PokerStars 10th Anniversary review: Negreanu, poker star

10th-ann-thumb.JPGSo there I was back in 2009, standing quietly by a table in the cavernous Amazon Room in the Rio. This was, if I recall correctly, the $10,000 7-card Stud event at the World Series of Poker. Likely I'd just been outside for a cigarette in the scorching Las Vegas desert heat and was now enjoying the chill blast of the industrial strength air con in the convention center. My task that day, as it had been for a week prior and for weeks to come, was to follow the fortunes of Team PokerStars Pros in the various WSOP events.

It's harder than it sounds; players can go for hours in deep events without doing much of note, or indeed playing any interesting hands that go to showdown. Others will not feel like chatting if the cards are not going their way. But when the likes of Daniel Negreanu are there, things become so much easier.

After just a few moments at his table, Negreanu sprang out of his seat, bounded over to me and started fiddling with my hair, much like a hairdresser would as he finished up, making sure each bit is in the right place. "Ah, yes," said the Canadian Team PokerStars Pro. "All done. Very nice." I half expected him to hold up a couple of mirrors so I could inspect my neckline. And with that, he sat down again to play his next hand. No warning, no explanation, just another oddball moment in his life.

We have come to expect such antics from Negreanu, who joined Team PokerStars Pro in 2007 and has become a face of the company worldwide. His moniker is one of the most recognised in world poker thanks to his bubbly personality, his appearances on televised poker shows and, of course, his record at the felt. That record currently stands at $14,650,558 in lifetime tournament winnings, placing him second in the all-time money list behind Erik Seidel, who has been on a 2011 heater worth $6.5 million.

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Serious at EPT San Remo

Negreanu's record stretches all the way back to 1997 when he bagged a modest $1,050 for tenth place in a $200 Limit Hold'em tourney at the Orleans Open in Las Vegas. His tournament cashing stats since are, well, extraordinary:

1997, $75,594
1998, $279,066
1999, $359,047
2000, $10,075
2001, $320,937
2002, $530,798
2003, $532,939
2004, $4,465,907
2005, $532,312
2006, $1,939,965
2007, $858,979
2008, $1,301,853
2009, $1,224,895
2010, $683,825
2011, $1,534,367

Apart from that lean year in 2000, it's a remarkably consistent scoring rate that shows no sign of slowing up. And it is riddled with milestone achievements: four WSOP bracelets, the first in 1998, and two World Poker Tour titles (both in that bumper 2004 year). He nearly added to those WSOP bracelets in the 'hair-ruffling' year of 2009, finishing tenth in that 7-card Stud event ($38,000) and then coming closer by finishing fourth in the $10,000 Omaha Hi/Lo ($130,000) and closer still with a second in the $2,500 six-handed Limit Hold'em ($138,000).

It's quite a story for a boy born to Romanian parents in Toronto in 1974. His folks, Annie and Constantin, had emigrated from communist Romania in 1967, initially hoping to stay in the USA. But they ended up in Canada instead. Young Negreanu was something of a scamp with an eye for making a fast buck, and nurtured dreams of becoming a professional snooker player. But by 16 he had discovered poker, and was soon hustling money at pool halls around the city. He dropped out of high school and made a living playing poker, building up enough of a bankroll to try his luck in Las Vegas where he would soon became known as Kid Poker.

Famously, though, he lost and had to go back to Canada to rebuild. It was the best thing he ever did; he soon was on that remarkable cashing streak and the rest is gold-leafed history.

Hockey-loving Negreanu became a vegetarian in 2000 and has been Vegan since 2006, which means he's always chewing on nuts or something equally--to me, anyway--unappetising at the tables, ignoring jibes from other players about their juicy steak dinners.

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Working the crowd at a PokerStars party

As well as tournament play, he's well known for his high-stakes cash games. Originally he was one of the players in the big games in the Bellagio's Bobby's Room, where mixed-game blinds were often $4,000-$8,000 or more. But as well as being highly outspoken at times, never afraid to voice his opinion, he is the first to admit it when he has things to learn. Such as the last few years on PokerStars, where he has been feeling his way in the high stakes cash games, recognising them to be very different from the ones he is used to playing live.

As the game of poker evolves, you can be sure Negreanu will, too, as he seeks to keep his incredible success going. If you get the chance, he's definitely worth watching live - entertaining and always finding time to talk to fans on the rail.

So long as you don't mind him fiddling with your hair.

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Negreanu on the PokerStars Big Game

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We are publishing these daily review articles throughout November as PokerStars gears up to celebrate its 10th Anniversary.

Previous reviews:

EPT old-timers
Tournament variety
Liv Boeree, winner
Sunday Best
Rocking all over the world
The Selbst Factor
WCOOP
Milestones to go before we sleep
World Cup of Poker
The Bear Necessities
SCOOP, hold the front page
Slaying the EPT monkey
Pole position
When two cards just won't do
ElkY, one name says it all
Going live at the PCA
It's a bling thing
Online wizards cast their spell
The EPT circus
Sporting greats
Making world champions
Party treats

Simon Young
@MrSimonYoung in News