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Daniel Negreanu's Bust Out Hand of 2015 WSOP ME—Mistake or Good Play?

by Aze Gallo.

Last night the long time poker legend and fan favorite Daniel Negreanu was involved in a hand that ultimately saw him bust out in 11th place of the prestigious World Series of Poker Main Event. A lot of hopes and dreams for a personality like Daniel to make the final table (and all of the media attention that would have come along with it) were crushed in situation where ‘DNegs’ got it all-in in on the flop as a 56% favorite against the hyper aggressive 24 year-old chip leader Joe McKeehen.

The hand played out like this:

Daniel Negreanu's last hand of 2015 WSOP ME

Tournament: 2015 WSOP ME

Players remaining: 11

Blinds: 400K/200K—50K ante, with 5 players at this table.

Joe McKeehen (Button)

Daniel Negreanu (Big Blind) with 6,675,000 chips (BB = 16.7 | M = 7.9)

Preflop:
Daniel Negreanu is dealt: As 4c

McKeehen open raises the button to 800k, SB folds, Daniel calls 400k

Flop (2,250,000): Td Kc Ad

Daniel checks, McKeehen bets 700,000, Daniel goes ALL-IN 5,825,000

After the news of that final hand broke, the online poker forums were buzzing with critiques and defenses of Daniel’s play, mostly on his preflop decision to flat rather than shove. Daniel himself even mentioned the hand in his blog entitled “My Two Mistakes from WSOP 2015”, although he didn’t include the hand as one of the two mistakes, instead adding it to the entry with his justifications for the play.

To this point McKeehen had been ruthlessly aggressive as the massive chipleader at the table, and by Daniel’s account Joe was opening 100% on the button. I’ll be slightly more conservative and assume McKeehen was folding roughly the bottom 10% of hands. I’m not saying anything about the merits of raising this range but by all accounts McKeehen was likely opening nearly every hand so that’s what we’ll go with.

Daniel expressed the view that calling would help balance his flatting range, and that McKeehen would be attacking ace high boards so aggressively that it would give A4o a considerable amount of equity as a flat. He’s right that if McKeehen is getting overly aggressive on A-high boards it improves the EV of flatting Ax hands, but as we can see there is a lot of value even in the worst case scenario with the shove - so A4o really needs to capture more than it’s fair share of equity in order to prefer flatting here. By my math A4o needs to capture around 130% of its preflop equity against the 90% button range, which is a tall order when out of position and against a thinking and aggressive opponent.

I can’t say with absolute certainty which play is better but my intuition is that while it’s generally somewhat close EV favors shoving by a bit.

I found this hand interesting, and clearly it is a bit divisive within the poker community, so I thought it would make for a fun hand to analyze and share with readers.

My full analysis of the situation is continued in the video on this page.

Please feel free to comment in the section below with any thoughts about the hand, I look forward to the discussion.

Enjoy.

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