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Daniel Negreanu on Table Talk, Slow Rolls, Shaun Deeb and Going Broke
Always outspoken, always relevant, always with poker's best interests at heart and, lately, always at the top of his game.
Daniel Negreanu is, arguably, the most popular and most important player to ever play the game of poker.
Few, if any, have balanced the media spotlight and a de facto role as poker's ambassador for as long and/or as well as Negreanu has and continues to.
In 2013 his poker reputation is impressively being matched by his results as a WSOP APAC main event title, a litany of deep runs and a very good shot at WSOP POY has him more feared at the table than ever.
Busting on Day 2 of the EPT London main event, Negreanu generously returned to the Grand Connaught rooms to sit down with PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann and share his opinions on some of the most controversial topics in the poker business.
PokerListings: You’ve recently been having issues with certain poker rules like what you're allowed to talk about at the tables. What is really going on?
Daniel Negreanu: The thing is that the TDA have an idea on this and they’re wrong. They are wrong from a reasoning point of view and they’re wrong thinking it’s good for poker.
Their rules are not making it comfortable for the players. The bottom line is, they have invented a rule and now they don’t know how to enforce it.
Their rules are so ambiguous that neither the players nor the people who invented them know what’s actually allowed and what’s not. So the players just live in fear.
PL: How can the situation get solved?
DN: Well, the WSOP has found a way. They’ve given the players much more freedom to talk the way they want.
The thing is, the TDA is trying to make poker more serious. But that’s the wrong approach. There has to be an atmosphere that is fun, relaxed.
But they are like “sit down, shut the f*** up, play poker, move your phone, put your chips over here, don’t talk to nobody”.
I say, relax, man, what happened to the good atmosphere we used to have.
PL: Are they killing table talk?
DN: Well, I’m a table talker, and I’m experienced, but even I'm not sure what I am allowed to say. So how is it going to be for less-experienced players?
The rules make it less interesting, less fun, less attractive to play.
PL: Shaun Deeb recently slow-rolled Mike Matusow on a TV poker show. Do you think a slow-roll can ever be a joke?
DN: It is very rare to find a situation where it is not bad etiquette. Maybe, if you play with a friend, and you’ve done it to each other before.
But Shaun was in a situation where there was a lot of money on the table, real money, and someone was about to lose a bunch of it.
So I think it wasn’t really classy. I know it wasn’t Shaun’s intention to do that, but it was not a funny joke.
PL: Was that just a one-time thing, or do you think he's that kind of player?
DN: I’d say a little bit of both. He’s definitely a stickler, and he sometimes tends to angle-shoot.
He once shot an angle at me, too. He was angle-shooting me and at the same time accused me of it. Let’s leave it at that.
PL: Who are your favorites to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame?
DN: They would be John Duthie and Bruno Fitoussi.
PL: Both of which are…
DN: …not nominated, I know. The reason is I think that the board’s nominees are generally way too American-centric.
They don’t show enough respect for the growth of poker in Europe. I mean, there is more poker here in Europe now than there is in the States.
John Duthie is the inventor of the EPT, and Bruno Fitoussi is largely responsible for the poker boom in France.
He was the one who made poker in France so popular that players would come over from the United States, and I think both these guys deserve more credit for it.
In terms of the growth of poker, and the relevance it has in Europe now, I don’t understand how you can leave these two out of the list of nominees.
PL: André Akkari recently wrote about race and poker and how there are so few black players. Then again, Phil Ivey is black and he's the best there is. Is poker racist?
DN: Definitely not! One of the most important features of the game is that it is accessible for anyone. Poker is an equalizer.
At the poker table everybody is the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re fat, short, small, big, black, white, homo- or heterosexual, we’re all equal.
If you have the skill set, you will succeed. You could just as well ask, why are there so few women in poker?
PL: Why are there so few women in poker?
DN: That’s because men and women have different mind sets. In general, men like to do sports, and women are more devoted to buying shoes.
I’m not saying that one is better than the other, I’m saying that’s just how we are. Men and women are just built differently.
PL: Doyle Brunson once said, “every poker player goes broke at some point." Do you agree with this?
DN: I think that was true before the age of the internet. When I was young I went broke 20 or 30 times.
PL: According to Wikipedia, you went broke in Las Vegas once and had to go back to Toronto, when you were 22.
DN: Yes, but I went broke before that. I went broke many times. And I think that this happened to everybody particularly during Doyle’s time.
But today, with the internet, people don’t need to go broke anymore. The young players are too smart for that.
What they do is, they start playing, make some money, then grind 20 tables simultaneously, they invest the money, slowly go up in stakes, and when things go bad, they just move back down again.
In the old days, yes, you had to go broke. You had to be gutsy enough to put everything on the line and then sometimes you just lost.
PL: Did “going broke” in the old days really mean to lose your whole bankroll in one night?
DN: It meant to lose your bankroll and then ask people if they could lend you 500 bucks or 25,000 bucks so you could get back into a game you wanted to be in.
PL: We’ve seen online poker shifting from Hold’em to Omaha, then to 2-7, now to FL Omaha Hi-Lo. What’s going to be the next big thing?
DN: I’ve always been a friend of the Mixed 8-Games. That’s basically all I play when I am online. It’s just more interesting than Hold’em.
If you think about it, before the poker boom, everybody played mixed games all the time and they were all limit games.
Then No Limit came around and took off. In terms of media and television, I’m sure Hold’em will keep being the number one cause it’s the most interesting to watch.
The players, though, sooner or later look at the their games and will find some of them great and interesting, so online, mixed games will become more popular.
PL: You’ve ended up second in several High Roller events lately, giving away more or less big chipleads. In retrospect, are these results wins or lost titles for you?
DN: Lost titles. I’ve had a bunch of seconds also at the WSOP and other events, and it’s pretty frustrating.
In the early days of my career, the first eight times I made a final table I won every single time. So, I guess, my luck at that time turned round and kicked me in the butt.
PL: Did you get to watch Runner Runner already?
DN: No. I hear that it’s not really about poker, and the reviews aren’t very good.
The general mistake in poker movies is they often make it too much about poker. If I would produce a movie it would be more about the characters. I wouldn’t even show the hands.
PL: Your favorite poker movie?
DN: Rounders. It’s a great movie because it is a good story. It’s not so much about the hands. There were interesting characters, and it was well acted. I think Rounders is great.