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Daniel Negreanu Talks ‘The Most Dominant Performance’ Of His Career

Poker Hall of Famer Earns $3.3 Million At Super High Roller Bowl VII

by Erik Fast |  Published: Nov 16, 2022

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Click To Read This Issue For Free! Daniel Negreanu is one of the most accomplished poker players in the history of the game, with six World Series of Poker bracelets, two World Poker Tour titles, two Card Player Player of the Year awards, and many other noteworthy achievements accrued over his Hall of Fame career as a professional player.

According to Negreanu, though, the past couple of years have been a couple of his worst on the professional circuit, dealing with numerous close calls and the wrong side of variance. Earlier this year, he publicly shared losses of more than $1.1 million while playing at the WSOP.

In early October, Negreanu broke out of his funk by emerging victorious in the prestigious Super High Roller Bowl VII, featuring an elite field of 24 entries in the $300,000 buy-in event to secure the SHRB ring and $3,312,000, the second-largest payday of his career.

Negreanu now has $48,864,902 in career tournament earnings to his name, the third-most of any player in the world.

“Obviously it feels great. The last two years have been really, really difficult mentally because I know my game is better than ever. But who cares? The public looks at it like, ‘No, no, no, Daniel. You’ve got to look at your results. Your results are not good. You’re playing bad.’ I know how I’m losing. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know when it’s me. I know when it’s me making mistakes, and it isn’t,” said Negreanu in his post-win interview with PokerGO.

“It’s not over,” Negreanu told Card Player when asked about his stretch of bad luck in key all-ins hands that has spanned the past couple of years. “I was never all in during this event. In all-ins, I’ve still run under equity for two years. Now, when people tell me crazy stories about bad runs, I finally believe them, because in my three decades as a pro I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Do you know how f***ed I’ve been getting?” he continued. “Hopefully, it changes at some point, and luckily I won that $3.3 million because otherwise, I might lose my mind.”

Just days before winning the SHRB, Negreanu had been knocked out on the direct money bubble of the $50,000 buy-in finale of the Poker Masters thanks to a bad beat that typifies that run Negreanu has been discussing. His pocket aces were cracked by pocket jacks with all of the chips in preflop, with a nearly six-figure min-cash hanging in the balance.

“In my bustout interview after I bubbled the final event of the Poker Masters, I said, ‘How are they gonna get my chips in this thing?’ They’re not! The Super High Roller Bowl, I’m going wire-to-wire, I’m gonna dominate this thing.’ That’s exactly what I did. I was the chip leader after day one, chip leader basically after day two, Nick passed me right near the end there. But, I cruised. I was never all in, never in jeopardy, never at risk, never in doubt really. I was destined to win that thing because if you give me a structure like that, with those players, I feel like I can play very good defense and it was going to be really, really difficult to get my chips.”

In the end, Negreanu came away with one of the biggest titles of his career, against a field that was largely composed of the best of the best when it comes to tournament players. It is a victory that will go down as one of the crowning accomplishments of a legendary career.

“This is, without a doubt, the most dominant performance I’ve ever put together over three days. It was close to flawless,” offered Negreanu when asked about where this ranks among his many title runs. “I watched it back, and even these small little intricate folds that I was making in hands you’re supposed to call with were correct basically every time. Very few mistakes, which you are always going to make throughout a tournament, but it’s by far the most dominant and best performance of my entire career by a mile, given the field that I was up against.”

Negreanu not only won, but he did so while laughing and chatting it up with his opponents in the manner that made him famous. It was a familiar table presence that wasn’t always present during the recent bad run.

“I think it’s incredibly important to understand theory at a high level in order to compete at the highest levels, but also understand that no single human being is performing it perfectly. Part of what made me great at poker for many years was my ability to adapt and exploit… figuring out what people are doing wrong,” Negreanu explained. “Part of that is me being in my comfort zone and behaving the way that I like to behave… ‘loosey-goosey’ if you will.”

Below is a look back at how Negreanu came away with the title.

Starting Strong With Quads Over Aces Full

Negreanu got off to a fast start on day 1 of this event, which was held in the PokerGO Studio at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, bagging up the day 1 chip lead thanks in large part to a massive pot that went down during just the third level of play.

