to put in a re-raise. Against a strong opponent, it’s important to take advantage of every strong hand and really press your edges. However, Negreanu is going to favor his post-flop prowess over a pre-flop war with Colman, and simply calling is fine here as well.

Negreanu calls 1,300,000

FLOP 4s 8d Js

Negreanu misses the flop, but KQ high isn’t a bad hand heads up on a board like this. Additionally, he has a backdoor straight and flush draw, so it’s not a total whiff. Checking and reacting to the in-position player is going to be the best play here.

Negreanu checks

Colman flops bottom pair with the ace kicker, and a backdoor flush draw. It’s not a particularly strong holding, but it’s very likely best and worth a continuation bet.

Colman bets 2,500,000

Negreanu is facing a small continuation bet with a hand that may be best and has potential to improve. It’s not going to be easy to play against a player of Colman’s ability, but it’s certainly worth playing. He could decide to check-raise here and put Colman in a tough spot with a lot of his holdings, but KQ is actually a little too strong here. I prefer to see a call.

Negreanu calls 2,500,000

Turn 4s 8d Js As

The turned ace of spades is a pretty decent card for Negreanu. It gives him a big flush draw as well as gutshot straight draw. The ace on board also makes it slightly less likely that his opponent holds an ace, improving the chances that his KQ high holding is best. Betting here wouldn’t accomplish much and could open him up to a raise from Colman. It’s best to continue to check out of position and react to his opponent’s play.

Negreanu checks

Colman turns two pair and is almost certainly in the lead. The spade means a flush is possible, but unlikely. Checking back in fear of the flush is far too timid here. He should be betting his hand for value and continuing to put the pressure on Negreanu. A bet of around two-thirds of the pot will work well here.

Colman bets 7,000,000

Negreanu isn’t happy to be facing a sizable bet here with no pair, but his hand has value and he needs to assess that value against the range of his opponent. It’s hard to say how often his KQ high will be the best hand here, but Colman is a strong heads up player and the ace of spades is a great card from him to bluff. Additionally, Colman probably won’t be betting a pair of jacks or eights like this, since he’d be better off checking back with those value hands. Therefore, Negreanu will be reading Colman for a pair of aces or better or a bluff. He’s ahead of most of Colman’s bluffing hands and has outs against all but the nut flush. He should make the call.

Negreanu calls 7,000,000

River 4s 8d Js As 4h

The river is a brick and not what Negreanu wanted to see. Trying to bluff with his hand is a losing proposition. He should continue to check and hope his opponent opts to do the same.

Negreanu checks

The river is far from a brick to Colman. He no longer has to consider a slow-played flush from his opponent, and is free to fire away. His opponent has called twice out of position, including a sizable turn bet, indicating a relatively strong holding or possibly a big draw. He can size his bet on the larger end of the scale and hope that Negreanu has a hand that is too strong to fold.

Colman bets 18,000,000

Negreanu missed his draw and Colman has fired out a large bet of three-quarters pot on the river. On the surface, it certainly seems like the hand should be over. However, Colman is an extremely talented player and certainly capable of bluffing here. Also, he’s probably not going to bet this big with marginal holdings like one pair. His range is polarized, meaning he’s going to have a big hand or a bluff. Thus, Negreanu has a decision to make with king high.

He needs to consider which hands Colman will bet for value here, and how likely he is to be holding them. He also must consider which hands Colman may have decided to continue bluffing with after the flop, and how likely those hands are. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, he needs to consider how often Colman will decide to follow through on a bluff for this many chips, on this stage, with $7 million on the line.

Colman will certainly bet full houses and flushes like this, but I think he could also bet two pair (AJ or A8) like this or perhaps even AK with the king of spades blocker. This would be a big bet for two pair on a scary board, but Colman is one of the best and knows it’s tough for Negreanu to have that beat. Also, he could have been bluffing the turn with bottom pair of fours and rivered trips and bombed it.

There are a bunch of hands Colman could be bluffing. He could have a smaller straight and/or flush draw that he missed along with Negreanu, or possible a total air hand and thought he could get Negreanu to fold on a dangerous turn and now decided to barrel off on the river. Unfortunately for Negreanu, there are a few bluffs that are actually ahead of king-high here, such as small pocket pairs Colman has decided to bluff with.

While there are plenty of hands Colman could have been bluffing with on the turn, Negreanu needs to consider his own image and decide how often Colman will barrel off on the river. Colman is betting over 40 percent of his remaining stack, and will be in bad shape if he’s called and loses. It’s an extremely risky bluff to run, and Negreanu should realize that Colman sees himself as a favorite in heads-up playing, reducing the chances he would make such a risky bluff. Also, even though Negreanu has appeared rather weak throughout the hand, he still has a reputation for being a sticky player that doesn’t like to fold. It’s unlikely that Colman is going to put his tournament in such peril on the hopes that Daniel Negreanu is going to make a big fold. As capable as Colman is, I just don’t see him following through with an enormous river bluff in this situation often enough to warrant a hero call from Negreanu. It’s not an easy fold, but when all factors are considered, Kid Poker should let this one go and look for a better spot for all of these chips.

Negreanu calls 18,000,000

 If Negreanu is right, he has Colman on the ropes with one of the sickest calls in the history of the game. Instead, the momentum and a monster pot went to Colman and propelled him to victory and the $15 million first prize.

August 2014