A recent hand involving poker superstar Daniel Negreanu has generated a lot of controversy. Negreanu was playing in the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) $10,000 Main Event when he asked the tournament staff for a ruling on a hand. A lot of people think Negreanu’s request was “angle shooting,” or bending the rules to get a slight advantage.
Angle shooting happens a lot in poker and, while not technically cheating, it certainly resides in the same ballpark. For example, slightly drumming on the table to represent a check and make an opponent act, then acting on that acquired information is angle shooting. Deliberately acting out of turn, then changing the action based on an opponent’s reaction is also angle shooting. There are literally countless ways to angle shoot in a poker game.
The drama in question occurred after all the cards had been dealt in a hand of Texas Holdem. The board (community cards used by all players) read A-2-10-A-5. The final card gave Negreanu, who was holding 3-4, a straight. This is a very good hand, so he raised his opponent. His opponent didn’t see the raise and started to turn his hand over, believing that he had been called. The dealer caught him, but not before Negreanu glimpsed an Ace and part of the other card. The opponent then tried to raise Negreanu back. Negreanu announced that he had seen his hand (though he was only correct about the Ace) and wanted to know if it was a legal raise. The tournament management was called and it was eventually decided the opponent could only call Negreanu’s raise. He turned over A-10 for the best possible hand, a full house, and won the pot.
Many people feel that Negreanu was simply trying to get his opponents’ raise, or even his entire hand, disqualified. Negreanu addressed the issue on his website:
“I called the floor over to get a ruling on the right procedure in this instance. Does he get a penalty? Is his hand dead? Is he allowed to raise? Different places have different rules, and I thought it would be foolish to let this one go.”
This explanation seems legitimate. Anyone who has experience playing cards knows that different tournaments do have different rules and that it is always wisest to check with the staff when in doubt. Nevertheless, at the very least, Negreanu clearly was trying to get a showdown and end the hand without putting any more money into the pot. However, asking for a rule clarification cannot definitively be considered angle shooting.
The only reason this hand is even being discussed is because it was captured on video. If there was no video record of the hand, it would simply be forgotten. There are disagreements like this one all the time in poker; this hand is no different than the thousands of other questionable occurrences that take place in card rooms across the globe everyday. When large amounts of money are at stake (the PCA Main Event paid $2.2 million to the winner) the turn of any card can produce drama. Negreanu is a great ambassador to the game and his sparkling reputation is his best defense.