A budding young player couldn't even dream of the multi million dollar prize pools, crossover fame and massive online sponsorship deals available today because they didn't exist.
First, online poker began to grow, then Chris Moneymaker's historic 2003 WSOP Main Event win gave every amateur poker player in the world hope. The cheap production values of Poker on television made the game immensely popular with cable networks and the next thing you know poker began to explode on a global scale.
The top players in the game, including the aforementioned Negreanu, became world-wide superstars and a whole new poker world was shaped around them.
But while the game's immense popularity has helped to sweeten prize pools and draw more dead money to WSOP events than ever before, it has also created a lot of distractions for the game's elite making it tougher for these upper echelon players to regularly bring their A-game to the tables.
That's what made Negreanu's bracelet win the $2,000 Limit Hold'em event the other night so impressive. Up until that point it hadn't been such a great year for Kid Poker. Following his signing with PokerStars during the 2007 WSOP Negreanu has spent the past year traveling the world representing the brand. With PokerStars as the title sponsor of the tour he made it his goal to win an EPT title and spent much of the past year traveling back and forth across the Atlantic to play as many Eurodonkaments as he could with very little success.
In talking with Daniel periodically throughout the year it was evident his schedule was a packed one. In between a myriad of personal appearances on behalf of PokerStars he was either filming one of the many TV ads he does for the site, putting together the Poker VT training videos that were unveiled at the start of this year's WSOP or working with a number of other brands he endorses. Add in all the world-wide travel to tournaments in Asia, Latin America, Europe and across North America and one begins to wonder if the game's biggest star has time to work on his game at all.
When he finally does make it on the tournament floor, Negreanu and the handful of poker superstars on his level are constantly hounded by railbirds looking for a picture, autograph or just a few words making it even more difficult to concentrate on the task at hand - playing poker.
Despite all the trappings of being the face of poker, Kid Poker still managed to play well in his Event 20 win. It takes a certain maturity to handle all the attention and still do his job and Daniel alluded to that fact in our interview after the big win. He said having a good support system around him helps ensure that no matter how busy he gets, he can still be just a poker player when he needs to be.
Of course being the biggest star in the game also has a few perks. Not only does Daniel make big bucks for all his off-the-felt work, but he enjoys the benefits of something we like to call the Rounders Effect.
Far and away the best poker movie of all time, Rounders seems to have turned as many people in to poker players as Moneymaker has. However, many of those players suffer from delusions of grandeur all based on one of the film's greatest scenes.
Matt Damon's character famously bluffs Johnny Chan of a hand at the Taj in Atlantic City one night and comes up with a quick quip when Chan asks him if he had it.
His famous line is "I don't remember John," and that line has gone on to help create legions of amateur poker players who come to the WSOP every year with one goal in mind - Bluff, bust or outplay some big name pro any way they can.
They've seen superstars like the annoyingly egomaniacal Phil Hellmuth on TV and want nothing more than to show him up. While most people like Negreanu a little more than Hellmuth, there are still a ton of players just as interested in going home with a story about how they busted him as winning World Series gold and that's the Rounders Effect.
While it's a good idea to target chips at a poker table and look for good situations, it's never been profitable to target any specific player and a good pro will pounce on those that do.
It's got to be tough being pulled in all sorts of different directions as an ambassador of the game, but having people throw chips at you might make it all worthwhile.