Some may have thought that with Daniel Negreanu ending his PokerStars affiliation, his public presence in the poker community may have diminished.
These last few months, however, have showed us the opposite is true. The wedding, vlogging abundantly during the WSOP and a near miss for the WSOP POY have helped Daniel Negreanu continue to make headlines in the poker world. Not to mention his latest announcement – outlining the new sponsorship contract he now has with GGPoker.
He recently shared his thoughts on these busy times with Club Poker Radio and our Report Gaelle Jaudon.
Somuchpoker: Let’s talk first about the most sensitive subject, the WSOP POY mistake. It was a really strong battle during the final week in Rozvadov and you learned only after landing in the US that you had won the title. However, a few days later, you received a phone call from Seth Palansky saying they attributed you some points by mistake and that the actual winner was Robert Campbell. I guess it was a real roller coaster of emotions, and it also created a lot of reactions on social media. How did you handle all of that?
Daniel Negreanu: I’ll be honest with you, when I received the phone call, I thought I would be really upset or angry, but I wasn’t. I thought about what I did. I went to Rozvadov with the intention to leave with the most points and I did. I accomplished my goal. This is all a personal journey; this is all about silly goals. There is no money on the line, it didn’t cost me anything other than a picture of myself in the Rio. So, in the end I was happy for Robert Campbell, he deserved it.
I was proud of the accomplishment that I’ve put together. Obviously had I known the points were different I would have played differently in a lot of the tournaments, especially the last ones. Then of course when it came to the reactions, you had both Shaun Deeb and Doug Polk accusing me of knowing the points were wrong. It doesn’t surprise me because this is just what they do, accusing people with no evidence. It’s a really bad thing to accuse someone in poker to be a cheater without any evidence at all. I have a lot of evidence that I didn’t know. All they have is “He pays attention to this, so he must have known. I’m just an idiot and a troll!”, that’s ALL they got! It’s very typical. Truth is irrelevant to them. They don’t care at all!
SMP: That was actually my next question – were you surprised and hurt by the strong accusations they made against you? But apparently you were not.
DN: Yeah why would I be surprised? All Doug Polk’s business is about attacking people bigger than him, so then he can bring people into his website and turn that into money by selling his products. That’s what he’s been doing since he started. Nothing is new, he’s been attacking me with lies for like five or six years! So, of course I’m never surprised when he has something bad to say about me, never.
SMP: Shaun Deeb was also in Rozvadov the whole time for the WSOP Europe and you saw each other many times. Did you have occasion to talk with him and maybe try to bury the hatchet?
DN: I was civil with him because his brain just doesn’t work like a normal person. He has a lack of sympathy or understanding. I got engaged on January 1st to my wife Amanda and on January 3rd he tweeted “I can’t wait for the divorce tweet”. Normal people don’t say that. Even his friends asked him why he was doing something like that. From that moment, he never acknowledged that what he said was wrong, never apologised, and he doesn’t seem to care. So, I just realised his brain is a little broken and I don’t take all of that really seriously anymore, because something is wrong with him.
SMP: I guess it’s normal to be angry when you’re attacked so many times for many years. People on social media can be very rude when you’re a public person. How do you handle all of that?
DN: For 99% of the time, I just ignore it. No need to bother with that, but when someone makes a very serious accusation, like “you’re a cheater and you lied”, then I think it’s important to speak out. I have all the evidences to show that they’re completely wrong and that’s not something to be doing. If you come after me with stupid stuff, I don’t care, but when you come after my wife who doesn’t even know who Shaun Deeb is, I have to respond and show respect to my wife.
So, concerning the attacks on social media, I would say the approach is to ignore it most of the time because when people don’t like you it’s because they envy you. They want to be you and have what you have. It’s just hate and jealousy. When you’re at the top of your industry, you will always have people who want to pull you down and step on your shoulders instead of climbing themselves, and that’s never a good strategy in the long term.
SMP: Concerning the POY points system, you already complained about it many years ago, advocating to reward the quality of the results instead of the quantity of min-cashes. Do you think the incident this year will push the organisation to rethink their system and bring about a change?
DN: I hope so. I have been pushing this for years and the main idea is to limit the number of cashes that count. You can come up with the number you want, 10/15/20, it doesn’t matter. But, pick a number so that Chris Ferguson or other players who last minute register to try to double up and get 50/60 points for the POY race can’t do that anymore. The system as it is now is for stupid poker. In Rozvadov I was vlogging and showing people I was just going all-in and tried to double up to get a min-cash. This is not poker. We want to celebrate real poker, wins and not things like “I came in 785th place in The Colossus.” Who cares? That’s not a big deal and we shouldn’t get any points for that.
SMP: You had an amazing year. You got married, you ended your collaboration with PokerStars after 12 years, your vlog is booming, you almost got WSOP POY for the third time in your career. How much of this year was life-changing for you?
DN: Well, you mentioned the most important thing, marrying my wife Amanda. The crazy story that not many people know is that 10 years ago I bought a ring for her to ask her to marry me, but I never gave it to her. She was young, wanted to party, have fun, and I was in very different place. I was older and more ready to settle down and we split. But I kept the ring in my safe for 10 years, and I never got rid of it. She came back to Vegas to do a show and we started talking again.
