Brunson credits Negreanu with teaching him winning tourney play

Jon Pill
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Posted on 05/13/2021

You have to be quite a player to teach Doyle Brunson a thing or two about poker. But in a recent tweet, Brunson credited Daniel Negreanu with drastically changing the way he approached tournaments.

“The only time I ever tried to change the way I play poker was when @RealKidPoker was winning lots of tournaments playing ‘small ball,'” Doyle wrote. “I have always played big pots and relying on my gut instincts so I didn’t last long. But Daniel sure made it pay.”

Small-ball became the preferred style of tournament players in the late-2000s. Simply put, small-ball focuses on controlling pot size so that a lower percentage of the player’s stack is on the line in any given hand.

Small-ball cuts down on the dollar variance over multiple tournaments by minimizing the degree to which players are at the total mercy of the cards. The better player can maintain their edge over a tournament, by avoiding being dependent on winning a huge series of 2-1 or 50-50 flips.

Around this time, the poker boom was improving the player pool by driving a huge exchange of information online in forums like 2+2 and FlopTurnRiver. The edges between the best players and the average began to shift and tournament players began to realize the distinction between $EV and cEV.

Brunson took a little time to come round to the new style of play.

Negreanu’s tournament record

Brunson ranks Negreanu number 9 in his list of top 10 most talented players. This fact feels especially impressive given that Negreanu’s tournament record has been a bit spottier of late.

The last time Negreanu took a first-place finish was in 2015, and even then it was in a limited field tourney for Season 2 of Shark Cage. The last open event he won was a €25,000 higher roller event way back in 2013 at Enghien-les-Bains in France.

Since 2015, he’s been in a podium position in 16 events. But hasn’t managed to close out a heads-up or three-way position. Perhaps on reflection he should have been less surprised when Polk took him for 12 bb/100 in their heads up match.

That streak’s been running longer at Hellmuth dunked on him twice in the High Stakes Duel events.

On the other hand, Daniel Negreanu is still the third biggest money winner of all time when it comes to tourneys. And Doyle’s been retired for most of Daniel’s recent slump.

Brunson was, on the whole, slow to adapt to the changing landscape of poker. His section on no-limit hold ’em is almost entirely unchanged between 1979’s poker-book classic Super/System and 2004’s Super/System 2. That’s a fact he seemed oddly proud of in the introduction to the second book.

Negreanu wrote the section on 7-stud hi/lo for Super/System 2. In the NLH section, both editions put a heavy emphasis on “putting your opponent to a decision for all their chips.” You may remember hearing that line echoed in the movie Rounders.

Still, old dogs can learn new tricks. Eventually.

Perhaps Negreanu can bring Doyle round to GTO too.

Featured image source: Flickr by WPT