Say nothing. Do nothing. Be nothing. That's just not how Daniel Negreanu rolls.
As we've learned over the past decade following him from one side of the globe to the other, Negreanu's never one to shy away from the issues at hand - be it in poker or the world at large.
Is he always "right?" Well, that depends on your perspective. But he's always passionate, well-reasoned and engaged with the world and the people around him. What more can you ask for from one of the game's flagbearers?
Plenty of hot-button issues are circling around the poker world these days and, as always, Negreanu was more than willing to step up and give his perspective.
In Barcelona for the EPT100 Main Event (which he'll play on Day 1B tomorrow), PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann caught up with him for more on enforcing tournament rules, poker and politics, investments for poker players and more.
Note: Opinions expressed are Negreanu's and do not represent or reflect any editorial opinion of PokerListings.com. Comments will be monitored/deleted for any hate speech.
PokerListings: You have been voicing your concerns a lot lately about player-unfriendly decisions during tournaments. Do you see any effects?
Daniel Negreanu: I’d be hoping to see more change, but I think there is some resistance. And the resistance comes from the wrong places.
It’s not that we need more rules, it's that the rules need to be implemented properly and they are not. I feel like the powers that be, if you wish, are not willing to reexamine their own rules set.
As an industry we want to be inviting and bring people to the game. We don’t want to make them feel stupid and piss them off. That’s just common sense.
PL: Like in the case of Alberto Tomba?
DN: Yes. As I mentioned in my last blog Tomba was given a one-round penalty in a tournament for a mistake he didn’t know he made.
He hasn’t played a tournament since because they made him feel stupid. He got a one-round penalty and it felt like being on the walk of shame for him.
Why can’t they give him a warning first?
PL: But isn’t that what the rule says?
DN: The rule says the player may get a penalty, but I’ve never seen the “may." I always see the penalty. The implementation of the rule is obviously way off.
On Poker Players and Politics
PL: You commenting on the Gaza conflict has triggered a controversial discussion in the forums.
DN: I respect everybody’s right to speak their mind and have an opinion, and it doesn’t matter at all if I agree with it or not.
In general I support people voicing their opinion, whatever the consequences. Here is one of my favorite quotes: "In order to avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing."
And I don’t live that way.
However, if I see someone with a T-shirt that says “Free Palestine," I honestly ask myself what that means.
There is no country called Palestine, so what are you really asking for and what are you freeing? It’s a little ironic to me.
PL: Is a T-shirt a good means to speak up?
DN: The one thing you surely achieve is you piss people off. If the goal is to educate others, I don’t think that works.
You’re not going to make people think or change their minds.
I find wearing a shirt like that a little - over the top. I wouldn’t do that.
PL: Is a slogan like “Save Gaza” on Busquet's shirt too simple?
DN: In a general sense, it’s great. Sure, let’s save Gaza. Let’s save the world. Great.
But what does that actually mean? Are you saying Israel should stop defending themselves and allow Hamas to obliterate the complete Jewish population?
Is that what saving Gaza means to you? Or are we talking about putting in place a peaceful solution?
PL: We find it difficult to define who is "right" and who is "wrong" in this conflict.
DN: I find it very simple. One side wants the other completely wiped off the face of the earth. 500 million people want 5 million people dead.
It is a Hamas charter to kill the Jews and then everybody else. Their goal is to obliterate anyone who is non-Muslim. They’ve made their goals very clear.
And Israel has suicide bombers coming in. To me that’s a very simple picture. Easy to explain, but apparently not easy to solve.
What I see is that if Hamas puts their weapons down, there will be no more war. If Israel puts their weapons down, there will be no more Israel.
When I hear about the death toll, and that Israel has killed more, I say, "don't you think if Hamas could kill more they wouldn't?"
If I disagree with somebody, I don't hate them because they have a different opinion. But to assume that I want babies and children being murdered, of course I don't, nobody wants that.
The question is, what is the source of this [killing], why is this happening?
Do I believe it is the goal of Israel to kill babies and children? Not at all. Do I believe that Hamas are glorifying these deaths and using them to get empathy? Absolutely.
PL: What about a scenario like the one in Ferguson, Missouri?
DN: I’m not very familiar with everything that’s going on there so I’d rather not comment on it. I don’t have enough information to develop an educated opinion.
Also, I'm aware I don’t know if everything I get from the media is pure information.
PL: Should poker players be political and speak their mind in public?
DN: I think that people should have an opinion and I'm willing to discuss with people who disagree with me.
I know that if I make a stand there will be somebody who hates me, but that just happens. Although, if I disagree with you, I don’t hate you.
I understand what Michael Jordan once said when he was asked why he wasn’t more political in the public:
“Because Republicans buy shoes, too.” That’s one way to look at it, but I see it differently.
On Poker Players’ Passions
PL: About a year ago it was “uncool to engage in charity,” as Phil Gruissem put it. Now everybody in poker seems to talk about it.
DN: Yes, and I like the idea of his charity institution REG, too. The question for poker players is, "how do you make a difference to the world?"
Apparently, you’re taking other people’s money to support yourself, but it’s not so much how you make money than what you do with it.
To me if you want to lead a balanced life you have to help other people.
PL: What do you think would be a good spot to invest money as a poker player?
DN: Well, I’m not a financial expert. I like when people invest in what they are passionate about. Everyone can make a change.
However you have to make sure that you are in line with your passions and your beliefs.
But when I see someone like Colman not wanting to promote a game like poker, but at the same time making money from it, I think you’re out of integrity.
Because where do you stand? You can’t be for and against the game at the same time.
But make no mistake. I didn’t mean to be condescending at all. What I mean is that people and their attitudes change over time.
PL: Is there a sense of shame in what he’s saying? Is poker essentially anti-social?
DN: I know he has a Utopian idea of how society should be, how individuals and personal achievements shouldn’t be celebrated, so he has an abstract idea of the world.
Mostly I think it’s great that he is someone who is actually thinking about these kinds of things and I respect his attitude and his way to think.
I just disagree with him at some point.
PL: You just turned 40 not too long ago. Does it feel like a big change?
DN: Not at all. I feel younger than I ever have. I’m gonna be 26 for life.