Tuesday March 22, 2016 at 6:52 pm

Club Poker Radio's gossip girl Gaëlle Jaudon sat down to speak with the always vociferous and highly-opinionated Daniel Negreanu. In this extensive interview, Negreanu touched on a variety of topics including his humble roots in Toronto with a first job at Subway, the Twitch online poker revolution, veganism, why he'll never weigh more than 170 lbs, and the controversial changes PokerStars implemented which incited a boycott from high-stakes pros.


Love him, or hate him...Daniel Negreanu always speaks his mind. You'll never get a dull answer out of him because he always seems to have an opinion on almost everything. This interview by Gaëlle Jaudon, Club Poker Radio's gossip girl, originally appeared on Club Poker's French site. Click here to read the original version en français.


Gaëlle Jaudon: I heard you were a great "sandwich artist" when you were younger. Can you tell us more about what you were doing before poker?

Daniel Negreanu: (Laughs) Yeah, I worked at Subway for a short period, I was like 17. I liked it when I was there, I was honestly very good and I was doing great sandwiches very, very fast! I earned enough money so I could play poker. I used that hundred dollars as my first poker bankroll.

G: When you started playing, you always had a book with you to write about many things. What was the process? How did it help you?

D: It was about gathering information. I wrote about how much I spent on tips and especially about my mood. Was I upset? Was I tilted? Why? For example, it was like: ‘The guy next to me is smoking cigarettes it drive me crazy,' and one hour later, ‘I moved to a new seat, I feel much better.' At the end I was giving myself a grade. I wrote about what I lost or won, but I also wrote about how I played. I had to be honest with myself, if I made good or bad decisions. I don't do that anymore, but I have a journal… free flowing thoughts about life, poker etc. More of a personal thing.

G: You've been a figure in poker for a long time now. What would you have done something different in your career? Do you have any regrets?

D: The truth is, I love so much who I am now. Every decision I made got me here, so if I change anything, there is a chance I could be in a different place. I wouldn't change a thing, both the goods and the bads because mistakes are in fact... opportunities. When you make a mistake in life, that's an opportunity to learn something so you don't do it again.

G: What was the toughest moment in your career?

D: The first time I went to Vegas. When I was in Toronto I was the bull and I could knock people around. But in Vegas, they ate me up and spit me out for first 8 months so I went broke. I had to walk back to my hotel because I didn't even have enough for a cab and I just thought ‘What am I doing? Can I do this? Maybe I'm just not good enough.' But then I would wake up in the morning and go, ‘OK, let's find a way to figure this out.' Inspired again!

G: Today, what makes you the most proud?

D: In the last 3 years, the relationship with my brother is much better. I used see only what I didn't like, but now I see him for the (good) qualities and just for who he is. I don't try to change him anymore. He is who he is and he's the only person I know for a fact who'll take a bullet for me. Some people say that all the time, but he would. For sure.

G: You busted 10th place in the WSOP Main Event. I guess you were really happy at the deep run, but also really disappointed. How did you manage those mixed feelings?

D: Yeah, this whole thing… it's so fun, it's an emotion ride. I was in center stage the whole time. A big crowd is around and the last hand was very emotional too. I felt on the ground and hit my head! In the moment, I was very disappointed and crushed, but for only two minutes. After that I just thought, ‘That was awesome!' It was just a lot of fun. I knew that I went out swinging, which mean that wasn't gonna just finish in ninth place. I wanted to win so I played the hand in a way to try to win. I made a couple mistakes that day that I look back at some hands I played, but I thought in general, I played really well throughout the tournament. I'm just really happy.

Daniel Negreanu

When I was little I wanted to be an actor. I really enjoy doing stuff like that. I do cameos, appearances, shows... because I love it. If I didn't play poker, that's what I would be doing… an actor or writer. I have a very filmic mind.

G: I heard Stu Ungar was your Model when you started playing. What did you liked in him?

D: I wouldn't say he was my role model, because he was not really a nice guy, but I admired that he was good at all the games. He was very, very calm and confident. You know he was a young kid and he was pushing these guys around so at that time there wasn't a lot of people like that, or who were able to do what he did. But in the same sense he got into the drugs, alcohol, etc. in his life and I saw that as a danger. Don't fall in that trap.

G: have you always been talkative and funny when you played or does it came later?

D: Ahahah, no always! From the beginning, it's just me. I always been that way! I just always love to talk and have fun with people at the table.

G: When you started, you came to Las Vegas several times, but you ended broke and had to go back home to Canada. It was really a different time in poker, before the online boom. Can you speak about this period?

D: Yeah, sure it was totally different. Now people learn how to play online. They play 8 tables online, micro stakes. They can pick the game they want to play etc. When I started playing, it was live poker, and only one game. You played that table, if it was not good, either you stop playing or you come back again and again and try to learn. The options were really different and limited. I know that that online players putting a lot of work, but it's a different work because you can lay down, you can stay home. Poker back then, you had to go and sit your bum in that chair and learn the hard way. It's a little easier today because online you play so many hands so fast, you can learn really quickly. But I learned live poker better than they did because all my experience comes from playing live.

