Exclusive Interview with Poker
Player Daniel Negreanu
1. Q. How did you get started playing poker
A. I used to play pool as a teenager. I bet sports, played blackjack, and all kinds of random gambling until one day some friends introduced me to poker
. I lost my $10 that first night, but after that I started playing on a pretty regular basis.
2. Q. When did you decide to go pro, and at what age?
A. I never really “decided” exactly, I was already a pro long before I realized it. At 18, I was playing 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday. By the time I was 22, I just woke up one day and realized that, “Well, I guess this is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”
3. Q. At what point did you become a winning player and what process aided that development?
A. I was a winning player by age 17. I was very observant and would learn from those that were better than me by simply watching to see how they played certain hands. I would then incorporate all of the good things I learned from others into my game.
4. Q. How does it feel to be probably the biggest and best player to come out of Canada, and to be competing with and dominating the best of the best from all over the world?
A. I’m a very competitive guy and I’m just so happy that I found something that I could compete at a very high level at. It’s a dream come true in so many ways.
5. Q. When you decided to become a professional poker
player, did you find the level of competition comparable at the time to what it is now with the boom of online poker
A. It was different then. There were less players so in turn there were less fish. However, there were fewer great players then as compared to today. Back then, a 22 year old kid was generally too green to be able to play at a high level. Today, a 22 year old kid could have tons of experience thanks to online poker
6. Q. Do you play online, and if so, what site is the best in your opinion and why?
A. Well, I am proud to say that I endorse fullcontactpoker.com. It used to just be a forum, but the community grew so large that it added online poker
. In my opinion, the greatest thing about FCP are the cool promotions
. For example, the Protégé 2. My first ever Protégé, Brian Fidler, won almost a quarter million dollars after spending just four months with me playing on the big time circuit. A lot of the promotions
offered at FCP are things you couldn’t get anywhere else. We’ve had several “Weekend at Daniel” prizes where people hang out at my place for the weekend and they’ve always been an absolute blast.
7. Q. What kind of affect do you think the online gaming boom has had on the integrity of the game?
A. That’s an interesting question. In one sense it’s been awesome since so many people are playing today, but in another sense, it’s been a little over run by people. There was something very special about the WSOP in the past and some of that is changing for the worse.
8. Q. Are you currently looking to become a member of an online poker
A. As I mentioned, I’m a regular poster at the forum that I created years ago, fullcontactpoker.com. I offer some strategy advise then, but mostly, I’m there to hang out and read through some goofy threads about how Gus Hansen was hit by a bus.
9. Q. Your mother is obviously a great supporter of your poker
career. Was this always the case? If not, when did she begin to come around to the idea of you playing poker
A. My mother used to say, “Daniel, you go to school. Forget about the poker
.” Obviously with so much success, her tune has changed drastically.
10. Q. If you weren’t a pro poker
player, what would you be doing?
A. Something in the film industry. Either writing, acting, or maybe directing.
11. Q. How do you think your talkative and friendly character helps you at the tables?
A. It makes people relax more which makes for a better game. I gain information from people by being who I am and that helps a lot. It’s not an act, mind you, but I clearly benefit from my table persona.
12. Q. On TV you seem to be having so much fun chatting it up with your opponents. How much of your table talk is a tactic to gain more information on your opponent?
A. As I said, I realize that my table talk helps me, but it’s not some devious ploy to pretend to be a nice guy to screw people! I am who I am, that’s just my nature. I’m a talkative guy at or away from the tables. That’s just part of my personality.
13. Q. One of your biggest assets is the uncanny ability to read your opponents. In your Card Player column this April, you mentioned a hand you played against BK King at the WSOP Circuit event in Tunica in which he re-raised you pre-flop, then showed fear when betting
out $200,000 on the flop. You said, “Not only did he look scared, but he also fumbled his chips and gave off another tell that I simply can’t share with you.” Although you couldn’t share it with the wide audience of Card Player readers, can you share it with us? If nothing else a hint, or some insight into the nuances of reading your opponents (beyond betting
patterns and obvious physical tells)?
