Negreanu reflects on the World Series Of Poker

Daniel Negreanu reflects on a decent World Series for him and the best ever in terms of the WSOP as a whole

I went into the Heads-Up Championship event straight after winning the bracelet and I wasn’t ready at all. I didn’t win any hands and my focus wasn’t completely there. There was one key hand where if my radar was on I would have folded, but it was a little off – fatigue definitely played a big role in that.

I did make the $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha final table though, which was one of the toughest I’ve ever played. There’s only been a few times where I’ve looked around the table thinking, ‘Man, am I even a winning player in this game?’ It’s very rare that I’ll ever say that, but PLO is not my best game. I’m okay at it, but I saw David Benyamine, Phil Galfond and Johnny Chan.

I had the chip lead until Phil Galfond outplayed me one hand costing me a big chunk, but I did the best I could to come seventh. I knew Galfond was good but I didn’t know a lot about his game, which made it more difficult. I’ve cashed five times this WSOP and I’m okay with that. I look at the year and think it certainly can’t be considered a disappointment. I gave it a good run and came seventh in the WSOP Player of the Year. I guess I’m disappointed after winning the Limit Hold’em that I didn’t win another bracelet, but my biggest disappointment is the H.O.R.S.E. $50k event.

I got short early on, which was tough, and I was so frustrated because I was at a table with really bad players – young kids who don’t play H.O.R.S.E. and were awful, like durrrr (Tom Dwan). He’s a nice guy and a great PLO and no-limit Hold’em player, but he’s horrendous at H.O.R.S.E.. He didn’t have a clue what he was doing, but was winning with these goofy hands left, right and centre while I was struggling like crazy. I was sitting next to Phil Ivey and both of us were getting tortured by random nonsense. We fought back though, and Phil did an amazing job because he was short the whole way through, got into the money and almost won it.

For the second year in a row, with 20 players to go, I was chip leader and it just crumbled. The exact same thing has now happened to me both years, where I’ve gone through a 30-minute stretch, lost seven pots in a row, and got scooped where I didn’t think I could. I look at that event and feel disappointed with 13th, but really confident that every single year I’m a huge contender to win that thing and eventually I’m going to. I can’t say that about the Main Event, but I can say that about H.O.R.S.E.. It’s my dream to win that event, and I feel like I’m supposed to.

I wasn’t rooting against the kid who came in second, but there’s something special about that event and if an amateur or unknown wins it, it loses that lustre, just like the Main Event has. Maybe four or six years from now you can see that happening, but it was important for me to have Chip Reese, Freddy Deeb and Scotty Nguyen win the first three events – guys who’ve played in the Big Game at the Bellagio, and are recognisable players.


Before the H.O.R.S.E., Phil Ivey invited me to a Barack Obama celebrity gala because he knew how big a fan of Obama I am. It was a major event, but there was also a smaller event for about a hundred people who wanted to donate more.

We went into this little room, lined up to go to dinner and Obama came out. I wasn’t expecting in the least that he’d have any idea who I am, but when it was my turn to be photographed with him, he said, ‘I know you!’ He dragged his aide over and pulled $60 out of his pocket saying, ‘We played poker last night and he wasn’t very good!’ I left that meeting thinking how great that is for poker, because when he becomes president, it shows a couple of things: to know who I am and to have played poker the night before with his schedule must mean he has an affinity for the game, and [it shows] he knows about the game and understands our issues – the same can’t be said about the other dude.

As poker players, Phil Ivey and I were getting our reads on him and were very impressed as you could tell when some people were rambling on, probably speaking nonsense, but he never let on that he was annoyed or bored. I’ve done these things on a smaller scale, but I was so in awe that he goes from city to city and does this every day looking fresh and energetic.

I took two days off before the Main Event after four nights drinking. This is going to sound extremely arrogant and cocky but winning the Main Event is kind of easy, because the level of play is the worst of any tournament I’ll ever play. The calibre of play is absolute rubbish, just garbage, so I come into it with a very different style than I would for any other tournament. I play almost every hand, because they make so many mistakes after the flop. I can figure out exactly where people are for the most part and the game becomes so easy.

This year, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do – it always depends on the table – but 15 minutes in I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve got this game, I’ve got everyone figured out already.’ I was playing every pot – raising, min- raising, shoving, boom, boom, boom! I was getting really unlucky because they kept hitting hands and I got down to 14k, but no sweat. I got it back to 20k, and then I min-raised a guy to 200 with a pair of Sixes (on the first level, 50/100), because I’d been raising that all the time. He made it 600 from late position, which felt like A-K or a big pair, so I called and the flop came 6-8-9 with two spades. I checked and he bet the pot – 1500 – but he’s an over-bettor who I noticed overvalued his hands, so I check- raised to 4500 and he immediately went all-in. I called, expecting him to be in bad shape, showing me Tens, or A?-K?, but he turned over a pair of Nines for a bigger set. There’s no way I would change anything about the way I played the Main Event, not one hand. I even paid that guy off once for information, which worked for me, except on this hand. It was funny though – as he had me crushed he said, ‘I’m listening to your audiobook through my headphones!’

Media mogul

Probably the most interesting thing about me getting knocked out was that I couldn’t leave because there were fans everywhere and one person asked, ‘Can you sign this?’ I had to make the decision, knowing that if I signed it, I’d be there for an hour. But I can’t say ‘no’ and run away. So I signed and signed, then took pictures, and it was close to an hour, right after being knocked out, with the ESPN cameras in my face, but I was really proud of how well I took it.

Of course, I was ready for a run in the Main Event but I was a little bit spent and was ready for it to be over. I’d rather go out early rather than late, just so I can have some free time to enjoy myself. I’m so excited that this is the best WSOP in history, from top to bottom. There have been fewer complaints this year than ever. There are always some things we can tweak, and we’re going to add a couple of events next year. I’m thinking of a six-handed limit Hold’em shootout event and PLO Hi-Lo has become very popular, so maybe something along those lines.


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