SOMETIMES YOU'RE out of position and aren't sure you have the best hand, so what's your play?
If you've sized up your opponent as rather straightforward, as top pro Daniel Negreanu did in this hand from the $25,000-buy-in World Poker Tour Championship at Bellagio in 2010, your best option might be a blocking bet.
With blinds at $100-$200, the player in the hijack seat raised to $600. Negreanu drew pocket 10s in the small blind.
"He's wearing a suit," Negreanu said. "He doesn't handle his chips like a professional. It's pretty clear he's an amateur. It's a decent situation where if I raised and he reraised me, I could still call [because players started with stacks of $100,000].
"The key thing was, Gavin Smith is in the big blind, and I'd rather get him out to isolate the amateur. I made it $2,400. Gavin folded and the guy called."
The flop came 6-7-8, two spades.
"It's a good flop for 10s because I have an out that he won't suspect," said Negreanu, winner of four World Series of Poker bracelets. "If a 9 comes off, I could potentially get a big pot off of him because he won't think I have a 10."
Negreanu bet $3,600. His opponent raised to $7,200.
"That kind of worries me because an amateur is raising a 6-7-8 board," said Negreanu, a pro from the PokerStars online site. "I think he either has a bigger pair than I do or he flopped a set. I just called because I have outs."
The turn came the 4 of hearts. Negreanu checked. His opponent checked behind him.
"It tells me he doesn't have a straight, but he still could have a set and have me beat," Negreanu said.
The river came the 7 of hearts, pairing the board and completing a potential straight.
"I was a little bit worried that if I check and he makes a big bet, I wouldn't know what to do," Negreanu said. "So I figured I'd make a weak bet of $4,000. It's a blocking bet. It's a cheap way to find out if I have the best hand, because otherwise I might've had to check-call $8,000 or $10,000. If he has a slightly better hand than me, he'll just call, but if he has a full house, he'll raise and I'll fold."
Negreanu's opponent called, then mucked his cards when he saw the 10s.
"The key part of that is you can exploit what you perceive to be an amateur and play a hand in such a way that you wouldn't against top players," Negreanu said. "For instance, I wouldn't do that against Phil Ivey because he would bluff me with a raise on the river to $24,000. My play is too dangerous against someone like that, but against this guy, I didn't think he was capable of bluff-raising the river."
Steve Rosenbloom is a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author of the book "The Best Hand I Ever Played." He can be reached at