Daniel Negreanu

Now here’s a guy who needs no introduction. If you’ve watched any poker on TV, followed any of the online posts, you know the name, Daniel Negreanu. The 2004 Toyota Player of the Year, Daniel has steadily risen to the top of poker’s ranks. Contributing writer for Cardplayer, a regular on the World Poker Tour, a contributor in the upcoming Super Sytem II, and now recently engaged, Daniel somehow found time to answer some questions from the Lizard.


PokerLizard: Let’s get to the hard hitting questions right away, what is the correct pronunciation of your last name? On ESPN its “Neg Ron You” and on other shows (WPT/Championship Poker at the Plaza), it’s “Neg Ron ooo.” (I theorize you told ESPN “Neg Ron You” as a tease to Phil Hellmuth whose name transformed from Helmuth to HelmYouth…but I could be wrong).

Daniel: ESPN never asked me how to pronounce it and honestly I don’t care all that much how it’s pronounced. I say it “Ne GRAH new”, but again I don’t really care.

PokerLizard: How did you first get interested in poker? How long have you been playing serious poker?

Daniel: I used to be a pool player. Through that, I got into sports betting and then finally poker. Hanging out with gamblers in my teens, poker was inevitable. Once I started playing poker, I think I got the bug immediately. I was playing seriously within two months of my first game.

PokerLizard: You write very candid articles for Card Player Magazine, (the articles can be found at FullContactPoker.com as well) for instance talking about failed relationships and letting partying affect your poker. Do you find these articles cathartic or are you trying to warn players of some of the pitfalls to avoid?

Daniel: I think it’s a combination. There are so many things the media doesn’t discuss and I’m not one to hide the truth. People watch poker on TV and think everyone is a millionaire that lives in a mansion. In truth, most of the players are struggling.

I learned lessons from all the mistakes I’ve made and I’m not ashamed of any of them. They helped me become the person I am today, and I like that person. If others learn something from the mistakes I’ve made, well, all the better.

PokerLizard: How does wearing headphones at the table help your play? What are you currently listening to? Also, what type of headphones do you wear? (They look comfortable).

Daniel: I wear BOSE. This will sound corny, but I honestly listen to “massage” music; i.e. ocean waves, birds chirping, etc. It helps me get through the boring parts of a tournament when I start to feel antsy.

PokerLizard: You often wear Hockey jerseys at the table, and are obviously a HUGE hockey fan. Would you trade any of your major tournament victories for a Maple Leaf
championship? Also, if you could spend one day with Lord Stanley’s Cup, like the players on the championship team, what would you do?

Daniel: Honestly, I’m a big hockey fan but no, I’d never trade a tournament win for the Leafs winning a cup. If I had the cup for a day? I have no idea what I’d do with it. I think I would marvel at it for a while, but I’m just not all that big on material items.

PokerLizard: You wrote a very interesting piece on the internet concerning the differences between “Math” guys and “Feel” guys. Can you elaborate on that concept? Also, in your opinion, at what level does “Feel” start becoming a crucial element in poker success?

Daniel: At the highest levels everyone has a decent understanding of the math. Feel, or psychological warfare is what it’s all about. I honestly don’t think that a pure math guy has much of a chance in those games because they aren’t psychologically prepared for the game.

PokerLizard: In one of your Card Player articles you mention playing a cash game at a table with this lineup:

Seat 1: Doyle Brunson
Seat 2: Lyle Berman
Seat 3: Johnny Chan
Seat 4: Chip Reese
Seat 5: Me
Seat 6: Phil Ivey
Seat 7: Chao Xiang

No, my question isn’t, “are you nuts??” It is, how do players in the highest limit games actually have long-term success – it seems as though you would just be transferring chips back and forth until the rake/time-charge broke everyone?

Daniel: Not all of the “great” players are equal. If you are the third best player in a six-handed game, that will usually be a profitable situation.

PokerLizard: When people talk about the biggest games, to what limits are they generally referring?

Daniel: Generally 1000-2000 and above. I play in a regular game that is usually 1000-2000 or 1500-3000. I’ve played as high as 4000-8000 but that’s a little out of my comfort zone.

PokerLizard: What 3 characteristics does it take to become a “World Class” Player?

1. Discipline
2. Talent
3. Fundamental knowledge

PokerLizard: Other than “play, play, play”, what advice would you give someone hoping to become a great player? Any recommended reading?

Daniel: Super System and the Theory of Poker. For tournaments I would suggest Tournament Poker by David Sklansky.

