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Poker and Politics

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Aug 25, '14


Lots of great discussion and blogs on the topic of whether or not political discussion belongs at the poker table. As Shane Schleger stated on twitter, poker is one of the few egalitarian events where it doesn't matter what your religion, race, political affiliation, or gender is at all. It's a place where Muslims can sit with Jews, feminists can sit with chauvinists, and none of that matters. The game has historically always brought people together. I've been playing for over 20 years now and I can count on one hand the number of times a political discussion broke out at the table. I'm not saying this is either good, or bad, it's just been my experience.

Before I go any further I want to link you to the three blogs I read on the topic:

Nolan Dalla: Political Sensorship

Robbie Strazynski: No Room for Politics in Poker

Victoria Coren: No Politics at the Poker Table?

I'm not going to write an in-depth blog as these three have, as I feel they have covered all the bases for the most part. I did want to go public with my position on political censorship at the poker table and how that may affect what people are or aren't allowed to wear at the table.

I strongly believe that there should be two sets of rules in terms of the rigidness of what is allowed and what is not. One for televised events, and another for non-televised events. For non-televised I'm pretty much OK with someone wearing anything they want, whether it be offensive or not. Of course, a line has to be drawn somewhere, and I'm not sure exactly where that line is, but I'd leave that up to the discretion of the organizers.

In the case of a televised event, things get a bit more tricky. If I were hosting a poker show that will air across the world, I would like it to be as Switzerland as possible. I'd love for the viewing audience to focus on the characters, the poker, the fun, and the excitement rather than being distracted by what they may view as an offensive political message.

I will echo what Vicky said in her blog, that PokerStars was put in a lose-lose situation thanks to the decisions made by Daniel Colman and Olivier Busquet to wear shirts that said "Free Palestine," and "Save Gaza" respectively.

Do nothing at all, and run the risk of people being shocked and upset with the company for allowing it. Or, release a statement restricting the rights of the players to wear clothing that may offend.

I think both camps make really strong points! Read the blogs and you will see that you will have some moments where you will say, "OK, that's fair" even if you are on the other side mostly. Personally, I support people's right to an opinion and to express themselves however they choose to. Having said that, I also support the broadcasters and organizers right to create rules that they deem appropriate for a worldwide broadcast.

I know, that seems wishy-washy, but it's a complicated issue. The easiest solution would be for poker players who wanted to make a political message to do so in a way that is INCLUSIVE rather than EXCLUSIVE. In fact, I think one of the shirts is inclusive and the other is exclusive.

"Save Gaza" is quite vague and if that offends you, you may be a bit too sensitive! Regardless of what "side" you are on, I would imagine you want to see an end to the suffering and the deaths. Whether you attribute those deaths to Hamas, or the IDF, I imagine that peace is a solution all sides can agree on. In other words, some may see that and think, "Save Gaza from the terrorist organization Hamas." Others may see it as a plea for the IDF to lay down their weapons. Either way, yes save Gaza. It's an atrocity and something we can all back. Peace is the goal.

"Free Palestine" is the one that I find to be exclusive. This is a more loaded political message. It implies that A) Palestine is a state, and that B) it is not a free state. A) is simply not a historical fact, nor has it ever been. B) is up for debate, as some may say the region is occupied illegally while others argue that it is already free. And again, some may argue that freeing Palestine requires the elimination of Hamas.

I have shared my political views on the matter via twitter, but it's not something I would feel appropriate for a poker table, especially a televised broadcast. It's not the forum I would choose, but again, I respect others right to express their views in that manner if they choose to.

I applaud people who take a stand. I respect it. I find it a lot more honest and genuine and even though I may disagree with the conclusion, I can trust that this person is sharing with me what they truly think. I much prefer that over wishy-washy, and I'm rarely ever wishy-washy! Sometimes that offends people. I may have a different political view than you do, and for some people that is enough for them to hate me and want me dead. That's happened on more than one occasion!

I don't hate those that disagree with me. I'm happy to have civil discussions and debate about heated topics like politics and religion, and I don't take disagreement personally. If you choose to hate someone for disagreeing with your political views, what does that say about you? Also, what makes you such an expert on the subject that you aren't open to being wrong?

I don't watch FOX News, CNN, or MSNBC. In fact, I don't watch any network news. I keep up by doing lots of reading online, whether it be The Toronto Star, various blogs, Wikipedia, or interesting articles I may find. I am no expert, but I find it silly when people tell me I don't have an educated opinion on the topic. Oh, but you do? Unless you are there, in the thick of it, any information you get could be way off base, just like my research could be wildly inaccurate. I'm open to that possibility, but are you? Or are you so certain that only the information you gather is correct and that every other source of information is tainted?

I have close friends who fought in Israel. One who was very high up the intelligence ladder. I'm not claiming that my sources are so much better than others, but I do respect the fact that they have been there, and they have been a part of the conflict. While it's true that naturally lends itself to bias, all of my research points me to one specific quote that I personally believe to be a fact. "If Hamas puts down it's weapons, there will be no more war. If Israel puts down it's weapons, there will be no more Israel."

The children of the region are not the enemy and I'm saddened by all the deaths. The enemy, from where I stand, is Hamas. I don't believe they want peace. I don't believe that Israel is purposely trying to look bad to the rest of the world by targeting children and civilians. I believe they are doing what they believe to be right in order to protect their own children and civilians. Something Hamas doesn't appear to be too concerned about...

