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Sports & Gaming

How to Think at the Poker Table

Daniel Negreanu

Lesson time 11:14 min

Daniel believes it is vital not to let emotion get in the way of logic. Learn the common mental traps poker players need to avoid and the checklist Daniel uses to keep a clear head.

Daniel Negreanu
Teaches Poker
Join Daniel at the poker table. Learn his strategies to advance your cash, tournament, and online play.


So when you're playing poker, guess what? You're going to have to do a lot of thinking, right? And how you approach thinking is going to affect your results in the long run. And the best way to really effectively learn how to properly think about poker is to do a lot of your hard work in the lab away from the table, where you decide sort of how to approach and tackle an order of operations in terms of how you think through a hand. So for example, if you're on a flop and you're facing a bet of 300 from opponent, well, what's the first thing that you think about? OK, for me, it's maybe, what's the strength of my hand. Second thing I might think of is, what range of hands do I think my opponent may have. The third thing is, all right, what are the pot odds on being laid. And so, now I have a formula that once I've done this as many times as I have becomes like breathing, but it's important to have an idea of what you want to be thinking about because there are so many variables in poker. What does he look like? What has he done last time? There's so many things to think about. If you don't have kind of like an order of operations for how you proceed in this way, you're going into missing clues and missing important parts of the hand that you didn't think to think about. So it's very important before you even sit at a table to think about how you're going to think. One of the most important things to think about when thinking about thinking is what should you spend your time and energy thinking about. Too many players I see focus on results, and they're results oriented. So they 9-4 of diamonds because it was the correct decision. They noticed that on the flop it was 9-9-4, and they start thinking, oh, maybe I should have played that. Why? Based on what? Based on the fact that it actually came? You don't want to let emotion drive your decisions. You don't want emotion to supersede logic. You have to focus on making the best decisions available to you when they present themselves. And typically what emotion does, it gets in the way of that, and causes players to go on tilt, to make decisions that they shouldn't otherwise. So you decide before you even start playing poker, like what is the right way to play 9-4 offsuit? If you come to the determination that it's a fold, the fact that 9-4 offsuit would have won the last three pots doesn't change the fact that when you were thinking about thinking how to play these situations you decided it was a fold. If you do all your lab work and decide that 9-6 offsuit is not a hand that you want to call a raise with, and you notice that two hands in a row, you folded 9-6 and it would have won, that shouldn't have any effect on your logical process for how you think about a hand. That's just emotion talking. And essentially, what emotion does at the poker table, it gets in the way of logic, and the idea of a rush, or I feel like I haven't won a pot. I'm just going to win this one. That ju...

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Put yourself across the felt from Daniel Negreanu, the biggest live tournament poker winner of all time. The six-time World Series of Poker champion teaches poker strategy, advanced theory, and practice through hand-reviews of his winning games. Learn how to sharpen your mental game through demos on reading opponents and spotting tells. Join Daniel at the table to increase your win rate, grow your ROI, and get your game “in the money.”


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I have been playing low stakes tournaments and I feel Daniel's lessons re affirmed what I knew and gave me new perspectives of the game, this is giving me confidence to move on to larger and bigger cash tournaments. Thanks Daniel. Hope one day we match at the WSOP final table.

I love Daniel and the class was simply amazing ....

Lots of content, very well explained and thought out. I find it highly valuable.

This is much more detailed, than I expected. Thank you Daniel.


Thomas K.

Blink ! great reference and totally accurate. i would have also named thinking fast and slow by winner of nobel prize in econ dan k.


I learned about a 'sunk cost' in Economics 101; it is still tough to apply that lesson today but chasing bad money with good money is a lesson that is more painful to experience than being illogical.

Fernando P.

For me this was the most insightful lesson thus far! Emotions get in the way of logic WAY too much, especially in the casinos as I've seen countless times and have fallen victim to countless times. This can apply to so many other things too; what has happened in the past should not influence a change in thinking to the outcome in the future (sometimes). If I lost betting a flush draw in the past, I'm not gonna automatically lose faith in it later. Similarly, if I've been cheated on in the past relationship, I'm not going to immediately assume that it will happen again and act accordingly. (Just one example but I get the point) Amazing content!

A fellow student

Wow, a shout out to “Blink”. Great book. I read it it years ago when it first came out and still think about it all the time.

A fellow student

This is a good discussion on the mindset needed to play good poker. This is how you stay away from making mistake after mistake; let the "numbers" theory dictate what you do.

A fellow student

Thanks for all of this amazing info, Daniel! I realized I had turned a corner in my play when I was put out of a tourney but I was still able to recognize that I played the hand right. Because of this class I've discovered how much I had been results oriented with past hands. Understanding what to look for with hole cards, outs and betting strategies allows you to see past the randomness and "feelings" of what will happen to analyze the logic behind it all.

R H L.

One thing that confused me a bit: First he said never to make decision based on a hunch. And then in next section he said to go with your gut instinct. Aren't these the same things?

Ian B.

I finished this class some time ago and have put into practice the strategies from this master class and other teachings , often with great success. There is one great hole in my game. I seem to become essentially dumb when I am in a hand and miss obvious aspects of a hand, which I would easily pick up if I weren't in the hand. Is this something others experience (or am I the only one) and if so does anybody have advice or perhaps mind training techniques to quit this?

A fellow student

One big problem. Daniel's first instinct may be better than your first instinct.

Michael U.

This is a great video, having a system to approaching each street and what to think about takes away a lot of the guess work. How many times have you been in the tank in a tough spot and realized that you don't even know what to think about, you don't know what to consider before deciding to call or fold. Having a thought system is huge.