The Difficult Early Steps in Daniel Negreanu’s Career

With 6 WSOP bracelets and 2 WPT titles, it would be easy to forget that for Daniel Negreanu, reaching the top was no simple task. Almost every top poker pro started out working all hours and trying to build a bankroll. The very best however, keep moving forward no matter what, and eventually accomplish their dreams.

Daniel Nagreanu (Photo PokerStars)

Playing pool

High school was never likely to shape the teenage Daniel Negreanu into a picture of academic excellence, no matter how hard they tried. Not because he lacked the necessary intellect, but simply because he was always a man who knew the path he wanted to walk, and would never allow himself to be forcefully diverted from his choices. Always the fierce competitor, Negreanu skipped many of his classes in favour of shooting pool for money. He may have earned himself a small wage of sorts if not for the $7 charge on using the table.

Perhaps his finest day in pool hustling came when he won a $2 game and his opponent wanted to play “double or nothing”. After many games of doubling the stake and Negreanu winning every single game that day, his opponent ended up owing him over $4,000.

Poker and sports betting

He also discovered card games and sports betting around the same time while living in Toronto, and quickly learned to use his sharp mind to make money. He was sensible enough to work a job alongside his other pursuits until he was more financially comfortable, but when he began making $44 per hour playing Limit Holdem, and could calculate sums faster than his maths teacher, Negreanu took the decision to drop out of school and he soon left 9-5 work behind too. His mother always told him to apply himself to his education, but ultimately, when you look at his life today – He was doing exactly that. His was an unconventional education, but one which has seen him become a globally recognisable star of his field, living his dream in financial comfort.

Attempting to climb the poker ladder

Even for a player with Negreanu‘s competitive spirit and work ethic, the transformation from small time successful gambler into poker legend was not an easy one. His journey began with small games against his friends in a basement, but as he started developing his ability, Negreanu started to take poker more seriously. While playing at home games and private clubs, building his bankroll along the way, he encountered many older men who referred to him as “kid” which eventually became the nickname “Kid Poker”. For Negreanu, doing the rounds at local clubs led to him becoming a profitable player within a few months, and from there, his bankroll started moving in a positive direction.

Las Vegas

Soon after, his eyes turned towards the bright lights of Las Vegas. Negreanu brought his $3,000 bankroll with him, hoping to finally begin making it as a professional player. He returned home broke just 24 hours later. This pattern of bringing a small bankroll to Vegas and leaving with nothing would repeat itself several times, but it was not in the nature of Negreanu to give up.

First WSOP bracelet

Daniel Nagreanu First Bracelet

In 1998, Daniel Negreanu still wasn’t bankrolled for playing WSOP events, but was busy playing satellites in order to try and win seats. It was there that he encountered Todd Brunson, who he beat heads up in a satellite. Initially, he was considering pocketing the money from the satellite win rather than risking a lot of money on playing the WSOP tournament, but when Brunson offered to buy a piece of his action in the event, Negreanu‘s mind was made up. Despite it being his first ever WSOP event, he won it. By his own admission, Negreanu felt that he wasn’t ready to win something that big, and described his heads up opponent as being much better than he was. At 23 years old however, he had become the youngest ever bracelet winner at that time.

You could argue that Daniel Negreanu ran good that day, but a poker career as long and distinguished as Negreanu‘s will have countless ups and downs along the way. Having taken 11th place in the Main Event in 2001, he once again took 11th place in 2015 in what was undoubtedly the most painful moment of his career. Even in the midst of that, no one in the poker world thought it would damage his motivation, confidence or anything else. Because, after all this time, the poker world knows exactly what champions like Daniel Negreanu are made of.

Article by Craig B.

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