A. Well, the tell basically dealt with his level of comfort. Based on something he did, it was clear to me that he was more uncomfortable than he had been when he raised me earlier. In those hands, he had the best hand and showed me- big mistake. On this particular hand, he looked very different. Also, his bet size was much different than it was when he had the best hand. It was the most obvious bluff I’d seen in a while.
14. Q. Is it harder reading tells on women than on men? And who do you prefer to play against?
A. You can’t read women. Men are really dumb when it comes to reading body language in comparison to women. Women are so much more in touch with their intuitive side than men are. I generally have more trouble playing against women. One woman in particular, a Finnish lady that I’ve played in tournaments with for the past 10 years absolutely owns me. I may as well play my cards face up because she always knows what I have anyway.
15. Q. You’ve said styles of play vary in different locales, and that players in California tend to be fast and aggressive while those in Atlantic City are more timid and passive. To what do you attribute those regional differences, and do you have a preferred location to play because of them?
A. I think the reason LA players are more aggressive is that it’s such a fast paced town. People deal with the stresses of traffic and are always on the go. When they get to a poker
table, patience is often an issue. More importantly, though, the West coast players are more experienced than the players on the East coast.
16. Q. Why have you turned more towards cash games rather than big tournaments?
A. I’ve always preferred playing high limit poker
. Tournaments bore me unless there is a lot at stake. I went through the tournament grind for years and am past that point now.
17. Q. With the growing number of online qualifiers and massive fields at the WSOP over the past few years, do you think an alternative format should be produced to determine the “best poker
players in the world”? Such as a system whereby points would be accumulated throughout the year by placing in specific tournaments (WPT, PPT, et. al) and perhaps cash games, culminating in a series of poker
tournaments like the WSOP with shorter fields of highly skilled players?
A. Chip Reese is the 2006 World Champion of Poker
. Plain and simple. HORSE is a much better indicator of poker
skill than no limit hold’em is. Since they aren’t going to change that, though, I think the best way to address the large fields it to change the main event format to a shootout format. In order to advance to day two, you must beat all of the players at your table. This will force players to play both short handed and ring games in order to advance to the final.
18. Q. What are your thoughts on the many poker
books available? Is the recent influx of so many poker
strategy books harmful to the broader well-being of the game, and do you have any advice to those reading these books for the first time.
A. I always say that you should read a lot, but be careful what you read. Question everything, because just because it is in a book it doesn’t make it right.
19. Q. If you could suggest only one strategy book for a player to read and study, which would it be and why?
A. Supersystem 2, because it covers a wide array of games.
20. Q. What one professional player do you hold in the highest esteem?
A. I would say that Phil Ivey works harder at poker
than anyone else and his focus is unparalleled.
21. Q. What are your thoughts on the push in the US Congress to ban online gambling?
A. A bunch of complete and utter idiots are running this country. Just absolute morons. Does that about sum it up? LOL.
22. Q. How do you deal with bad beats?
A. By realizing that it’s a natural part of the game. If you can’t deal with tough beats, you better pick up knitting or something like that.
23. Q. Do you have any plans to open up a poker
A. No, but I have a book in the works and I’ve finished my DVD as well.
24. Q. Are you still having a hard time with the Halo game that you mentioned awhile back in your blog? If so, one of our member’s sons is volunteering his time to help you out.
A. I gave up on Halo. I suck at those games.
25. Q. One of our bolder members claims he can school you in Golden Tee. Any comments?
A. He probably could. I’m about a birdie shooter.
26. Q. How do you still manage to balance your marriage, family, and home life without going crazy or getting sick?
A. I don’t know how I do it, but I like being busy. Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed right now but I don’t really want to cut anything out of my life. I’d hate to look back and say, “I wish I would have done this, or that.” I throw a lot of things on my plate which could be unhealthy, but it’s the way I like to be.