PLAYER PROFILE – Daniel Negreanu
Arguably the most successful poker player of all-time, Daniel Negreanu is a poker legend. A member of the exclusive Poker Hall of Fame, a GGPoker Global Ambassador and a six-time winner of World Series of Poker bracelets, Negreanu sits among the top of any list of the best poker players who have ever played. But who is the Canadian poker legend known to many as ‘Kid Poker’?
Where did he come from, what makes him a poker great and what does the future hold for the man who has been at the leading edge of every twist and turn throughout the game’s checkered history over the last 30 years? Let’s take a look at the life and career of Daniel Negreanu.
The Kid Poker Days
The formative years of poker’s golden age feature, at their center, the growth of Daniel Negreanu into one of the game’s most recognizable players. From the rough diamonds who carved out the game in 1970 to the modern GTO (Game Theory Optimal) crushers reshaping the way we all play, Negreanu has been at the forefront of many changes and his ability to adapt in each new poker era is a massive part of what has made him successful.
In his early years, the Canadian’s method of success was simple – play as much as possible. He was, similar to his long-time contemporary Phil Ivey, a grinder who couldn’t stay away from the felt. Learning from older, more experienced players, Negreanu earned his nickname, ‘Kid Poker’ and quickly developed the necessary skills to survive. Cash games helped him grow his bankroll, but early success at the tournament tables was key to his success.
Negreanu wasn’t only great on the felt, but he was a fan of the game and a student of poker history. Looking through the background of footage taken from the victory celebrations of Scotty Nguyen when he won the 1998 WSOP Main Event, you’ll find Negreanu. Part of the crew from an early age, it was the norm to see Negreanu around the biggest events. But the seminal moment in the young Negreanu’s career occurred at the $7,500-entry 1999 United States Poker Championship when he defeated veteran player John Bonetti heads-up to claim the victory. Until that point, a lot of his confidence had been based on what he believed would happen rather than knowing it was possible.
“It was unearned arrogance, but that was part of the magic,” he tells us. “Without evidence, I had a belief that I could be among the best players. I didn’t have the bankroll, I was in and out of money, I was making a lot of mistakes, but ultimately I was able to persevere and figure it out.”
Negreanu’s ascent to becoming one of the few well-recognized global players of the day was based largely on his quick ability to learn from his errors. “Mistakes are an opportunity for a breakthrough mentally,” he said. “I was able to fine tune what I do but it definitely came with a lot of unabashed arrogance in terms of thinking I was on top of it.”
Becoming the PokerStars Poster Boy
One of the advantages of ‘making it’ in poker, and by that we mean consistently winning at the biggest tournaments or cash games, is the enviable position of becoming a sponsored player. Representing PokerStars, an ambassador’s responsibilities were far and wide, but being the face of a poker site comes with even greater challenges.
“One thing that transitioned from Kid Poker to then was the amount of power and influence that I now had,” reveals Negreanu from his time at what was the biggest poker site in the world. “With that [power] came added responsibility. I went from being a brash young kid who was new on the scene to being a figurehead.”
Soon, the decisions Negreanu faced weren’t only on the poker felt as he became the man at the front of a formidable ‘Team Pro’ roster. “They’d say, ‘Daniel, we want online poker in Washington!’ I was like ‘OK!’ Having a deeper understanding [from] not only being a poker player is interesting. Poker is a very selfish endeavor; it works but you only think of yourself. Understanding how the wheel works, whether it was the WSOP or WPT or PokerStars, understanding how it all works together was transitioning to more of a robust role. I was learning the dynamic of what it takes to run a successful poker site, game or room.”
If the Kid Poker years were Negreanu in the driver’s seat of a racing car at top speed, his time at PokerStars, in the whirling center of a mushrooming global game, enabled him to look at the engine of the vehicle. As he continued to improve at the game, poker went through many changes. It became ultra-aggressive in the six-bet shove with air era. Poker then moved into the era within which Daniel Negreanu attracted even more attention. Everything was about to get optimized, including Kid Poker himself.
Becoming a Poker Great
To exist in any moment in the game of poker at a high level, you must be able to beat the best of the best and combat their style at the time in the process. Negreanu’s innate ability to adapt and change, modifying his game and, at times, his personality to suit what is needed, makes him a true survivor.
After PokerStars was purchased, many of its stars left the brand, moving on to newer pastures. Big names such as Jason Mercier and Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier, moved on. Negreanu was not the first to leave, but eventually made some changes in his life, including, “I got married to the woman of my dreams,” he declared.
Having dated Amanda Leatherman in his younger years, love blossomed between the pair and Amanda became a key part of Daniel’s life, supporting his poker career and progression into the video blogging space with her tireless research and natural gift for presenting. “I got the life I always wanted,” says Negreanu. “In your twenties, you care what people think about you. In your thirties you don’t think you care that much but you still do. I found that in my forties I don’t give one!”
Negreanu sees his newest iteration as a period where he has exhibited “true freedom and authenticity” This is partly due to wisdom and age, but one key part of his growth came following his joining GGPoker. It was never intentional, says the Canadian all-time legend.
“I was planning on going off into the sunset and doing my own thing,” he tells us. “But I was so happy after meeting with them I thought ‘I want to do this’. I wanted to help take this site and help it grow and… wow – we’ve seen a big explosion 20-fold.”
GGPoker has grown so much in the years following Negreanu’s announcement that he was to become their Global Ambassador that it is hard to remember what life was like before GG came along, and Negreanu’s passion is clearly matched by the brand.
“Like me, GG are bold, brash, and they’re willing to push the envelope to try things. If they don’t work, they’ll reverse course and do different things. It’s been a perfect fit for me.”
It’s an era where Negreanu has won seven-figure high rollers such as the Super High Roller Bowl, plowing through tournament after tournament, building himself up to the cusp of the top on the all-time tournament winnings leaderboard. Doing all that whilst maintaining his personal brand, GTO, is not the only defining area for which we’ll remember this period of the game we all love.
This age of poker will be remembered for the influence of one of the faces on poker’s version of Mount Rushmore. The game progressed through a poker boom, a pandemic and several different styles of play, the one common denominator throughout it all is Daniel Negreanu. He remains one of the most important players and people in the industry. Kid Poker grew up and took the poker world with him.