We had that chemistry, we both grew up as people, to a point where now it makes sense and it works to be together. So, I was like “Hey, I still have that ring, I should give it to you now”. And she accepted! She’s the perfect wife to me. She fully understands poker, she knows my brain is not available after I got knocked out of a tournament! She knows I need my time and space after a tournament, and she doesn’t take it personally. That’s also what makes you good at poker, thinking about the hands you played and what you could have done right or wrong, and how you could do better next time.
SMP: It’s crazy that you kept that ring for so long.
DN: I know, my ex-girlfriend probably didn’t like it very much!
SMP: And with PokerStars, it was a big change for you, especially after 12 years of sponsorship. What were your main motivations to take your freedom, if I can put it that way?
DN: Yeah, 12 years is a very long time as you mentioned. I feel that at some point, continually being in the same place, you can get what I would call stagnated. You’re going through the motions, and then of course, they were also definitely heading in a different direction. PokerStars is just changing the whole model of how they’re doing things. I was also moving a different direction myself, so it made sense to take that decision. They had their vision of how they wanted to run the company and I had my vision of where I want to take my life.
But I have nothing bad to say about the many years I spent with them. Obviously, there is one moment, the only moment that I fully regret. That is the SNE debacle when they didn’t honour an agreement they had and screwed over the players. That was a tough time for me because I didn’t agree with the decision and I never defended it because I think it was outrageous. But I don’t run the company and from a PR perspective I don’t think they will ever recover from that.
People will always have a negative view on PokerStars from that time and I don’t think they will fix that. But other than that, the changes they made are about trying to keep up with the changing nature of poker and how tough it has become. They’re trying to stay in business and do what other companies are doing and I don’t have a problem with that. The only problem I ever had was the SNE situation. I look back with regret on the fact that I couldn’t do more.
SMP: As you said, you think PokerStars’ image will never fully recover from that and they received plenty of criticism from the community. But you also had to face that criticism yourself, with people saying you were not being totally honest and were not free to speak your true thoughts. Do you think this has changed today, with the fact you’re not associated with the company anymore and that you have your own vlog?
DN: That is totally not true because I have always been 100% transparent and honest. I was telling people privately what my plans were, and I really did everything I could. I was on the phone all the time with David Baazov, four hours a day trying to convince him to honour his deal. Several times I got him to say, “ok we’re gonna do it’ and the next day he was talking to other people and ended up saying they can’t do it! So, everything I went through during that period was about trying to get them to honour this agreement.
There is nothing that I said when I was at PokerStars that was a lie. I always said my views of what was good for an ecosystem. There is three parts: the losing players, the winning players, and the house. There are only three things that make a poker game and only one you really need – the losing players. You can take off the winning players or take off the house and the system will keep running. But without losing players, winning players won’t play and it’s over. It’s more important to focus on them, to make sure that the people who deposit online or register to a tournament are having fun and that they know they have a chance a to win. If that means cuts to the pros profits so that the company can stay alive, so be it! That’s just the way it has to be.
I know pros who complain because they are losing some revenue but between losing some and getting nothing, there is a big difference. The bottom line is, it’s a business like every other, and whatever price they charge, if you don’t like the price of a shirt or a sandwich, just don’t buy it. Nobody forces you to buy it!
SMP: Since you announced you had dissolved your partnership with PokerStars, I guess you’ve been approached by many poker companies, but you have now decided to join GGPoker. Why did you make the choice of GGPoker?
DN: Within hours of my announcement in May to leave PokerStars, we got several calls from other operators, but I wasn’t really interested in doing any future deals. But the people at GGPoker did such an outstanding job helping me with the staking process for my WSOPE package and we developed a relationship from there. Upon meeting with them and having a deeper understanding of their approach, it was clear to me that they were in it for the long haul. That they really understood the market and had the best mobile software in the industry. It’s amazing really.
SMP: Will you be involved in the decision-making process and their online offerings?
DN: I will be doing everything I can to help see GGPoker continue to grow. I’ll be helping in any way that I can, which will include all things marketing, as well as in-client offerings
SMP: As we said, your vlog is really booming, and you were updating it all the time during the WSOP Europe. How many people are watching you and what are your next goals with that?
DN: I did it during the WSOP in Vegas and also in Rozvadov and I get pretty close to 100,000 views every day. The reason I did the vlog, especially in Europe, was because I sold packages to people so that they can have a piece of me. And many people weren’t following the events on PokerNews or other online sites, but they were watching my vlog. They didn’t know the results, so it was kind of a reality show.
I Thought it was a good way to bring in new people in a different way and have them see the ups and downs. I edit and send the video, even if sometimes I act like an asshole and I’m very pissed off. I could delete that, but I don’t because I want people to see the truth. It’s not always fun and sometimes I get annoyed, like when I just busted from a tournament and five people grab me to take a picture. I’m just a normal human being you know. I think people want to see that more and it’s best to keep it that way – being authentic and being yourself.
