One of the most talented, talkative, controversial, and opinionated players in the poker world, Daniel Negreanu tells all. He speaks his mind on everything from the UIGEA, to his plans for the World Series, to American Idol, to smack talking in the forums.
KL: You used to play pool, how did you get started with poker?
Daniel: I started out as a teenager I was a snooker player, or pool player. Through that I met some other teenagers that were gamblers, if you will, who started basement games. I was just sort of learning on the go, losing my $10. I started to do that two or three times a week and I really started to enjoy it after a couple months and really started taking it seriously.
KL: Do you still play pool and do you think you are still as good?
Daniel: I am nowhere near what I used to be. In America everyone plays bang ball, eight ball, nine ball, that kind of stupid crap, but in Canada and Europe they play snooker which is a much more skillful game and I enjoy that. I play pool now with friends, if we go to a bar we will play, but I am nowhere near as good as I once was.
KL: You are really talkative at the table, how do you use that to your advantage?
Daniel: It's an information gainer. I give away information about myself but I am comfortable doing that. Others are not necessarily as comfortable and for me if I haven't played with a player before and I don't know anything about them, the more they tell me about themselves, the better I will be able to judge how they think and how they play.
KL: This has obviously been discussed before but your ability to read players is uncanny. Is that something natural for you?
Daniel: That's something that comes from me being really young and observant and being sort of a people watcher/stalker. I used to go to the mall with my parents and I would just watch people. I was very curious, that's why I think my reality TV seems normal. I watch a lot of reality TV because I am so interested in people and observing people. From a very young age I can remember watching a woman with a guy and she's rolling her eyes and he's pleading with her and I would think, she doesn't want to be with him, he's in love with her, she likes this other guy and I would make up these stories in my head about these people. That helps me sort of profile people and that is a key to being able to read people.
KL: From there how do you figure out the exact cards that they could be holding?
Daniel: The first thing you do is obviously profile them. Then, you narrow down the more you know about them, the more you play with them, watch how they play, you narrow down what they could possibly have. Then, you add some clues, like this is the way they look physically, are they giving away any tells. Then you just come up with a hand that is usually most likely. It's rare to get it exactly right, like he has A-9 or A-8 but if you narrow it down close enough, I've seen so many thousands of hands that I am just going to be right more often than most people.
KL: If you sit down at a table where you know no one, for example the Main Event of the WSOP, how long does it take you to get a feel for each of the players and where they are coming from?
Daniel: Usually it takes about 15 to 20 minutes tops. There are some cases where a guy might confuse me and just do a lot of things where I just don't really know what I'm up against. For the most part, within 15 to 20 minutes I will have somebody figured out.
KL: If they confuse you does that mean they are a good player or a bad player?
Daniel: The bad players, they won't confuse you very much, they are just kind of bad, but then again after about a half hour you think you have figured it out. The thing that can get confusing is you think, is this guy really a good player or does he just seem that way based on the way that they are playing. That takes longer to figure out, if they really are a good player or they just seem like one.
KL: I have witnessed players online making comments about how they love to play low suited connectors because they watch you do it. What makes you enter a pot with those types of hands? Is it because you think you can outplay your opponent post flop if you hit something?
Daniel: Yeah, a lot of books have been written and I think they miss out on that. Some books got it right, others don't. Frankly, I think hands like 6-7 suited in no limit hold'em are good hands. I play them because I think there is value in them. Aside from just wanting to play people after the flop I think that the way this game is set up, if you hit one of these hands, you usually get paid really well. Let's say you only call a hundred dollars. If you call a hundred dollars but have a chance to win $10,000, those are excellent odds if you are at a table with people who have two aces or two kings. If you catch a flop you will get all their chips. I just play them because there is value.
KL: Do you play online?
Daniel: Not as much as others. I don't enjoy it as much as live. I prefer being able to see my opponent. It is just different for me; I didn't grow up with the internet age really.
KL: What are your thoughts on the UIGEA?
Daniel: It's remarkable that the system is so full of holes that someone like Bill Frist could get away with something like this. Clearly one man's agenda sort of destroyed the internet poker world to a degree. It is absurd and silly to think that internet gaming has anything to do with terrorism. I am floored and shocked that it was able to get done the way it was, without it really going to a vote. Eventually it will be rectified, but none of this was necessary. It is just absurd.
KL: What can our hope be for the future?
Daniel: Well, Joe D'Amata and the Poker Players Alliance is heading that up. The way the ridiculous government works is that money talks and if the online sites, the big ones, would have spent some money on lobbyists years ago none of this would have ever happened. We would have gotten a carve out for sure. I think right now if you throw the right money at the right people it will get regulated here in the US and everything will be fine. How long that will take I have no idea.
KL: Do you think that will affect this years World Series?
Daniel: Yes it will affect the World Series. It will affect tournament poker until it is rectified, because the majority of those big live tournaments, the majority of the players in them, have qualified through satellites and a lot of the satellites happen on the internet.
KL: How much smaller do you think it will be this year?
Daniel: I am betting on about half the size. I think they are going to lose about 50% of their entries.
KL: Do you read all the different forums online?
Daniel: I read my forum, Full Contact Poker forum, and I read sometimes 2 + 2 when there is a link to it from my forum. That is usually how I keep up to date. I check CardPlayer and Pokernews for news updates but my forum is growing pretty well, so if there is something interesting going on in the other forums I just get linked to it.
KL: Do you like to respond to posts you read?
Daniel: Yeah, I am in my forums all the time. I post probably 5 to 10 times a day in my forum. I have a forum directly related to my blog where I will write my blog and people will disagree with me and call me an idiot so then I will say this is why I wrote that and blah, blah, blah. I spend a lot of time online.
KL: What do you think about that? People say you are controversial because you really speak your mind and say how you feel. What do you think about the responses that you get from that?
Daniel: Sometimes you just get real idiots, just stupid people who have bad reading comprehension skills. For example I wrote a blog about American Idol, where there is a site called votefortheworst.com which they were trying to sabotage American Idol by having people vote for this kid Sanjaya who was the worst singer left. They had been successful in keeping him there for awhile. I basically used an analogy on how these jerks, if you will, are trying to destroy something that people love. They are trying to destroy something that so many people love in this country and that's similar to what terrorists like to do. I used the analogy of terrorism and people were like, ‘oh how can you compare American Idol to terrorists?' I'm saying you idiots, it is an analogy. I wrote that it was absurd, but people take what you say in a blog a little too seriously sometimes, so sometimes I feel compelled to clarify for complete morons.
KL: What are you favorite reality shows to watch?
Daniel: I missed out on some of the ones I really like now, like American Idol is one I really like. I didn't watch it till this season but I am really enjoying it. The same with Apprentice, I think Donald Trump is a complete and utter buffoon and a cancer to our society but I think the show is great. I watch Survivor and Amazing Race, but the show that got me started on reality TV was Real World. I have been watching Real World for like six or seven years now.
KL: Who do you want to win American Idol?
Daniel: Obviously Melinda Doolittle is unbelievable and Blake Lewis has kind of a reggae vibe, a sort of ska reggae vibe which I like, but him or Melinda or Lakisha is really strong. One of those three would be my favorites to win.
*Continued in Part II*