PokerLizard: How much more difficult/different is it to get a “feel” on a player while playing online? Have you ever noticed any online “tells”?

Daniel: You don’t really look for tells online – what you should be focusing on is betting patterns. Ironically that also holds true in live games. There is a big misconception in poker that “tell reading” is what makes the difference between good and great, but in fact it’s hand reading ability that separates the men from the boys.

PokerLizard: How often do you play online? Does your strategy differ much from live games?

Daniel: Not too often really. I’m involved in an exciting new project with a new online site, so I haven’t been playing too much. As for my strategy, it does change significantly. I bluff less and ‘value bet’ more.

PokerLizard: Obligatory PokerLizard Question: If you were Matt Damon in “Rounders” how long would it have taken you to kick your girlfriend to the curb and get with Famke Janssen?

Daniel: Honestly I don’t think I would have kicked her to the curb at all. She seemed like a good woman and was probably a better fit for him. It was his dishonesty that lost her. I probably would have quit playing poker if it would mean the relationship. A game is not more important than a woman you love.

PokerLizard: You have the famous quote, “They were unbluffable,” after leaving the main event of the WSOP this year. Are you going to play a more straightforward style next year until the later rounds, or go “Gus Hansen” on them?

Daniel: I’m going to stick to my game plan. That stretch they aired was an ugly one for me. Had I caught a few breaks, I think things would have went fine.

PokerLizard: You seem to be having a good time at the tables, which most fans see as a welcome change to the emotionless play advocated by some players. Why do
you think this style works so well for you?

Daniel: A leopard can’t change his spots. I’m a ‘people person’ and I like to have fun. If I had to be all boring-like and sit there like a lump on a log, I probably wouldn’t enjoy my job as much as I do. Plus, when people are being natural, they are easier to read. I try to make people feel comfortable and have fun. Serious poker is bad for business and bad for the game in general. Make the game fun, I say.

PokerLizard: Who do you most like to play against? Who would make your Hall of Fame table?

Daniel: I most like to play with John Hennigan because when he is focused, he is the best I’ve ever played with. He thinks on another level that few could understand. Ted Forrest and Phil Ivey are similar, but I find John to be truly amazing. Hall of Fame table for me would look like:

Chip Reese
Jennifer Harman
Phil Ivey
John Hennigan
Ted Forrest
Chau Giang
Doyle Brunson
Todd Brunson

PokerLizard: You won the Toyota Player of the Year award for your play during the WSOP, beating out many of the game’s elite players. How were you able to maintain
your focus and energy over the entire month? What did this award mean to you?

Daniel: I skipped the Bellagio before the WSOP started. That helped me down the stretch for sure. I stayed away from the late nights at the bar and woke up early so I was never late for any tournament. I bought in the night before to avoid the rush and ate extremely healthy. To me, that was my World Championship. I think you’ll find that these days, the Main Event winner will be an unknown, but the Player of the Year award isn’t something you can fluke. Look at the list of players that were close and it’s a group of top players.

PokerLizard: With all the hype surrounding poker and the influx of celebrity players, do you see much potential in those “newcomers” or will the seasoned pros still
dominate over time? Do you coach any celebrities (you seemed to be on a first name basis with Tobey Maguire who has had some good recent results)?

Daniel: I am friends with Tobey, but I wouldn’t say that I coach him at all. He’s become a really good, winning player all by himself through hard work playing long hours at the tables.

I think the young internet players will/have revolutioned the way poker is played and many of them will be fantastic. It really is a young man’s game, and if you don’t stay fresh and keep up-to-date with the changes, you WILL get passed by. I see it all the time.

PokerLizard: How flattering was it to be asked to write a section in the surely to become new “Poker Bible”, Super System 2 book? How did you get involved in the project and what exactly is “Triple Draw”?

Daniel: I was honored that Doyle would ask me. Being a part of a group of writers with the accolades they have is just awesome. I mean, Doyle, Chip, Chan, Jennifer Harman, Lyle Berman, Bobby Baldwin, etc… those are living legends. I’m not so sure I belong in a group like that, but I wasn’t about to pass up on that honor. ‘Triple draw’ is a five card draw game with three draws. It’s played lowball, either 2-3-4-5-7 as the best hand, or A-2-3-4-5. The game is ALWAYS in the mix in the high-limit games and is a fast action game. It’s important to learn the game if you want to succeed in high limit poker.

PokerLizard: Thanks for your time Daniel, and best of luck.

If you liked this interview please consider making a small donation, all proceeds will go toward my children’s college fund, Thanks.


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