G: Were there any changes in poker that you did not see coming, which surprised you?

D: In the last couple years, the new Twitch phenomenon changed everything in the way people learn. Now people are watching poker on Twitch for long hours every day. Jason Somerville for example does a Twitch every single day, that's the one thing I did not see coming. About the Super High Roller thing, I didn't think that there could be so many (events), for so many years and there's still be a lot of players showing up. You know. it's a lot of money so people can get broke very quick but they seem to handle this pretty very well!

G: You participated in many TV shows, even non-poker shows, why was that? What do you like particularly about entertainment shows?

D: When I was little I wanted to be an actor. I really enjoy doing stuff like that. I do cameos, appearances, shows... because I love it. If I didn't play poker, that's what I would be doing… an actor or writer. I have a very filmic mind. I like the process of making movies, books etc. All kind of things!

G: What was the poker show you liked the most?

D: Everyone loved High Stakes Poker. I played on it, but it was not so good for me because I lost a lot!! I think it was one of the best shows we had. I also liked PokerStars Big Game, which was really good but we only had 2 seasons before Black Friday came and we had to cut it.

Gaelle Danny Boy
Club Poker Radio's Gossip Girl Gaelle Jaudon with Daniel Negreanu

G: What was the turning point in your career?

D: Oh they were a few, but I think I think the big one was when I had first had few good months in the US, when nobody knew who I was, and I won three straight tournaments and played at my first WSOP ever and I won it in 1998. That was awesome.


G: You said it's really though today for young players to become famous in poker now that the media, especially in the US, changed a lot in the past years. Can you explain it?

D: One of the key reason is online poker. After Black Friday, we didn't had poker on TV as much so it creates less opportunities for players to make an impact. For example, at the WPT only 6 people make the final table, but it's really hard to make a final table, especially more than once. You have to achieve many WPT final tables to be known. For Poker After Dark, it was like 5-6 people on TV for weeks talking, laughing, and the audience got to know them, so they become more famous from that. Without those types of shows, all that left is something like Twitch, like Jason Somerville who is on Twitch everyday doing that. He has made a name now, but with a lot of hard work. He's the exception. It's not easy today.


G: I have the feeling we had more strong and original characters in poker in the past, don't you agree?

D: Yeah, it hurts! (Laughing) But having said that, one of the most important change too is that players are getting younger. These new players, they haven't lived yet. A 22-year old kid, what's story is gonna tell? He went to college, start playing online poker, and now he plays live. What else has he done in his life? Nothing! When a guy like Sammy Farha, or Devilfish, they grew up in the pool hall, they did this and that etc. They lived and had hundreds of stories to tell. They have really interesting background stories. So many of the (young pro) stories today are the same: I watched poker on TV, I started playing online, and now I'm playing this EPT. What have you done in your life? Ummm... nothing. (Laughs)


G: You seem really happy today… you have a wonderful girlfriend, a nice dog, always smiling etc. How is life in 2016?

D: I'm happy, yeah! As I said, I wouldn't change anything. Whatever I created in my life, I made a choice, and I always did what I wanted to do. I play less poker now that I used too because I already made it you know. I don't play anymore for the money, it is just something I really enjoy. And I also love the balance that I have today playing soccer, staying at home, being with my dog. You know, just relaxing and living a balanced life.


G: Do you have a dream you haven't achieved yet or any new goals?

D: Every year I make goals in poker I would like to achieve and they would never change, it's always the same. But outside of poker, I definitively have some goals. I write a vision board, it has 4 words on it: risk, lead, expand and power. Each one of those words means something to me, what I want to create with my life. Risk and expand together for example. Risk says like what all the things you always dreamed to do outside of poker? Do it! And I'm creating something this year that has nothing to do with poker, it's a show that I think really suits me, we'll talk about life and social issues and I think it can make a real difference for people. People know me as the poker player but that's not all of who I am, and I think going forward I'm expanding into different areas.

G: In the past years you focused on having a very healthy life, eating vegan, working out etc.. What did it bring you and what did it change for you?