If you choose to hate me because of my stated position, that is your right. You can claim that I am ignorant and uninformed, but are you open to the possibility that you may not have it right? Because I am.

I'm well aware that by taking a strong stand one way or the other that opens me up to criticism and I'm OK with that. I'll leave you with my favorite quote: "To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."- Aristotle

I choose to have an opinion and that is my right, just as much as it's your right to criticize me, judge me, or even despise me as a result.

Daniel Negreanu is the 2004 CardPlayer Magazine and World Poker Tour Player of the Year. He presents his poker strategies in one-on-one virtual training at and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column.
Read all of Daniel Negreanu's poker blog and poker articles at Full Contact Poker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


7 years ago

"If Hamas puts down it's weapons, there will be no more war. If Israel puts down it's weapons, there will be no more Israel."

Everyone has the legal right to resist occupation, even through violence, according to international law. Hamas is in the right to resist.
Israel is a terrorist state. Look at the numbers. 2100+ Gazans dead, vast majority civilian. 2 Israeli deaths (civilian).
Israel is the world's 4th most powerful army. Gaza is a regufee camp, the largest open air prison in the world. Israel blockades the air, sea and land (since 2007). no one can leave, no one can enter. the airport was bombed by israel.
israel builds illegal settlements on palestinian land.
If anyone is in the wrong here, it's israel. I know DN has israeli friends, so that clouds his judgement (he even says his info from those friends is biased).
If there is justice in this world, israel would be labelled a terrorist state, and it's leaders brought to the Hague to answer for war crimes (the UN has said israel has most likely committed war crimes).


over 6 years ago

The fourth largest army is India fool. Israel isn't even in the top 10. They don't even have an aircraft carrier


7 years ago

Daniel- Please look onto the history of this conflict that goes back many years. Your are not real informed, and why you choose to comment on this baffles me. If Israel would stop the occupation, Hamas would have no reason to launch rockets into Israel. I wish the USA would not give Israel $3.15 billion each year in aid. It just feels like we are killing all those innocent people in Palestine. Most of the world in condemning Israel now, and well deserved. Your are initialed to your opinion, your just way off base.


7 years ago

Like most people, Negreanu simply accepts the simplistic representations and misrepresentations of the media, especially the US media. Indeed, most coverage is regurgitated propaganda. That Negreanu chose to comment publicly on a matter that he knows so little about is what separates him from most people.


7 years ago

Hi Daniel, I hope you read this, some of what the poster above is relevant, even more so;
1. 133 states recognise Palestine as a state including several Israeli mandates and previous governance.
2 The International Court has stated that the Palestinian people and state has a right to self-determination and governance.

I understand the needs of the Israeli and have read a lot of history going back past WWI, both sides are at fault, numerous times, however the continued stranglehold and lack of dialogue on the Israeli side exacerbate the issues and drives yet more to seek freedom by any means. Any freedom fighter and organisation can be classed as "terrorist", or just maybe, they are fighting for the freedoms we enjoy everyday. So that their sons and grandsons to be able to grow-up without repression and threats with no real means of defending themselves.

When Israel kill their fathers, brothers and mothers, somewhat indiscriminately, then it is no wonder that the next generation seeks their freedom by any means.

Stop all this! open up realistic dialogue, commit to peace, commit to giving up the lands taken against the UN conventions that Israeli's still hold illegally, assist Palestinian authorities with aid and technical expertise to remove the root cause of this ongoing, mainly one-sided ceaseless violence.

Israel have a right to defend themselves, all state have this right, do not use this excuse to commit atrocities, by pro-active defence. The US, from WW11, still give aid for such defence and they understand both the need and the drivers behind this and even they object to the way, bowing to hard-line fundamentalist pressure on the Israeli side, repression is committed every minute of every day against the Palestinian people.

Rant over, good luck on the felt all CPers and yourself.


7 years ago

Please stick to drinking alcohol and playing poker. these two things apparently, you are quite proficient at!


7 years ago

You Are All Wrong... You Are All Wrong...

Daniel Colman and Olivier Busquet to wear a printed Tshirts: had nothing to say about abusive politics... But a Psyche out trick; Known as the : Hawthorne affect.. lol


7 years ago

Pretty funny all of these Muslim opinions that are just so self righteous and leave out the plain truth. Everyone is just so afraid to stand up to the radical Muslim right except the Israeli's. They know that anyone that uses women and children as human PR shields will stop at nothing. Daniel has the balls to express his opinion and out jumps the Jew haters. That's ok, its expected...........


7 years ago

I've lost count of the number of times a clever T-shirt slogan has changed my mind on an issue. But if I had to guess, it probably would be about the same amount of times a casual conversation with a stranger at a poker table has done it.


7 years ago

Well everybody has the right of freedom to say anything or give their views on any sort of topics.But when you are playing with other players at the table,this is not necessary that everybody will have the same views as you have about any political issues.So it's better not to discuss that kind of topics while playing or if you want to discuss,come with the true facts and figures.Just give your opinions and listen to others. don't argue or fight.


7 years ago

I agree 100% with strike. Also, everyone has failed to mention that hamas is not a Palestinian group. Hamas was created by other arab countries and sent into places like Israel, Syria, and Lebanon in hopes of eliminating all non-muslims and turning these countries into muslim states. These cowards use the poor Palestinians as a pawn to get the public to see isreal as the agressors when isreal is simply protecting the little land they have in a huge part of the arab world. Help Palestine first by getting rid of hamas. Then can we truly judge israel.

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