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"KidPoker" premiere in Toronto

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the "Kid Poker" documentary will be screened Thursday November 26th at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto (7pm). Daniel Negreanu should be there for a Q&A after the screening. Tickets available through Pokerstars.com VIP store. For those interested, I have one spare ticket (PM if you'd like to attend).

I'll try to post a quick review this week-end.

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A few thoughts about the premiere. As usual Pokerstars did the things right for the public: they rented a part of the nice TIFF Lighbox Cinemas in downtown Toronto, with a red carpet at the entrance, free pop-corn, and a presentation by James Hartigan and the director Francine Watson.

I might write more later about the movie but I can say it's definitely half-success, half-failure. It's well-crafted, and the cinematography is great (some footage from Vegas is incredible). The music selection (the "sad moment piano") is a bit tilting but that's not a major issue.

The first part (about Negreanu's childhood, teenage days in Toronto and first trips to Vegas) is nicely documented, with a lot of funny stuff and family footage. It has good rythm and good interviews.

But the second part (Negreanu's achievements as a poker pro) is way too long!! Of course Daniel has one of the biggest resumes in poker but we don't need to see every trophy or every winning hand! It's totally boring at the end, which is weird considering he's one of the most entertaining players. That part feels like a looooong trailer, or a slide show... without a lot of emotion. 

To my surprise, the film-makers never ask Negreanu how he managed to stay "himself" after winning millions at a young age, or how a 7/7 passion like poker can affect relationships. I was startled to see some career choices are not discussed (the Wynn contract, the Pokerstars Pro endosement). During the Q&A Francine Watson confirmed she chose not to include some parts of the Daniel story (including his marriage) but did not really explained why.

The third part is more interesting, with some good interviews (John Duthie, Antonio Esfandiari) about how Negreanu became the ultimate poker ambassador, relentlessly promoting the game and speaking a lot (too much?) about issues, rules, etc... That part is essential, especially when Negreanu talk about many controversies he's been involved in. But again, I think it could have been more relevant to focus on one or two topics (the Full Tilt scandal?). It's a little bit too quick, too superficial to my taste.

My favorite part of the movie is at the very end : the Daniel's speech at the Poker Hall of Fame. Some will say he's hollywooding, not sincere, but I like to believe he's telling the truth and it's touching. His love of the game, his dedication to it and his friendly attitude at the table are, in my opinion, making him a fascinating character and the n°1 poker player. In many ways Negreanu is now the face of the game, the incarnation, like Mohammed Ali for boxing or Jordan for basket-ball. But every great champion's journey has good sides and bad sides and I feel we miss some in the movie. It's often "very promotional", too clean compared to a documentary like "Nosebleed".

I was confused at the end of the screening, because I felt the best part is when Daniel is away from the table, reflecting on his career, talking about how he wanted to make his mother proud, how he gave almost everything to his passion. But I don't think the poker footage is very well used here and some interesting topics are not enough covered, or not covered at all. I have mixed feelings about the movie and I would be happy to discuss more about it.



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