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Daniel Negreanu Wins 2013 Card Player Player of the Year Title

Second POY Title for ‘Kid Poker’ After He Pockets More Than $3.1 Million on the Tournament Trail

by Erik Fast |  Published: Feb 05, 2014

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Just under a decade ago, Daniel Negreanu put together a legendary year on the tournament circuit, with $4.4 million in live earnings, four titles won and an incredible 11 final tables made. That year he won both the 2004 Card Player Player of the Year title and the World Series of Poker POY title.

In 2013, the 39-year-old Canadian pro managed to once again dominate the standings. He won two massive titles and made seven final tables. In the end he garnered 5,140 POY points (842 points ahead of nearest competitor Paul Volpe) and $3,114,058 in live earnings over the year, and in doing so became the fourth player ever to win the Card Player Player of the Year award twice.

Negreanu began his incredible run at the first-ever World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific (APAC), where he won the inaugural $10,465 main event for $1,087,160, and finished fourth in a $2,323 mixed event.

In the spring, Negreanu finished fourth in the European Poker Tour Grand Final main event for $416,722 just weeks before he finished seventh in another tour’s season-ending tournament, the $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship event at Bellagio.

At the WSOP he finished runner-up in the $2,500 limit deuce-to-seven triple draw lowball, and then in the EPT Barcelona high roller, he again finished second for $347,715.

The score that cemented his victory came at the 2013 World Series of Poker Europe €25,000 no-limit high roller. Negreanu topped an elite field of 80 players to earn his second title of the year, his sixth WSOP gold bracelet and $1,001,225. As a result, Negreanu overtook Erik Seidel on the all-time live tournament earning rankings list, moving into third place with $19,399,176.

Negreanu rose to fame during the poker boom, largely as a result of his outgoing personality and great play during the height of the televised poker mania. While many of the other big names from that era have faded from prominence, Negreanu has found a way to remain one of the best in the game.

Card Player caught up with Negreanu to talk about his incredible year.

Erik Fast: First of all I just wanted to say congratulations on winning your second Player of the Year title. Does it feel good to win an award that’s all about consistency?

Daniel Negreanu: I’ve always been a fan of the Player of the Year races, even Player of the Series, which they had when I was much younger at events like the L.A. Poker Classic. Those were always very fun challenges for me, because they suit my goal-oriented mindset. Player of the Year awards are always something that I look at as more valuable than just winning a tournament, because it shows consistent results, and that just has more meaning to me.

EF: When you won the POY award in 2004 the poker world was in the middle of its largest boom. The tournament landscape has changed a lot since then. What does it mean to you to win this award again while some of the biggest names from that time have not kept up with the changes in the game?

DN: Well, in 2004 things were different. There were some skilled players out there, but the average player was so much worse, that the system I created for playing tournaments (called “small ball”) was so effective that it was really kind of easy. Today, you get down to the final few tables and they are filled with really good players. Field sizes were bigger back then, but that doesn’t mean it was harder. It was easier to beat 400 people in 2004 than 150 in a high roller today, because the composition of the table is so much harder. I pride myself on always caring about being relevant because of my results and not just because of my name. Not have it be “Oh, he’s only this because he got lucky at the right time.” I’m a big believer in proving my worth and nobody is a bigger critic of me than myself.

EF: You have made very public efforts to constantly work on your game. A few years ago you focused a lot of energy, for example, on playing high stakes online no-limit cash games to get a feeling for how those games played while some of your peers were kind of left by the wayside.

DN: Exactly. Around March of 2010 I started to play $100-$200 no limit hold’em on PokerStars. The barometer for how I did, for me, was what the games looked like. When I first started, the games were full with a waiting list. As time went on it started to be that games were as short as three-handed or heads-up and nobody wanted to join, because I made some very quick adjustments and learned to plug some holes. All of that learning was specifically related to online play, though, and didn’t really relate to my success this year, because in tournaments I play a very different style.

EF: Obviously success in tournaments is due in part to your skill and variance, but beyond that, what would you say was the biggest contributing factor to your success this year?

DN: Number one was Choice Center, which is a course that I took and graduated from in February. Directly after that I made three major final tables, winning the WSOP APAC in Australia and making the final tables of the EPT Grand Final and the WPT Championship, starting me off on a nice roll. Really, what I got from the course was a lot of confidence and trust in my gut, something that I maybe had gotten away from a little bit. There were some personal things that happened to me in my life that had made me lose confidence outside of poker. Making that connection, between a “broken heart” and its effect on my results, and making a change to shift back mentally to a mode of confidence helped me get back to talking more at the table and being me. I like to talk during hands, and as long as the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) doesn’t want to completely destroy televised poker for the fans, it will continue to be something I do for the rest of my career.

