He Said, She Said: The Most Outspoken Poker Players of 2014

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Daniel Negreanu
Always good for a sound bite: Daniel Negreanu may have some challengers in the Most Outspoken Poker Player category. (Image: espn.go.com

When compiling a list of the most outspoken poker players and incendiary comments of the year we tend to head straight over to Daniel Negreanu’s blog.

Never short of an inflammatory opinion or two, Negreanu is always good value, and this year proved no exception.

Highlights included his criticism of the Poker Hall of Fame selection process just weeks before he was voted in, and his claim that he could re-learn to beat Six-Max $25/$50 NL Hold’em online cash games in just two weeks, thus offending the high stakes online poker community.

Poker and Politics

However, while Negreanu is accustomed to tearing into others with righteous indignation, he had to cope with some flak of his own this year when he became involved in a spat with fellow poker pro Phil Collins. The bone of contention was the Gaza conflict, the medium, Twitter.

“For the record I’m 100 percent pro-Israel defending themselves against terrorist groups like Hamas and you aren’t going to change my mind on Twitter,” announced Negreanu as the conflict raged in late July.

Collins disagreed. “Obviously, [Negreanu] is an idiot for 100 percent supporting a country that uses white phosphorus on civilians,” he tweeted, incensed.

After a lengthy war of words on the social media site the pair agreed to differ. Now if only the Israelis and Palestinians could do the same.

Storm in a T-shirt

And while we’re on the subject of that particular conflict, Daniel Colman and Olivier Busquet caused a minor storm when they chose to wear “Free Gaza” T-shirts while playing heads up for the EPT Super High Roller Event title in Barcelona.

“There was a specific attempt to inject some politics into the poker world,” said Busquet afterward.

The incident prompted PokerStars to ban political statements during its tournaments and it incurred the wrath of one journalist in particular. “There is no place for politics in poker,” fumed Card Player Lifestyles’ Robbie Strazynski, unaware, perhaps, that this in itself is a political statement.

Most poker players, though, were fairly blasé about the whole situation. “The poker community is cool about that because the poker community doesn’t care too much about politics… and that’s part of the problem,” said Busquet.

The Dark Side

Anyway, talking of Daniel Colman, the unsmiling 23-year-old may not say much to journalists, but he doesn’t mince his words when he’s chatting away in the poker forums. Explaining his decision not to talk or to give interviews after winning the One Drop, he wrote of his apparent distaste for the “dark” game of poker:

“First off, I don’t owe poker a single thing,” said the $15.3 million One Drop winner. “I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit financially from this game, but I have played it long enough to see the ugly side of this world. It is not a game where the pros are always happy and living a fulfilling life.”

He later called Phil Hellmuth a “cancer to society,” and “a charlatan,” and labeled him “embarrassing” and “pathetic.”

Wow! Hellmuth’s response was muted and he appeared rather dismayed, which suggests we may finally have a new contender for the Poker Brat title.

Taking a Stand

Meanwhile, many players had plenty to say about the non-player-friendly changes PokerStars were making to their platform, from the increase in rake to the introduction of a currency conversion fee.

Negreanu was outspoken in defense of his paymasters, but Victoria Coren Mitchell had other ideas. The introduction of casino games was a bridge to far for Vicky who resigned her position on Team Poker Stars Pro.

“I cannot professionally and publicly endorse it, even passively by silence with my name still over the shop,” she said. “Poker is the game I love, poker is what I signed up to promote.”

Kudos to you, Victoria…

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