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"Kid" And Play

Becoming famous through success at poker inevitably leads to one or more instructional DVDs and books that ostensibly offer the masses a chance to become as successful as the instructor. Some attempts are better than others and Daniel Negreanu gives it a shot with his new instructional DVD Learn To Win At Texas Hold 'Em, created to tie in with his forthcoming multiplatform online poker video game, Stacked.

Negreanu's DVD is divided into three parts, according to the quality of the player: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Each level begins with Negreanu "discovering" a hotshot young player at a poker table and ushering him or her into a private tutoring session. These bits aren't very believable, but once the DVD cuts through the phony stuff and gets to the actual lessons, there's a lot of meat here, even though Negreanu speeds through 10 lessons in a half hour for each player level.

First, naturally, is the "Beginner" section: Negreanu recommends a tight-aggressive, straight-forward style for a beginner, which is by far the best lesson Negreanu could ever teach. The best play in poker is the fold, and Negreanu hammers that home by reinforcing the idea that new players should stick to good pre-flop hands, bet strong when those hands come up, and keep betting when the board is favorable

Negreanu teaches a few concepts that are contradicted in later levels, he advises bets of five times the big blind (or seven times when the pot has already been called!), which is a bit overaggressive and will lead to many bust-outs if a newbie is not careful.

The other important lesson here is the 30 percent rule. If in order to call a bet you have to put in 30 percent or more of your chips, it's better just to push your entire stack in. If you just put that 30 percent in, an opponent can re-raise and you'll be forced to go all in anyway. It's a good tip for a beginner.

In the "Intermediate" portion of the DVD, Negreanu eschews actual cards and decides to focus on psychology. He teaches the classification of players into certain groups, such as the "rock" and the "maniac. While this is important, it's probably still too early in a poker player's schooling to toss aside the deck for so long. Even the most interested student is going to get bored to tears when real-world card playing is put aside for theory.

When the DVD shifts to the "Advanced" area, that's when things start to get a little hairy; Negreanu introduces the concepts of pot odds and implied odds without really explaining what these terms mean. Odds can be tricky, especially for those not math proficient, but Negreanu throws these and several other advanced concepts at his poor student. Negreanu is far more successful when he discusses "small ball" poker; it's easy to tell that Negreanu is a fan of this system and really gets behind it. Small ball is the concept of betting a little to win a lot. A small-ball player sees a ton of flops, so much so that players think he or she is a maniac, but never risks too much money compared to the size of the pot. The small-ball player's focus is post-flop play, betting when position is good and getting out of the way at the right time. Negreanu also covers how to avoid scaring away an opponent who has a worse hand by betting enough so that player will call, but not so much that player will get wise and get away from the hand.

The final lesson in the "Advanced" chapter is on going pro, but since this is a tie-in to a video game, Negreanu studiously avoids the number-one thing that players must consider when going pro, bankroll. In fact, money is tip-toed around altogether; the students keep referring to "500 chips" and "700 chips," which is a decidedly different poker lingo than we're used to hearing.

For Negreanu to really spill all he knows would take dozens of hours and several DVDs, but he does a decent job of laying out the basics as well as delving into some advanced tips that many pros use on a regular basis. If new players would just take the lesson about folding more often and not playing 3-7 because it's there "favorite hand," then we'd all be bettor off.

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