WSOP 2017: Daniel Negreanu on hole cards, double-dipping and the WSOP POY race

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Daniel Negreanu: Feature table star attraction

When Daniel Negreanu showed up for the World Series of Poker Main Event today, he wasn't surprised to learn that he would be taking centre stage on the featured table, broadcasting live to the world once again.

His hole cards would be shown. He had his Team Pro colleague Jason Mercier as a table-mate. And for pretty much any other player in world, that might have been a problem. But not Daniel Negreanu. He doesn't think like everybody else.

"We've got to think about this from a different perspective," Negreanu tells PokerStars Blog. "You have to think about the bigger picture, the game and selling it, and marketing it, and promoting it, and making it more marketable for fans to watch...I don't like it overall, frankly, but we have to think about other things. Seeing hole cards is just a lot more interesting for a live stream."

Nobody in world poker has been more successful in selling the game than Negreanu. He remains the main attraction in any tournament room and he's the one sought out by all the fans whenever they're looking for the ultimate poker selfie. Sure enough, during the early levels of play today, Negreanu has darted away from the table to pose for photographs with fans on the rail before returning to shepherd his stack through the low blind levels where it's more about gathering reads than gathering chips.

Negreanu, of course, is pretty good at doing both those things too, and says he has a couple of friends watching the stream for him, filling him in on what his opponents are playing in whatever tricky spots arise.

"It's actually makes it even easier for me in a way, because if I'm playing against somebody who I'm not really sure what he's doing, finding out 30 minutes later can really shape how I play against that person the rest of the day," Negreanu says.

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Negreanu has Jason Mercier for company

Regardless of what happens amid the unpredictability of the Main Event, the Team PokerStars Pro has had a tremendous World Series. Negreanu has cashed 11 times already and reached four final tables, all in events with buy-ins of $10,000 or more. It's his performances when he's testing his mettle against the best in the world that give him most gratification.

"It's the best series I've ever had, for sure," Negreanu says. "I would have liked to have actually got a bracelet and got some actual wins, but I gave myself plenty of opportunities and the consistency that I had throughout the series was next level. I look at it as a great series because of how I performed in the $10,000 events, the Championship events, I did really well in those. They are higher skilled events than the other events are."

Negreanu credits his fine performances this year to a few adjustments in his regular World Series routine. He still has the trailer in the parking lot, where he grabs food and naps where necessary, but he's loosened up a little from the meticulous arrangements he used to make.

"In the past, I always made it a point to go to the gym and do some other things but this year, I said, right, I'm going to eat whatever I want. I'm going to make sure that I get enough sleep. And I'm not going to worry about anything but playing poker," he says. "Thankfully, because I was already in good shape when the series started, I was physically able to just get through each day."

He actually says the 2017 approach reminds him of the poker-centric attitude he adopted when he used to come to the World Series as a young and raw poker player around 20 years ago--with one notable difference. "When I was in my early 20s it was all about not going broke, basically," he says. "I was in and out of money back then."

Negreanu has also decided this year not to oversubscribe his time and rejects the idea of "double-dipping"--ie, playing more than one event at a time.

"I don't enter an event if I'm already playing one," Negreanu says. "That's definitely a big change. I don't like to think in terms of failure, so I realise from a perception perspective, if I'm buying into another event and I'm still in an event, what am I saying really? What am I saying to the universe? That I'm preparing to lose, that I'm preparing for failure. Instead I'm going to say, 'This tournament that I'm in is the only tournament that exists. That's it.' If this tournament were to go badly, then I can renegotiate. But while I'm in this tournament, I'm going to give my all to this tournament, not focus on hey, I'm short-stacked here, so let's buy into another one in case I go broke. I don't think like that."

Despite the superlative results this year, Negreanu goes into the Main Event sitting only seventh on the leader board for the WSOP Player of the Year, trailing John Monnette by nearly 150 points.

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Daniel Negreanu shares a joke with Kara Scott

It's proved to be a rare point of consternation this year for Negreanu, who thinks the WSOP administrators have erred in their calculation of POY points.

"The problem is that is heavily rewards min-cashes," Negreanu says. "If you look at a 600-player field, a win is the equivalent to about four min-cashes. It's just a lot easier to min-cash than it is to win."

Negreanu points to several players in high places on the leader board this year who have actually lost money on the series, having accumulated their points via a number of small paydays.

"What it's created, it's created a leader board where there's a lot of people playing all these big-field events that only take six or seven hours to cash. They late reg, jump in, and they're picking up 40 points, where a win in some tournaments is only 150 points. That skews it so that the winner might be somebody who actually lost money on the series, which is kind of silly really."

Never one to keep his opinions to himself, Negreanu wrote a blog on the subject this week, offering suggestions for a few tweaks, and says he has already had a couple of conversations with WSOP staff on the subject.

"What they're trying to do, which I understand, is to give the lower buy-in players a chance to win the award as well. But really what they're created is a guarantee that those players could never win. Without playing a 40-50 tournament schedule, you don't have much of a chance. Al those guys that are playing 50-60 events, they're just going to cash a lot more and keep racking them up."

He adds, "The system changes that I'd put in place, that I'd suggest, would actually give a guy who won the Colossus, won the Millionaire Maker, and put together three or four deep runs, he'd have a much better chance of winning than he does currently."

None of these gripes have actually soured Negreanu's World Series, which he says he is still enjoying tremendously. As Day 1B players ground through their five levels yesterday, Negreanu took his first day off after a 40-day stretch and then came to the Rio today with the characteristic pep in his step.

As ever, he's always available for a chat or for photos. He remains the most approachable player in the world, and it almost seems like a happy coincidence that he'a also at the top of the all-time money list. The $700,000 he won this year extended his lead over Erik Seidel.

Negreanu asks only one thing of those supporters: approach him when he's at the table, rather than during one of his precious tournament breaks. The 20 minutes can vanish after five or six photos and he'll never get to pee.

"I go through the back hallways to avoid that from happening," he says. "It's not about being rude it's just about knowing that it's the only way I can do it. Otherwise I'd have to say no to people, and I don't want to do that."


WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.