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Daniel Negreanu: Germophobic Poker Idol
There is no denying it - people love Daniel Negreanu. It's easy to see why - singing and dancing his way to a huge chip stack through most of the day's $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament Daniel entertained more than his share of the record-breaking crowd. The only people who didn't seem to be smiling were the donors at his table.
On the way to the player's lounge during a break for some veggies and a little friendly Wii bowling side-bet with Gavin Smith, Daniel let PokerListings.com in on the secrets of his singing career, his role as player advisor for the WSOP and why you should never shake hands.
Before we get to the lounge, however, Daniel is mobbed by adoring fans - all female, all needing photos, which he cheerfully gives.
Ladies: He's my favorite! Oh my goodness, it's Daniel Negreanu. I love you! I love you!
Negreanu: I'm in love with you both.
So you guys bet on the Wii?
We bet big. I'm up a hundred thousand on this.
Are you betting any other games besides the bowling?
Yeah, we play pool, we play Wii, we golf every day for money, so basically my life for the last couple weeks has been gambling every day, but no poker.
Hellmuth: [interjects] Hey Dan, you want to putt? A thousand a putt?
Negreanu: A thousand a putt? With you? Go dog! He wants to play me, thousand a putt, what, what, what! No, not right now. Are you still in the tournament?
Hellmuth: [mumbles] No, I just went broke.
Negreanu: I'm still in, I don't have time.
Hellmuth starts mumbling about a foes vanquished on the putting green, where he "…clearly has an edge."
You haven't been playing poker lately. How's that been? Was it weird not playing this past month?
No, it's cool. I don't play that much poker anyway, now. I still play the World Series, but that's six weeks straight. When I get past that it's time for distractions, friends, drinking, partying, having fun, you know - to get it out of my system. Now it's time to work.
When you work now, is it all about the poker, or is it about being an ambassador to poker?
It's a combination, and also I love history, I love statistics, and I want to win a lot of bracelets. I want to be player of the year and all that kind of stuff.
It's early on, but how's that going so far?
I'm playing really well. I'm surprised - I'm not really paying attention. I'm playing my game - I'll pay attention when we get down to three tables. [laughs]
That's not a bad time to pay attention.
Yeah, you don't really want to waste too much energy too early. [Sees Smith bowl a strike] Gavin's figured it out, oh no. He's got it down now. We can play even money now. We can play tennis and I'll spot you some. I'll spot you 30-love in tennis.
Smith: I remember when you weren't such an obvious stone-cold hustler. You've been in Vegas too long - remember when you were Canadian?
Negreanu: I know! I was hardened by the criminals. We played golf for money every day for the past month.
And now you're a hardened criminal?
Well, no, I wouldn't say that. I'm not as big of a sucker as I was. And I'm much better now. I need to get an endorsement deal for the David Ledbetter Swing Setter - that thing has helped me. It's the sickest thing ever. It's legit, you know? I like sponsoring things that I actually think are legit. I endorse Airborne because I use it.
I'm sorry, what is that?
It's a little thing you take which is good for fighting germs - it's important.
Do you worry about germs a lot? Being surrounded by people, touching all the cards and chips?
Yeah, I don't shake hands with people, or I try not to - I do this [the fist-pound], you know?
That's good. Very sanitary.
If people are sweating, that's the worst. If they have a wet hand, and they want to rub you, are they crazy? You have a wet hand! If you have sweaty, soggy hands, don't shake people's hands! Am I right? If you know you have sweaty, stanky hands, just do the pound!
Last year you were on the Player Advisory Board for the World Series of Poker - how's that going this year?
We get a lot done. We come up with some good suggestions. We told them the [new layout, quickly discontinued] cards were no good.
They are some weird cards.
They suck. They're terrible.
And the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament you suggested last year was a big success. Do you think it will be bigger this year?
Oh, yeah - we're going to do more satellites. Last year there weren't really any.
What else we can look forward to seeing?
The heads-up tournament. Also my idea. [Laughs] All the good ideas were mine. Unlike the new cards. I won't say who, but one guy liked the cards.
Gavin was just complaining he couldn't get you to take a bet the other day. How many days do you not feel like gambling?
It depends. When we have friends over we play everything - it's fun. You know, we don't even pay. We play for a million dollars, but nobody has any money.
[He starts walking back to the floor, stopping at a group of staring girls.]
How we all doing?
You always have time for the ladies.
[Laughs] I wouldn't say hi if they were a bunch of ugly dudes.
But really, really hot dudes, maybe?
Yeah, then okay.
[He continues to meet and greet his way to his table.]
Is it back to more singing and dancing at the table for you?
I'm going to try to chill. Otherwise I'll just hit the wall. You know I've never done a drug in my life? Can you believe that? Most people think I do cocaine and everything, because I'm so high, but I'm drug free. Caffeine-free, too - no caffeine in this body since 2003. [He munches veggies from the player's lounge.]
Do you have any vices besides cucumbers?
I drink a lot. But not during tournaments. I like beer - [adopting a southern accent] yep, I like me some beer. [Makes a goofy face for a fan picture] I'm not doing any normal pictures, for the whole World Series. Every one of mine will be weird.
Have you ever taken normal pictures?
I used to, yeah. But I'm done with that. I'm not a normal person, so I'm done with normal pictures.
You're not a normal person?
No. How could you be? No poker player's all that normal.
It doesn't seem like they are, and then you get down here and you find out it's true. Thank you so much for the interview.
You got it, Chief! [fist pound]
Man, that was close, I almost went for a handshake - and my hands are sticky.
Don't be shaking.
* * * * * * * * * * *
With that, he's back to the table, a little quieter than before, but just as impressive. Whether at the top of the heap or busting out (as he did a few hours later), Daniel Negreanu is a fixture at the World Series; and you can be sure PokerListings.com will be watching his every move, on and off the felt.