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"They've only got it half-right," accomplished pro Daniel Negreanu said. "When you're in the small blind, you're supposed to minimize your loss because you're out of position. But when you're in the big blind, you're supposed to maximize your win. That's true of any situation with position, especially in tournament poker."
The power of position also requires some careful play, as Negreanu showed in this hand from the World Poker Tour's $15,000-buy-in Doyle Brunson World Poker Classic at Las Vegas' Bellagio in 2007.
With blinds at $400-$800 plus a $100 ante, action folded to the small blind, who just called the extra $400. "I have Q-9 of clubs in the big blind," said Negreanu, a pro sponsored by the PokerStars online site. "Some players might raise with it, but I don't mind seeing a flop with that." The flop came K-10-3, two hearts, giving Negreanu a gutshot straight draw. The small blind bet out $2,000.
"I don't have anything, but it could be the best hand and he could be trying to pick up the pot with nothing," Negreanu said. "If not, there's a very good chance I could bluff him on the turn. So I call."
The turn came the 9 of hearts, giving Negreanu a pair but putting a flush up. The small blind checked. "Once he checks, I know I don't have to really bluff anymore because I have a pair," said Negreanu, who has three World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour titles. "I think the 9s are good. I don't think he's going to fold a 10 if I bet, and he's defi- nitely not going to fold a king. So I'm going to check it." The river came the jack of spades, completing Negreanu's straight. The small blind checked.
"Now I think he might have a little something because he would've bluffed if he didn't," Negreanu said. "I decide to make a value bet of $2,000." The small blind called with K-4 off-suit, so Negreanu got paid off. "I played the hand as carefully as you can," Negreanu said. "I didn't let him trap me because I didn't fall for it on the turn. If I bet on the turn and he raises me, I have to jump ship. But by keeping the pot small, I don't have to worry about getting bluffed.
"The lesson is, when you're in position, you have the luxury of getting the last action, which is so powerful in small-blind-big-blind pots. He actually didn't play his hand poorly. He actually played it well. He played it the way I would've played it."