EF: So, as you said, you won the inaugural WSOP Asia Pacific main event, and you also made big scores in France, Monte Carlo, and Spain. That is another big thing that has changed, because a decade ago the tournament circuit wasn’t so international.

DN: Back in 2004 I didn’t leave the United States. Since the American government changed the way it views online poker, tournament buy-ins have gone down. Fields are still good, but in terms of high buy-in events, it’s really oriented towards Europe, where the governments are more understanding of online poker and you are able to qualify via satellites, which is very important. The U.S. has really struggled with that, and if you look at Las Vegas, they no longer have a WPT event there.

EF: While main events have stayed mostly at the same price point or gotten smaller, the past few years has seen the rise of huge high roller events. This year you won the high roller at the WSOP Europe for more than a million dollars. What are your thoughts on that?

DN: Well what we’ve seen really is that the medium buy-in has gone down from $10,000 or shot up to $100,000. There is a new market that was raised with the best players in the world and some of the richest people who play, who want big money and a quicker event that lasts only a few days. I’ve heard a lot of talk about whether these are good for poker or not, should these events “count?” If five guys get together and want to play for $5 million each, why would that be bad for anybody? I don’t understand the logic behind that. If there is a market for it, why would you stop it from happening. Let them play.

EF: In 2004 the biggest keys to your win were your two wins on the WPT playing no-limit hold’em, and this year hold’em again lead to your biggest scores. But in both cases you also had some key scores in tournaments in other games, with final tables in triple draw deuce-to-seven and in a mixed-game event. Being someone who has played all of the games for a long time, is it a point of pride to have earned the POY playing many different forms of poker?

DN: In 2004 I won a limit hold’em bracelet and made an Omaha eight-or-better final table. I have always been a proponent of protecting what poker is, which is to say making sure that it isn’t just no-limit hold’em. That’s why the World Series of Poker is such a big ally for the players, because they respect history. Obviously they need to fill the seats, so no limit hold’em is the most popular game and they do a lot of that, but they also aren’t letting the other games die out. If you want to be a real poker player — I’m a bit old school — my thought is, “If you’re good at no-limit, congratulations, you are good at one of 15 different aspects of poker.” You aren’t even considered among the elite until you can play all of the games.

EF: Did you have a favorite tournament win in 2013?

DN: They were all fun for different reasons, but one win that might surprise people was online. I won my first SCOOP title on PokerStars, winning the $5,000 six-max pot-limit Omaha event against all of the regulars. I did it completely naked! I played the entire event without any clothes on. So, that was the first naked win I’ve ever had. As far as the live tournaments I won, the event in Australia was really fun, but the one at the WSOP Europe was fun for different reasons. It was such a relief when I made the final table to win the WSOP Player of the Year, and I was short stacked and then doubled up a couple of times and then it was just like, “Hello!” It was fun in the sense that I was playing against very tough competition and it was a real test of wits.

EF: In recent years you have been very public with your goals, posting in-depth blogs at the end of each year listing your personal and professional objectives. Obviously this year was a great success and will be hard to top, but do you have any new goals for 2014?

DN: I did just post my blog of goals for 2014. The biggest change is to limit the number of events that I play, which is to say go for quality over quantity. On top of that I really want to take some vacation time and spend more time and energy on things outside of poker, like golf, one of them being to get into the best shape of my life. I’m currently as strong as I’ve ever been physically. I also have some relationship goals, hoping to find that right person and if that works out, have a family or something along those lines. My goal is to be more balanced and enjoy every trip that I take and make some time for vacation, By no means am I stepping away from the game, I’m still going to be working my butt off to win the WSOP Player of the Year and the Card Player Player of the Year, but my plan is to really have balance. To win these awards is great, but it doesn’t change who I am or change my life all that much. How long can winning poker tournaments be the main goal of my life? Am I going to be 70 years old and grinding the tournament circuit? Probably not. There are other goals that I have. I want to help people, help them reach their goals, and just make the most out of the talents I’ve been given to inspire others. A lot of that has to do with what’s outside of poker, sharing bits of my life with people. ♠