The hand saw Negreanu square off against Bryn Kenney, one of only two players on the planet with more tournament earnings than him. With blinds of 1,000-2,000 and a big blind ante of 2,000, Kenney raised to 5,000 from under the gun with pocket aces. Kenney started the hand with 222,500, or just over 111 big blinds. Negreanu, who had Kenney covered by more than 30 big blinds, defended his big blind with 3Heart Suit 3Diamond Suit and the two players saw a flop of ASpade Suit 5Club Suit 4Spade Suit.

Negreanu checked, and Kenney made a continuation bet of 5,000 into the 13,000 pot with his top set. Negreanu made the call with a gutshot to the wheel. The turn was the 3Spade Suit, giving Negreanu a set of his own while making a flush possible and putting four cards to a straight on the board.

Negreanu led out for 10,000, or just shy of one-third pot. Kenney smooth called and the river brought the 3Club Suit to give Negreanu quads and Kenney aces full of threes. Negreanu bet right out with his monster, firing 25,000 into the 43,000 pot. Kenney raised to 105,000, leaving himself with just 97,000 behind.

Negreanu moved all-in, and Kenney made the reluctant call. He was shown quads and sent to the rail after just a few hours, while Negreanu jumped out to an early lead that he only expanded as the day continued.

“A lot of people might look at that hand and be like, ‘Oh, he was lucky,’ but that was a small pot, a nothing pot. We had 300k starting stacks on day 1, and it was just 5k on the flop and 10k on the turn. If I don’t make quads, it’s going to be a small pot on the river. The board was a four-straight with a flush possible. So, any card that doesn’t pair the board right is going to result in a small pot. There’s no betting and raising going on. If the board does pair, I have the lowest full house. I’m not going to lose a lot of chips on that. So, I was in a position with the bottom set where I could win a really big pot, but I was only going to lose a small one if I was behind.”

Kenney hardly seemed excited about calling off the remainder of his stack with aces full of threes, which Negreanu contends amounted to essentially a bluff catcher given the action and the board.

“It’s 100 percent a bluff catcher and it’s a bad bluff catcher to have. Frankly, he couldn’t beat 5-2 of spades, which I could have in big blind, or pocket threes. You have to ask yourself, am I really doing this with just some goofy 5Spade Suit? I’m not doing it for value with less. So really, if he thought about it a little bit longer, I think he makes the correct fold and throws it away,” thought Negreanu. “He had the third nuts, right? Imagine the board was four spades and you don’t have the ace or the king, you just have the QSpade Suit. Would you call all-in that deep with the third nuts? No, and in this case, the ranges were so clear and so obvious that it’s similar to that. My hand is pocket threes, it’s 5-2 of spades, or it’s a bluff. It’s not A-5 or A-3, ever.”

Kenney was one of ten players eliminated during day 1 action, with eight of those ten being among the top 30 on poker’s all-time earnings leaderboard. Those who busted included SHRB VI champion Michael Addamo, four-time bracelet winner Adrian Mateos, bracelet winner and 2019 POY Stephen Chidwick, recent Poker Masters Purple Jacket winner Sean Winter, SHRB V champion Isaac Haxton, four-time bracelet winner David Peters, and bracelet winner Dan Smith.

Smith took to Twitter to vent, explaining that he had prepped for weeks for the event, studying and meditating, even undergoing cryotherapy… all for about 90 minutes at the table. That’s $3,333 per minute! “Next year just gonna snort a few lines and see what happens,” he joked.

Negreanu ended the day with 1,499,000, good for just shy of 250 big blinds. He was one of just two players to bag up more than a million in chips, with Mikita Badziakouski being the second.

Day 2 began with 14 players and continued until just five remained. Negreanu was the first to surpass the 2-million chip mark, adding to his stack by busting rising high roller star Chris Brewer and PokerGO founder Cary Katz along the way.

Despite coming into the day near the top of the counts, Bazkiakouski was among those to hit the rail as the day wore on. He lost a massive coin flip with pocket queens facing the A-K of three-time SHRB ring winner Justin Bonomo to fall to the bottom of the leaderboard, and was dispatched not long after that.

Other notables to exit on day 2 included recent Poker Masters $50,000 event champion Jason Koon, high-stakes pro Ben Tollerene, WPT champion Seth Davies, and bracelet winner Alex Foxen.

