2008 PCA: A round with Daniel Negreanu

The more poker you play, the more important it becomes to develop a way to stay alert during the long, long periods it can sometimes take around the tables. Some players listen to music, others wave to friends on the rail. People eat, drink, read and talk; others lock into silence and enter some kind of yogic zone.

Daniel Negreanu is always alert, and seems to stay that way on sheer vitality. He's always surrounded by swarms of railbirds but if they bother him, he doesn't show it. Quite the contrary, he'll happily chatter away, sing them a song, sign an autograph, pose for a photo. And yet his focus is never found wanting when there's poker to play. He's always straight back in the zone if he finds a hand. And sometimes, I have reason to believe, if he just fancies playing whatever rubbish he's been dealt.


All of this makes the Canadian Team PokerStars Pro member a wonderful player to watch. Standing for an orbit with Negreanu is an education and an entertainment, whether or not he has it all his own way. I passed his table with Negreanu sitting behind about 98,000, on the button. I stuck around.

Hand one - BUTTON
Negreanu joins the rest of the table in folding pre-flop, giving the big blind a walk.
The players then begin talking about roulette theory, to which Daniel can add that "If it's been red for eight times in a row, the chances of it being black on the next spin are about 84 percent. Some Greek guy wrote that."

Hand two - CUT-OFF

Again Negreanu folds pre-flop.
Now, in the time it takes the dealer to cut, shuffle and spray a few cards around the table, the conversation has moved on to dancing. And Daniel knows something about that too. He even demonstrates it; a kind of torso shake, hands aloft. It won't win any prizes.

Hand three - MID-POSITION

Another fold. Three in a row.

Hand four - MID-POSITION
Aha. We have a raise. The action is folded to Negreanu, who peeks at his cards, then makes it 3,800 to go; just more than double the big blind of 1,600. It's good enough.

Hand five - MID-POSITION
It worked once, why not try it again. The action is again folded to the Team PokerStars Pro member, and he makes it 3,800 again. It's called in the seat to Daniel's left, and the flop comes queen high, with two hearts. Daniel fires out 6,000 and takes it down.

Hand six - UTG+1
Negreanu isn't tempted back into the action and folds pre-flop. But he is tempted into a conversation with a railbird, who seems to be discussing a charity tournament. "You remember that time?" the gentleman on the rail asks. "You were there." Daniel nods and smiles.

Hand seven - UTG
A hiccup. Daniel makes it 3,800 pre-flop, the third time this round. This time, it's called by the player in the cut-off and they both see a flop of 5s 3s 8h. Both players check. Then, after the Js turns, Daniel checks and his opponent fires 6,800 at it. Daniel thinks, checks his cards, and moves a huge stack of blue chips into the middle, putting his opponent all in. It's called in a heartbeat, and the player shows pocket eights, for the flopped, slow-played set. Daniel flashes 6-6 and is drawing dead. It costs him about 25,000 total.

Hand eight - big blind
An early-position raiser makes it 4,000 to go, and after it's called on the button, Daniel defends his blind. The flop comes jack-high, Daniel checks, the original raiser bets 11,000 and the button player re-raises. Negreanu gets out the way.

Hand nine - small blind

Daniel folds at the first opportunity.

That's that. The round cost him close to 25,000, but Negreanu still has chips - about 65,000 of them, which is something around the average.

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All photos © Neil Stoddart