2007 World Series: $2,000 Stud Final Table With Daniel Negreanu

It's vegetarian chili, I'm sure. Daniel Negreanu doesn't cotton to chili packed with dead animal. It's in a small white cup and he's shoveling it into his mouth with a black plastic spoon while talking with Gavin Smith about one of the many side bets going on around here. It's all very interesting and the chili smells good, but I can't take it all in.

Daniel is in my way.

It's 1pm and the ESPN televised table of the $2,000 stud event is about to take off. Negreanu is decked out in PokerStars gear--a hat and a hockey jersey, naturally. He's chosen the media table for his lunch and, as he is about to compete for a bracelet, I can't bring myself to move him.

When he finally makes his way to the table, he's greeted by some old friends and new friends. Among his competitors is Jeffrey Lisandro, a man with poker face such that--even if he's telling you to have a nice day and he hopes you win a million dollars--you think he might rather break your legs. Lisandro is wearing a hat that has become his signature piece of clothing. I wouldn't call it a gangster hat for fear of insulting the wide-shouldered Aussie, but I'm pretty sure I've seen people in gangster movies wearing one. Today, the hat has just one thing in common with Daniel's. Both say PokerStars.net.

It's a situation that can only be likened to what happens on a race track. While two drivers may be racing for the same team, they won't hesitate to put each other in the wall in the right situation.

Enter the wall.

Nobody is in very good shape in terms of chips. It took so long to get to the final table that two bad hands can take a player from chip leader to busto. Daniel is starting the day with 164,500 in chips to Lisandro's 195,000. On the very first hand of final table play, Daniel makes an ace-high flush in a hand that he and Lisandro played hard all the way to the river. The pot is worth 60,000 chips and Daniel casually slides into the role of chip leader.

Over the next few hands, Daniel is in action on almost every one. He picks up kings in the hole and gets a short-stack all-in, only to see the shortie had AA in the hole.

Humberto Brenes, on his way to play in Day 2 of the PLO tournament, is on the rail and says something to Daniel.

Daniel stands and asks in Humberto's thick accent, "The shark is coming?"

This time, the shark was no help and Daniel couldn't find a card to win. Humberto, quietly, made his way off the stage.

It's only a couple of hands later when Daniel gets another player all-in by third street. This time, he needs a seven or a queen to complete his open-ender.

Daniel likes to squeeze his rivers. It's a bit of drama for him, and it's a little drama for the rest of us, too.

"Uh oh," he says. "Uh oh. It's paint."

Up he flips the queen and the first of eight players is gone.

Greg Pappas, Daniel's one-time role model, stands up from the two seat and borrows one of the HD cameras from the ESPN crew.

"How does it feel to hit that queen on the river?" Pappas asks.

We can't hear how Daniel responds. It's then I begin to wonder if Daniel will miss the rest of his vegetarian chili.

It's 2pm and I'm getting hungry.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in