Daniel Negreanu: A poker legend

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He’s one of the all-time poker greats with over $10 million in earnings and two WPT titles to his name, here are some words from the man himself…

As a tournament player, he’s established his credentials beyond a shadow of a doubt, but his Cash game is also legendary and he’s progressed to the point where he regards a $1 million loss as a bad day at the office.

We caught up with the Canadian Poker legend to talk about poker and life in general…

You dropped $800,000+ recently on to two monumentally bad beats where your opponents hit quads… How did you feel about the hands, and more importantly, how did you not run amok?
"It sucked, but that sort of things happen in poker.  I was just happy that I didn't pull a Hellmuth or something and come off poorly on television."

You won the Card Player of the Year Award for 2004… Congratulations, and how big of a deal was it to you?

"It was a huge deal.  I didn't think I had a chance to win it because I'd already decided that I wouldn't be playing many events in 2004.  I just seemed to continuously win the ones that I played.  I don't think anyone will ever win that award having played less events than I did.  It was an amazing year and a proud accomplishment."

You've also won the WSOP player of the year award…  How do these stack up compared to individual tournament Wins.
"For me, winning a tournament pales in comparison to the accomplishment of winning a best all around player award.  I have won the Best All Around in Foxwoods, LA Poker Classic, the WSOP, and the WPT season 3, and those are accomplishments I cherish a great deal more than any one tournament."

You offered a blank invitation to take on any player in the world in any game at stakes up to $500,000.  Were you happy with your results, given that you were taking on specialists in a particular area?
"I won, so yes!  I started off poorly, but as time went on I really started to play well and was on my way to doing quite well."

We hear you've been bitten by the Golf Bug…  Are you making those legendary Golfing Bets all poker players get involved in, or is it just the fun of the game?

"I love the game of Golf, but yes, we do bet sick amounts of money on the golf course."

While we're on the subject of betting, you're friends with Erik Lindgren and Josh Arieh… What kind of betting goes on in an average day out with them?
"All kinds of random stuff from betting on games, betting on plays in games, shooting hoops, playing pool, you name it, and we'll probably bet a little summin' on it."

Erik's an ex-Basketball Prodigy and Josh is no stranger to the Pool Halls… Do you take them on at their specialities or stick to what you know?
"I actually hustled pool as a teenager.  I played snooker, though, so Josh is clearly better than me at pool.  I've played Erick heads up at basketball too and won, but of course, I got quite a spot.  He played me with his shooting hand tied behind his back.  I squeaked out a win, 5-4 with a 3 point hook shot."

You're a sports fan as well… What's the biggest bet you've made on sports and did you win?
"I don't bet a lot of money on games, but I am a winning hockey bettor without question.  I had four winning years when I took it seriously, and this year I'm up 3 units after about 30 bets made.  I bet $20,000 on a Stanley Cup game last year when Edmonton was home to Carolina.  They won the game.  Aside from that, I take hockey betting very seriously, but do not put my bankroll in jeopardy at all."

We all have moments of madness… What's the downright stupidest bet you ever made?
"I told Phil Ivey he didn't have to give me strokes anymore after I got better and he got worse.  I told him we'd play even for the rest of the year.  Then he practices 27 hours a day and I couldn't hit the ball anymore."

You famously never make a deal at the final table?  How come?
"Several reasons:

"Politics. Say on Monday I'm heads up with Player A and we have even chips.  Also, I respect his play, so we chop the money.  Then on Tuesday, I'm heads up in a tournament with Player B and we are even in chips.  Only, Player B is a bad player, so when he asks me to split I say, "No, I don't do that," to which he'd reply, "You did it yesterday!"

"I'd be offending a guy in this situation by saying no, but if I took the deal I'd be giving up equity.

"Financial Pressure. I don't feel any financial pressure but others might.  I remember winning a tournament once that was virtually handed to me because my two opponents were basically playing for second.  Three handed, they asked for a deal and I said no.  We were all even in chips.  In the next 40 minutes, I played uber-aggressive poker and ended up with about 80% of the chips by the time we got heads up."

Poker is a game of luck and skill… When was the last time you got absolutely destroyed at the table and couldn't win a hand?

"In July I played a long session in the big game and lost close to $1.3 million.  Couldn't win a pot to save my life!"

You’ve whipped your cash game into shape… Was it important that after you won the Player of the Year award that you showed you could sit in a ring game with the best?
"All that stuff is important to me.  I'm a real poker player, not one that only plays no limit tournaments. I play all the games and enjoy playing against the best players."

You got hitched… How are you enjoying life as a married man?
"It's a major adjustment, but I think things are going pretty well.  She has been supportive of my career with is essential."

Any superstitions at all?

"I try not to have any because I try to think in a more rational way, but I can't get over the fact that I don't like $50 bills.  I won't take them.  One $50 is the worst, there is no use for that stupid bill!"

Memory Test… We've noticed that the best poker players have wicked smart memories for the hands they've played.  Without looking, what do you remember about the hand that you went out of the main event of the WSOP this year?

"I remember hands very well.  That's an easy one since there was emotion and adrenaline associated to that hand.  I was short on chips for quite some time, waiting and waiting for a good situation to arise.  Finally, after getting short on chips I had no choice but to go all in with Q-10 suited hoping to pick up the blinds.

"The small blind, a wild and aggressive player said he was thinking about calling.  At that point, I warned him that if he busted me the crowd would throw eggs and tomatoes at him on the way out.  He finally called anyway with K-J suited. The flop was a Jack, leaving me needing just a Q.  There wasn't even a heart on the flop for a backdoor flush draw.  Obviously, the Q didn't hit"

Two words for you… Bill Frist (Author of the legislation which makes it illegal for Americans to deposit at online poker sites) 

"Is BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP an ok response to that one?  Seriously, what a weasel.  What he was able to get away with is absolutely appalling in so many ways.  I hope he realises that he helped to seal his and the Republicans fate in the next election.  There are a lot of poker players in this world, and they won't be voting for Frist!"
You've seen poker evolve massively over the last five years… If you were voted emperor next week, what would you change?
"I'd create a league similar to the PGA Tour.  Anyone could qualify, but they would have to do so in qualifying tournaments open to all.  This is actually going to happen, though, so I guess I wouldn't be "changing" anything."

Give us a few predictions of card players on the verge of making it who you think will be household names in the near future.

"Nick Schulman, Nam Le, Danny Alaei, Joe Cassidy, John D'Agostino."

We've christened you "King Of Gamblers".  Give us an estimate of how much you think you'll be wagering in the next 12 months.
"Oh, I've been getting killed on the golf course, so I think it's time to kick it down a little bit.  I'd say about 1.5 million or so."

Our readers like to gamble… What advice would you give them?
"Don't gamble with Phil Ivey, he doesn't lose at anything!"