If you can’t say anything nice…

So much of poker is about deception.

Fooling an opponent. Lying outright.

The amount you bet, the situation in which you bet, the type of hands you bet, even how you make the bet are part of creating doubt in the minds of others and remaining unpredictable. Same goes for talking at the table. It can be a helpful tool or it can become costly, as evidenced in this hand from the $25,000-buy-in World Poker Tour Championship at Las Vegas’ Bellagio in 2010.

With blinds at $100-$200, a player in middle position raised to $525. Action folded to top pro Daniel Negreanu in the hijack seat with K-5 of spades.


“When I sat down at the table, the table was shorthanded,” said Negreanu, who has won WPT titles and World Series of Poker bracelets. “Not everyone was seated yet. A guy raised, I was in position, and we had so many chips to start with [$100,000]. When you first sit down, people expect you to play tight, so when you re-raise a guy, they think you usually have a big hand. I re-raised to $2,000 with a hand that I don’t want to call with. It’s a raise-or-fold type of hand. He called.”

The flop came 9-6-4, two hearts. The initial raiser checked. Negreanu bet $3,100.

“It was just a continuation bet,” Negreanu said. “If he doesn’t have a hand, he’s probably going to throw it away. If I had aces, I would bet it, so I have to represent that.”

Negreanu’s opponent called.


“I think he has a pocket pair now,” Negreanu said. “Most likely 10s, jacks or queens.”

The turn came the king of hearts, giving Negreanu top pair but completing a possible flush. The initial raiser checked. Negreanu made it $6,000.

“He called so fast that I didn’t think he was that strong,” Negreanu said. “I felt he had a hand and wanted me to know he wasn’t folding a hand like 10s or queens with a heart.”

The river came the 2 of spades. The initial raiser bet $15,500.


“It made very little sense that he had anything that strong,” Negreanu said. “He could potentially play a set that way, but there are so many more hands that I beat. Then he started talking.

“He said, ‘Whatever you do, just don’t fold.’ I said, ‘Folding isn’t even on my radar.’ He was talking, and I just didn’t buy it. It sounded like he was trying to do a reverse on me.”

Negreanu called and showed his king. His opponent showed 7-8 of clubs, missing a flopped open-ended straight draw.

“Playing $100-$200 and calling almost $16,000 with one pair is big,” Negreanu said, “but when he started talking, the comments he made — if you are going to talk, be careful of what you’re saying and how that’s going to be perceived.”


Table talk

Continuation bet: A bet on the flop by a preflop raiser to continue to represent strength.