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by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Nov 08, 2017


I saw something recently that I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before. I saw someone who is the all-time highest earner in their field and one of the top two or three individuals to ever compete in their field admit to being way behind the times. Daniel Negreanu, who owns the top spot on the all-time money list and probably is the most famous poker player in the world, admitted in public that he thinks he’s not in the top 100 in the world.

If you could somehow objectively rank all poker players in the world in every game, anybody reading this would be thrilled to find out they are in the top 100 in any discipline, but this is a big blow to someone like Daniel. He’s been top of the heap for almost 20 years and he’s admitting that he doesn’t have it like he used to right now. He has $34 million in earnings and he’s willing to admit that he’s not top 50 or top 75. This is truly amazing and really speaks to why he is such a successful poker player.

In contrast, probably the second-most famous poker player in the world, Phil Hellmuth, surprised nobody just after Daniel admitted this by making sure that everyone knew he thought Daniel was dumb for admitting he feels this way. Then putting himself out on a limb by saying he has the highest return on investment in the world in poker tournaments.

Of course, this is immeasurable and Phil is probably not in the top 100 no-limit hold’em tournament players in the world right now, but he made sure to put himself on a pedestal, true to form and say that he’s just as good as anyone out there. He was offered a list of names that Daniel would be happy to crossbook him with and he refused. They went back and forth for a while and I even got roped into the conversation when Scott Seiver used me as an example (perhaps giving me a little backhanded compliment in the meantime) of someone that Phil must agree is better than him because I’ve won a WPT event and he hasn’t.

All of that is almost beside the point, just important enough to mention to realize just how crazy it was that Daniel was willing to admit to his shortcomings as a poker player after all this time in the game. If you ask random people on the street to name a poker player, he’s one of the top four names you’d hear along with Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, and Doyle Brunson and he’s currently the best poker player of the four. (Though I’m not sure he can hold a candle to Ivey in baccarat.) One of those four answers is willing to drop his ego and say that he thinks he isn’t in the top 100 players alive right now. He said he’s going to work hard from October to December with a goal of being in the top 20 by January (We need to talk about setting clearly achievable goals with clearly defined steps next time we see each other Daniel).

Obviously this will be hard to do. It’s much easier to go from the 1,000th best player in the world to the 100th best player in the world than it is to go from the 100th best player in the world to the 20th best. There’s only so much you can learn in that time frame. The fact that he realizes he has to do it and is setting that goal is the remarkable thing.

So, what’s the point of me praising Daniel to the heavens for admitting this? Well that’s simple. If he realizes that he needs to get better and needs to work hard to prepare to improve his career, what does that mean for the rest of us? I’m certainly not in the top 100 players in the world anymore, though I do think there was a time that was true. If Daniel can admit where he’s at and work to improve his game and climb the ladder, why can’t I? Why can’t you?

He’s proven why he’s one of the best in the world and continues to be so after 20 years: Hard work, honesty with himself, humility (a trait not many would have assigned to Daniel very recently), and dedication. Take a cue from Daniel and realize that no matter how good you feel you are right now, how good you are compared to where you were one, five, or ten years ago, you can always get better. So, set yourself a realistic goal with clearly achievable steps along the way to improving yourself as a poker player, and start working towards it. Because if Daniel Negreanu needs to improve, so do you. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG