Great friends Daniel Negreanu and Padraig Parkinson talk life, loves and drinking. Keir Mackay goes along for the ride…
Daniel Negreanu and Padraig Parkinson don’t seem the most obvious pairing on first glance. One’s a Canadian vegan and bona fide poker superstar. The other’s a hard-drinking Irishman. But Negreanu and Parkinson are long-time friends, and have far more in common than you might think. They both come from poker’s old school, when a man’s word was his bond. And when these two got together in a bustling Dublin bar, they were keen to relive old times and set the poker world to rights.
PokerPlayer: You’ve clocked up over 50 years in the game between you. But what’s the number one thing you’ve learned from poker?
Padraig Parkinson: If you don’t move with the times, you’re dead.
Daniel Negreanu: Absolutely. There are so many guys in poker that when they get older just get bitter. They moan that these kids are playing so crazy, but how about you learn what they’re doing, adapt and understand that there’s method to their madness?
PP: Just because you were right ten years ago doesn’t mean you’re right any more. It just means you were right in the moment. If you don’t learn from the kids, you might as well give up.
DN: Think of poker like coaching. If you coached football in the 1980s and started coaching now, do you think your old tactics and tricks are going to be the best in the bunch? Of course not. You need to learn new tricks. Everyone perfects what is perfected. Ten years ago, I was min-raising and everyone thought I was an idiot. Now everyone does it. What else has changed in the lives of poker players compared to, say, ten years ago?
DN: They’re very different. Players back then came from different, and frankly more interesting, walks of life then fell into poker. Today, the story with a lot of young kids is all the same: they went to college, were twenty-tabling online and had tracking software, they usually wear hoodies, have a beard and they’re also a lot smarter with money. They actually consider what a bankroll is and protect it. Before, you played based on what you had in your pocket. Has your own approach to money management matured over your careers?
DN: I’m just the wrong guy to ask about bankroll questions.
PP: In the old days there was no such thing. When I was playing in Dublin 20 years ago, the games were bigger than they are now because everyone played with all their bankroll on the table. Then the likes of Donnacha O’Dea and a few others started saying you should never have more than 10% of your bankroll at risk. I just looked at them and said: ‘In any one day or in any one pot?’ Life was more cavalier back then. Do you miss that ‘cavalier’ attitude people had in the old days?
PP: I don’t miss going f*!*ing skint!
DN: I miss the romantic aspect of it. Say a guy goes broke today and they owe some money, they’re chided like they’re the worst f*!*ing human being of all time. It’s unreal. Before, if a guy went broke they had some debts and got it to you when they could. Not now. People are like, ‘oh you owe me $1,300 and you didn’t send it on Paypal!’ Give ‘em a break. Let ‘em win a little bit first.
PP: Look at the way people harangued Erick (Lindgren). If you read that stuff on TwoPlusTwo, nobody ever said he hadn’t paid them. They said he paid them slowly. If everybody I’d ever lent money to paid me back slowly, I’d be delighted!
DN: When somebody welches, it means they’re never going to pay you; they borrowed money with no intent. But if they’re slowly paying you, and it’s a gambling debt, it’s different. If Padraig said he needed $5k and he’d give it to me by Friday, that’s a guarantee. But if he borrows $2k and loses it on something stupid, I’m not going to ask for it right now. Have sites like TwoPlusTwo had a negative effect on the game, especially when it comes to issues like Lindgren?
DN: It’s just different. They [forumites] don’t understand how our world is structured when it comes to things like gambling. Erick [Lingdren] did a lot of stupid things, but don’t kick him when he’s down.
PP: A lot of the time on poker forums, you get some very intelligent stuff being said and some very bright and wellmeaning guys. But they can also attack.
DN: People have a lot more balls online. If you saw those guys here, they wouldn’t say a word to your face. But behind that screen they’ve got a big mouth. I’ve spoken with a couple of players that have said some shit about me online. But then they come up to me and are like, ‘hey how you doing?’ Really? If you want to say something, say something. But don’t pretend you didn’t say it when you see me. Has poker given you a healthy respect for money, even if it hasn’t taught you how to manage it?
DN: No, the opposite. Poker takes people’s respect for money and throws it out of the window. I played a charity event with Phil Hellmuth and all these rich businessmen recently. The poker players were re-buying like crazy, spending money on the charity. These other guys were tight. The businessmen had a healthy respect for money, but it was unhealthy in other ways because they wouldn’t let go of it. When you’re playing with chips all the time, though, it doesn’t feel like real money.
PP: There’s the old story that the guy who invented money was smart, but the guy who invented chips was a genius. Playing poker teaches you something important about money, and that’s that it’s not as important as everyone thinks it is. It’s only important when you don’t have any, or your friends don’t have any. Other than that, it’s just a way of keeping score.
DN: It also depends on your lifestyle. A lot of young guys try and show off with $50k watches and stuff. This kid I know wanted to buy a car so he went into a dealership and he said he didn’t want to pay any less than $150k [laughs].
PP: There’s good and bad to it. I think poker players, more than anybody else, appreciate that money isn’t the end of the world. If you can pay the rent at the end of the month, you can do whatever you want between now and then and that’s all that money’s for. What has poker taught you about your personalities?
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