Daniel Negreanu is well known in the world of poker and is listed by Global Poker Index as being one of the best poker players of the decade. Here he talks exclusively to CardsChat.com about his poker career, game tactics, and playing Halo (and why he should stick to Hearthstone).
Read on to hear straight from one of the highest earning poker players in the world, and exactly how he got there:
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.
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."
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.
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.
My mother used to say, 'Daniel, you go to school. Forget about the poker.' Obviously with so much success, her tune has changed drastically.
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.
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.
Q. What kind of effect 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.
Q. Are you currently looking to become a member of an online poker forum? I hear Cardschat.com is pretty decent. ;)
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. That's an FCP inside joke.
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 professionally?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 CardsChat members? 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.
I DID IT!!! WSOP PLAYER OF THE YEAR FOR THE SECOND TIME!! AHHHH I CAN'T BELIEVE IT— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) October 24, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Q. If you could suggest only one strategy book for a player to read and study, which would it be and why?
A. Super System 2, because it covers a wide array of games.
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.
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.
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.
Q. Do you have any plans to open up a poker school?
A. No, but I have a book in the works and I've finished my DVD as well.
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. :D
A. I gave up on Halo. I suck at those games.
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.
Q. Being that you are a newlywed and very busy these days with your new game, Stacked, the poker site Full Contact Poker, the new protégé, FCP forum, articles for Card Player Magazine and the newspaper, let alone your playing career, blog, and golf game (whew-- did we forget something?), 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.
Q. How many days a week would you guestimate you got your 'A' game on? And, do you play every day?
A. I play sporadically and it always varies. During tournaments I play several days in a row, but outside of that, I only play about once or twice a week. Because of that, it allows me to bring my A game on a consistent basis.
Q. How do you get through your downslope's in poker. I mean during the 2005 (correct year?) WSOP main event you were playing perfect poker and just kept getting outdrawn over and over. How do you keep a cool head and continue to play top poker?
A. Experience is key. I try to make sure that I focus on continuing to play well and just won't allow myself to focus on things that are out of my control.
Q. It's a notorious and recurring question on poker forums and a ludicrous setup but anyway.. .. it's the first hand of the WSOP main event and you've got AA on the BB. Everyone else goes all-in. What do you do and why? If you fold, what the maximum number of all-ins in front of you that you would call?
A. If you fold in this situation you just aren't really there to win the tournament. It's absurd to fold AA pre-flop in that situation.
Q. What are your thoughts on fancy play syndrome?
A. Many beginners who are trying to improve often have this problem. You are better off, though, focusing on improving your fundamentals and leave fancy plays alone until you've mastered the fundamentals.
Q. I saw you teaching a guy from Florida named Rob, his wife is Amber, this was on the reality channel. You almost quit teaching him because he wasn't doing what you taught him. If you teach someone to play poker, do they have to go strictly by your rules?
A. Yes, otherwise it won't work. I have some pretty basic rules to follow, and if you can't do that, I wouldn't be interested in going any further.
Q. How annoying was it to tutor the Boston rob guy from survivor?
A. It wasn't annoying at all? I think he's a great guy and lots of fun to hang out with. He gets a slightly bad rap on those shows, especially on Survivor Alll-Stars as I thought he played it brilliantly.
Q. Is there anyone that you play against that just seems to have your number or have you pegged every time and visa versa?
A. You go through phases like that where someone owns you, or you own them, but in the long run, all that evens out eventually.
Q. Related to the above, Who do you class as your hardest opponent?
A. Phil Ivey.
Q. There are so many good players out there what is the major difference between the good players and the great players?
A. Raw talent coupled with the discipline to play their best on a consistent basis.
Q. When did you realize that you had what it takes to play poker professionally and what made you come to that realization?
A. Probably at about age 23 when I won my first WSOP bracelet in the very first WSOP event I'd ever played. I was the youngest bracelet winner ever at the time.
Q. What did you give up on the pursuit of being a poker champion?
A. Nothing really, aside from maybe playing snooker for a living which wasn't going to happen.
Q. What was the worst beat you have ever been given?
A. It wasn't really a "beat" but losing with AK vs Henry Nowakowski's 66 in the 2001 WSOP main event with 12 players remaining may have cost me my best ever chance at winning the big one.
Q. What is the worst beat you have ever dished out?
A. Too many to count, I have no idea, lol.
Q. We posed the question of the absolute dream WSOP Main Event Final Table to watch, or play in, for our CC members. What would be your choices, if you could pick a dream final table to play with/watch, for the final 9 players of the Main Event at the WSOP, who would the final 9 of your fantasy final table be and what would be your the reasons for wanting to play with them or see them play?
I would think that you'd want to watch some of the best players in the world go at it, so that was my thinking here.
Q. When did you first start to play poker seriously, and what was your bankroll when you first began?
A. At about age 18 or 19 and I probably had about $400 to start out with.
Q. Has getting married changed your poker play in any way?
A. Not too much no. My wife is very supportive of what I need to do so she understands and let's me do what I need to do.
Q. What hand do you feel is overrated?
A. It's a pretty good hand, but if gets a lot of people into trouble when they play it all in before the flop and are usually looking at AA or KK, and at best, AK.
Q. How many people do you think will play in the Main Event this year since a lot of the online rooms have shut out US players?
You are better off focusing on improving your fundamentals and leave fancy plays alone until you've mastered the fundamentals.
Q. If you could do it all over again would you still call Gus Hansen with your quads?
A. Yes, absolutely. The way the hand played out I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Q. What do you really think of the movie "Rounders". Is it really all that and a bag of chips (no pun intended)?
A. I liked it and thought it was pretty cool.
Q. Coke or Pepsi?
A. Haven't had a soda in 15 years.
Q. What is your golf handicap down to?
A. Haven't golfed in several months. When I stopped I was still about a 25.
Q. Who will win the Stanley Cup this year?
A. Tough question. The winner will come from the west and my early favourites are Anahiem and San Jose. I think I'd have to go with Anahiem if they are healthy.
Q. What's the most you've ever lost on a prop bet?
A. Not sure, but I'm pretty sure it's less than $100,000.
Q. What's your favourite breakfast food?
A. I'm a healthy guy so I'd have to say Oatmeal and fruit.
Q. If you were big enough & good enough to play hockey professionally, would you quit poker?
A. Nope. I would play hockey professionally but that doesn't mean I'd have to quit poker.