SMP: You don’t edit it yourself?
DN: No, the process works like this: I shoot the video, pretty much everything throughout the day and what I think is interesting, then we upload it to an iCloud. Then Christian and Athena, who is Eric Froelich’s wife, edit all the footage at night and Christian adds some music so that we have a quick turnaround. During the summer she wakes up around midnight, starts editing and then at around 9 am it’s up, so everybody can view it. Because you know, the world we live in, if you show the vlog 7 days later everybody knows already and its old news. So, we need to keep it fresh. I don’t edit them, but like I said, if I see something funny like The Chainsaw, Allen Kessler, we add some funny stuff in the video, and she does a really great job with it.
SMP: You talk about the fact people could buy pieces of your tournaments and you sold action without any mark-up during the last WSOP. Why that choice?
DN: Yeah, so actually I could sell it with a significant mark-up, and I could take advantage of people if I wanted to. But ultimately, I don’t really care that much about money. Never did, whether I had money or not. So, I would have felt a bit weird about charging people interest. I just ask people to cover the transaction fees, that’s it. For me it was important to do it that way because the small amount of money I could pull in won’t change my life, but for the fans it was a good investment and a good way to be a part of it.
SMP: Where will you do your next vlog?
DN: It’s funny because I recently looked at the schedule of events running in Australia in January. So, if I do go, and I haven’t decided yet – it could be for a long trip and I would vlog there. As long as I get permission from the casino, that is. I need to be sure it’s ok beforehand, but I think it would be a good thing and free promotion for them. Why wouldn’t you want me to show off your casino every day?
SMP: You created a masterclass in September through the website masterclass.com. Many players are getting involved with that. What was the goal of doing this? In what ways is your masterclass different from other poker classes?
DN: Mine is a little different for a couple reasons. Firstly, I’m working with masterclass.com. If you look at who works with them, it’s the pinnacle people of their industry. Martin Scorsese teaches directing, Serena Williams teaches tennis, Wolfgang Puck teaches cooking. They’re all at the top of their domains. They do such high-end work. Also, most of the masterclasses that people take are for poker players. They’re for people who already play and really know poker, but my masterclass was designed for a much wider audience of people who are not in the poker world and who don’t follow poker news. That is what I also really liked.
Let’s say they will look at a video of Stephen Curry who explains how to play basketball and then they see some poker video and decide to watch that one too and get interested. So, it was an opportunity to expand. And they get so much marketing because every time I’ve watched a YouTube video, the masterclass comes up. That’s because they spend a lot on marketing and it’s very well received. They were really happy with the results of what we did.
SMP: What’s the main difference between yours and Phil Ivey’s?
DN: Mine is a little more extensive and Phil’s is more, I think, based on hands he’s played and discussing his thought process throughout. That’s what you learn, how Phil is approaching poker. I try to take it from a different perspective and teach how to play it and how to think about it. I do share of course, my thoughts about how I played hands, as he does, but I also teach basic principles. But then, I also teach some very nerdy high-end concepts. But I always try to explain it in a language that people understand because when poker nerds talk, average people have no clue what you’re talking about.
SMP: A few years ago, you were on High-Stakes Poker, the famous cash game show. Nowadays, there is the Triton Poker cash game. Will we see you feature in that show someday? Is that something that interest you?
DN: I didn’t know much about Triton a year ago to be honest, but then I watched the million-dollar charity event than Bryn Kenney won. I was at home, betting on it with friends and watching every day and it looked so cool! I wanted to be there so bad! We just talked about the ecology of poker, the house, the losing and the winning players and I think what Triton understands is that the real VIP is the player who is losing money.
So, they set up a fantastic idea where businessmen got to play, and they got to pick a pro who got to play as well. For six hours of the tournament the businessmen play with the businessmen and the pros had to play with each other and then they combine. So, it’s a really good idea because it doesn’t give the businessmen the feeling that they’re being taken advantage of. Nobody wants that, even if you have a lot of money. You need to feel you have a real chance to win, and Triton understood that, and so I really think I’ll be attending Triton events in the future.
SMP: I have a final question, not exactly about poker. You’ve always been really vocal on social media when it comes to politics and you’re giving your support to Andrew Yang, a democrat candidate for the US presidentials. How important is it for you to share your political opinions – especially about that candidate?
DN: On my social media I try to talk about this less now, because I learned over the years that nobody really listens on social media. It’s just people with their own opinion who keep talking, but without listening to each other. Nobody never changes their mind. So, it’s just a waste of time. Andrew Yang is different. He’s like “I’m not right, I’m not left, I’m forward”. I think he unites, in a way, both sides and he’s not involved in that sort of hatred and back and forth.
I like him, and I think that he could win if he were to win the nomination, which is unlikely to happen. I really do think he would be the most likely to beat Trump. Right now, I’m very concerned that if the democrats run who is the front-runner right now, Trump would win easily in this country. I’m embarrassed to say it but that’s more likely to happen, because, I don’t want to insult anybody, but Trump is an idiot and he speaks well to idiots. They understand what he’s saying.
Interview by Gaelle Jaudon