Paul Jager was knocked out in seventh place by Eric Worre, who then fell in sixth place when his kings and jacks on a K-Q-J flop ran into the bottom set held by two-time bracelet winner Nick Petrangelo. With that hand, the day came to a close with the chip counts looking as follows:

Nick Petrangelo – 2,630,000
Daniel Negreanu – 2,225,000
Andrew Lichtenberger – 880,000
Orpen Kisacikoglu – 855,000
Justin Bonomo – 610,000

Surviving The Bubble And Closing Out The Win

The final day of this nosebleed-stakes affair began with those five players remaining and only four set to make the money. That meant that one player had to wait overnight only to be eliminated on a $720,000 payout bubble.

Both Bonomo and Kisacikoglu lost ground to the rest of the pack as they tried to survive to the money, but it was the latter who ultimately fell first. Kisacikoglu was down to just 12 big blinds when bracelet winner Lichtenberger raised from under-the-gun with pocket queens. Negreanu called from the small blind with QDiamond Suit JDiamond Suit and Kisacikoglu three-bet shoved with AHeart Suit QClub Suit out of the big blind.

Lichtenberger unleashed a small four-bet to isolate and Negreanu quickly got out of the way. The board came down 10Club Suit 9Diamond Suit 2Club Suit 2Diamond Suit JHeart Suit to burst the bubble, sending Kisacikoglu home empty-handed as the fifth-place finisher.

Bonomo’s final hand saw him four-bet shove for around 40 big blinds from the button, having opened and been three-bet by Lichtenberger out of the big blind. Lichtenberger called with pocket jacks, which had Bonomo’s pocket eights in rough shape.
Lichtenberger made top set on the turn and had Bonomo drawing dead before the river.

Bonomo had nearly $14.6 million in prior SHRB scores across six prior cashes, including wins in the 2018 SHRB, the 2018 SHRB China, and the 2020 SHRB Online. With the $720,000 he secured in this event, he increased his SHRB earnings to more than $15.3 million. (Check out the leaderboard on pg. 25 for more stats.)

The 37-year-old poker pro’s lifetime tournament cashes now exceed $60.5 million, making him the first player in poker history to surpass the $60 million mark. As a result, he has his hold on the top spot on poker’s all-time money list, with more than a $3 million lead over the aforementioned Kenney.

With that, Lichtenberger moved into an effective tie for second place in the chip counts with Negreanu, while Petrangelo sat atop the leaderboard. As three-handed play continued over the course of roughly five hours, though, Negreanu managed to overtake the lead and then begin to pull away as his two opponents’ stacks dwindled.

“I was ready for it,” Negreanu said when asked about the long three-handed showdown. “You know, those are both great players, but in terms of the metagame, which is something I really focus on… a lot of people focus on theory, I focus heavily on the meta and what’s happening of late. And, in this case, the metagame felt like it was really conducive to what I wanted to do. It was a very small-ballish affair, for the most part. I was very confident with how things were going. If you watch the whole tournament, you’re not going to find me in any really dangerous, high-risk spots.”

Lichtenberger had been ground down to just shy of 12 big blinds when his final hand arrived. He moved all-in from the small blind with KDiamond Suit 6Spade Suit. Negreanu made the call with a dominating ASpade Suit 6Heart Suit and flopped an ace to send Lichtenberger home with $1,152,000 as the third-place finisher. The score increased his lifetime earnings to more than $15.2 million.

Heads-up play began with Negreanu holding a sizable 5:1 lead. The two went on to battle for just over half an hour, with Negreanu able to add to his advantage until he had built nearly a 13:1 lead in time for the final hand of the event.

Negreanu open-shoved from the button for roughly 10 big blinds with QClub Suit 7Club Suit and Petrangelo called with KSpade Suit 5Heart Suit. The 7Spade Suit 3Club Suit 2Club Suit flop was all Negreanu, giving him top pair and a flush draw. The 2Spade Suit on the turn left Petrangelo with just a five percent chance of doubling up. The 4Spade Suit on the end officially locked up the pot and the title for Negreanu.

Petrangelo pocketed $2,016,000 as the runner-up finisher. This was the second-largest score of his career, and increased his lifetime earnings to more than $27 million.

In addition to the ring and the money, Negreanu also earned 360 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion of this event. This was his third title and eighth final-table finish of the year. He also locked up 600 PokerGO Tour points, enough to climb into 21st place on that leaderboard.

Place Player Payout POY PGT
1 Daniel Negreanu $3,312,000 360 600
2 Nick Petrangelo $2,016,000 300 500
3 Andrew Lichtenberger $1,152,000 240 400
4 Justin Bonomo $720,000 180 216

*Photos courtesy of PokerGO / Antonio Abrego