D: When I was young, I would see guys smoking, drinking, and being overweight. I thought I want ever be that way, but it's what gonna happen if I keep doing what I'm doing. My mom always taught me how to be healthy, even her version of being healthy is different than mine because she's not vegan. but I knew really young that if I was gonna play for a living, then I had to not gamble with my health and I had to treat my body well. So, first was to start a good diet, and then I had to physically workout too. It's not enough to just eat healthy, especially when you get older. So what I've created with my life is happiness, there are many studies that shows that exercise 90 mins a week makes your other hours happier, you feel better with yourself, you're more productive, relaxed, and more responsible too. Vegan is another thing, it's starting with health. When I ate meat I didn't feel well because my system didn't accept it quite well, so first I did it for health. And then I did some research and I realized these animals in majority are treated really badly in factories, it's really sad. I grew up with cute dogs, I always loved them, but what about the pigs, or cows? They're cute too. What if your dog were treated like that? You can't imagine, you go crazy! Seeing that was the second step, and the last one was the environment. I've learned more and more about what people are trying to hide, especially the meat industry. We have 7 billions of people in the planet, and we can't keep going living like that, using so much land to cows, we kill 100,000 cows each day in US, we're messing with the planet and we're running out of space and facing health problems. It's a passion now because I believe in it. I don't believe that we need meat anymore to live. Okay, if we are on an Island and you have nothing excepts animals but we don't live in that world anymore, there is no reason. I always wondered why as a society, logically make sense to people to eat pigs and not dogs. If someone ask you to eat dogs you'll think it's gross, people won't do it. Why? Because they're cuter? Or smarter? No they're not, pigs are smarter actually. So why is the reason we decided: this is food, this is not. I've never heard a good answer to that, you know Chinese people eat dogs. It makes no difference to me than Americans eating pigs, it's the exact same thing. It's a life form, you killing it, you burning it, eating it. People don't think about it. They just eat you know, they don't think this was an animal, with a personality, a mother etc... I'm not saying everybody has to stop eating meat but at least be connected to what you're doing. Whatever you're eating, it's not something you should take for granted.

Negreanu on being a fish when he first moved to Vegas

In Vegas, they ate me up and spit me out for first 8 months so I went broke. I had to walk back to my hotel because I didn't even have enough for a cab and I just thought ‘What am I doing? Can I do this? Maybe I'm just not good enough?' But then I would wake up in the morning and go, ‘OK, let's find a way to figure this out.'

G: Players like to bet and gamble usually, what's the craziest bet you ever made?

D: I'm not crazy like Antonio or other guys, but the craziest I made was when I became vegetarian. I was 140 pounds at the time and a young kid. I bet 20 to 1 odds that I'll never weigh 170 pounds in my life. He made the bet and I became vegetarian two days later. I've also been working out more, so today I weight 167. If I gain only 3 pounds more I lose the bet so I'm very careful!

G: PokerStars announced several big controversial changes over in the last few years. Many pros did not like the evolution of PokerStars and a protest movement is growing among players. What is your opinion? Are these new changes good for long term?

D: One thing is sure, there is no way to defend how it was done. That never should have happened. We should have let the players know a year in advance and there is no excuse for that. I 'm very upset of that and every player should be very upset about that. Now, separately, the changes themselves are absolutely what needed to happen years ago. It makes no sense, how do you say to a recreational player that it's fair that a high volume pro player with a HUD is paying one-third the rake he pay! So you're in the same game and you pay 3 times more than the pro with all the software. Why would we be catering to those 4,500 pros versus the millions of people? Image if you had a home game with some friends, 2 of them are really bad and 7 are pro, would you pay the pros to come to play with them? No, of course! You would send a limo for the recreational players and the pros will come anyway. So it makes no sense, logically the system was wrong and I wanted changes a long time ago. You don't give extra benefits to the people that make the experience for the recreational players worse. So level the playing field, make promotions for recreational players – typically the losing players – make the promotion more for everyone rather than the 4,500 vs. the millions. If you cater to the 4,500, it strengthens them, plus they don't play against each other. Like in my house game, the 7 pros won't play among themselves, they'll only play against the 2 bad players. So who's the most important person to take care of? Not this 7 guys, and for too long we made this mistake as a company of catering to a small group of the bigger picture. A lot of people want to play poker for fun, they like Spin and Go, etc. The truth is these recreational players, they lose in Spin and Go, but if they want to play cash game against pros they'll lose more and faster. So pros maybe won't like it because they'll make less money of them but the website is not set up so that those guys can make a good living. They're not employees. You can still make a living, but that's not our job to be like ‘Let's make sure that you'll have a good hourly rake.' Our job is to make sure that the people who play continue to play and want to play more. And the pros have benefits too because the more of them play the more money they'll make too. It's already showing to be good, lot more people are playing, the numbers are up and the promotions are working. Let's look this way, instead of giving one guy $20K for playing a lot it's better to give 2,000 people $100, it affects them more. It's spreading the money around. If you gonna give away millions of dollars on rake back it's better of giving to 2 million of people instead of few thousand pros.

G: Last question: is there a question you really hate to be asked?

D: Not really. I'm an open book, I like to talk about everything and I have an open mind. What I do not like is the really stupid questions like ‘Have you ever hit a royal flush?' They asked me that a lot! Or ‘What is the funniest thing that happened to you at the table?' I just know what to say never. I should think about it and find something for next time!

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