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My Take on Poker and Gambling

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Dec 01, '14

When I started out my career as a professional poker player it required me to answer a few questions:

Am I OK with making a living that requires me to take money from people who are less skilled?

Am I OK with the fact that some of those people are making very bad decisions for themselves and possibly their family?

Am I OK with playing poker in a casino that offers games of chance to people where the house holds an edge big enough to make sure they could never be long term winners?

Am I OK with eating dinner, or seeing a show in a casino where some problem gamblers are ruining their lives?

Well, the simple fact that I chose poker as a career and have been doing so for 20 years is answer enough. I’m aware of the dangers that exist for people when it comes to gambling. Whether it’s poker where the professionals fleece the novice players, or the casinos offering “fun games” that are unbeatable.

I would personally feel like a hypocrite if I justified that it’s OK for me to take money from problem gamblers, but it's not OK for the casino to do the same. if it’s wrong it’s wrong, no matter who profits. As much as we’d like to separate poker from gambling, poker played for money IS gambling. There will be some winners, and a vast majority of losers. The stock market and sports betting are no different. Plenty of people make bad decisions in the market and on Sundays when they overextend themselves on NFL games. Poker, stocks, and sports, are all beatable games if you put in the hard work. The really hard work that most of you will not put in, but convince yourself that you have. When you lose, you may blame bad luck. You may be convinced by ads, marketing, or by watching other young pros win millions online, that this could be you. It could, but it probably won’t be. You may believe that you are a sports guru and that you can pick winners based purely on your instinctual gift to evaluate teams. Or maybe you think you are the next big wig day trader who is going to make millions in the stock market.

Examples exist in society of people we may aspire to be that have beaten the odds and made it to the top of poker, sports betting, and the stock market. I don’t know of any such delusions when it comes to casino games. The math is quite simple, the more you play the more you are going to lose. You “could” win, and you will win occasionally, but the game is obviously rigged in such a way to ensure the house always wins in the end. With casino games, there is no hope or illusion that you could become a roulette superstar. It is not a fair game, in the sense that with hard work you could beat it. That opportunity doesn’t exist in casino games. Having said that, a recreational player who puts down $100 at a blackjack table is going to win more often than he would at a poker table. His ROI is going to be better at a craps table then it would be sitting down at a poker table full of sharks. He’ll lose either way of course, the only difference is who gets his money. The casino, or the shark poker players taking advantage of the disadvantaged recreational player.

I have thought about it a great deal and I don’t see how I could rationalize being against casinos profiting from disadvantaged players, but all for taking those same types of players money for myself. If I truly felt that gambling was wrong and against my beliefs, that it should be illegal, it would require me to stop entering casinos for any reason. Not to see a show, or have dinner, and certainly not to play poker. That’s what a stand looks like to me.

I’m fortunate enough to have more money than I could spend in my lifetime. I don’t need to earn another penny the rest of my life and I’ll be OK. I’m not bound to gambling or a paycheck. Money has never been the driving force behind what I do. I do enjoy playing poker, sometimes betting on sports, certainly betting on golf, and occasionally playing craps and roulette despite knowing that I’m not going to finish ahead in that endeavor. I appreciate the fact that I have the right to do so in the city I live in. I enjoy playing poker online as well, and would love the option of also being able to bet on sports online. Playing online casino games doesn’t interest me personally, but I am pro freedom to choose.

I both respect and admire Vicky Coren’s personal stance on online casino gaming. I assume she asked herself a lot of tough questions, and in the end, drew a line in the sand that she wasn’t willing to cross. I suppose everyone has their own line in the sand and they aren’t all going to be in the same place, and that’s neither right or wrong. What matters most is that when you draw that line you also follow it up with doing what you feel is right, and Vicky deserves all the kudos in the world for doing that.

I’m aware that on my climb to where I am now it required me to step on a lot of heads. When I win, others lose. I don’t take that lightly. The question I focus my energy on now is how will I give back to the world and inspire others to live out their dreams? I’m not talking poker here, I’m talking life. Poker is what I did to accumulate my wealth, but that doesn’t preclude me from being a contributing member of society and making a difference for people, and for the world.
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


over 7 years ago

Two wrongs don't make a right. How about the casinos and you are the same and you except the fact that you may be just as evil?

Maybe a little trip to the Center will help. You know justify things in your mind and all that . God Bless


almost 7 years ago

If you watched any bit of poker you'd know that dans the nicest guy, so piss off.


over 7 years ago

I'm guessing she will regret her decision at some point. And also that there is some other issue or reason she wanted to leave and this was convenient cover. But that is pure speculation on my part.


over 7 years ago

Poker and casino games are simply gambling. It is about the luck for the short term winners. At the end of the day, the winner is always the house. It is fun to play poker but it should not promote it as a "skilled game".

Playing with the stock market is quite different, it requires a home work, a due diligent investigation, a vision and a prediction how the company or companies where you invest your money into it will perform well in the future. If you put your money in Facebook, Google or Apple in a very early stage, you certainly a millionaire or billionaire now.

The big difference between the "professional poker player" and the amateur is that the professional plays to win and he must win by all means because in his mind he is "professional" while the amateur plays simply to win of course, but he also prepare to loose.


over 7 years ago

Not sure if I understand that last do you mix stepping on heads in the same paragraph as contributing to society? Are successful people under some obligation to contribute to society? Sounds like Daniel is trying to ease his guilty conscience.


over 7 years ago

Your life and what you do will have no impact or make any difference to anyone or anything. Spare us this illusion. Justifying that you re a professional gambler for a living by pretending you can do greater good. It isnt necessary so give us a break. Just say i gamble for a living and live withing the casino culture and i have no qualms about it and anyone who does can go f@#k themselves. People would respect you more.


over 7 years ago

I work for a casino and I gamble as well. I'm not allowed to play the company games so I play on the competitors'. It's weird playing on both sides, my salary is paid as a result of other people misery. I also try to win and break the default loser path that every gambler has it by default. I am trying to be more intelligent than the algorithms. I am probably more aware about the danger the gambling is, because I see every day the evidence of people ruining their lives through gambling.

The questions that Daniel is asking should be put also the other way around like: Are you aware you could lose X amount? Are you aware that you could risk your family wealth? etc.

If you are confident with both sets of questions then you have higher chances to be a successful gambler


over 7 years ago

Attacking Daniel Negreanu for his stance on poker and gambling... will not do anything but allow you to blow air into the ethers. What I see him doing here is providing a context for those who haven't used introspection in their lives and is struggling because of a gambling addiction. Daniel is a different poker player from among the regulars who would cheat and lie to their own mothers to get their money. I believe Daniel is not making any excuses for what he does but just making sure people doesn't have any delusions about reality of poker.

I have admired Daniel Negreanu over the years for him being honest about who he is and what he believes in despite upsetting his peers.


7 years ago

"Am I OK with making a living that requires me to take money from people who are less skilled?

Am I OK with the fact that some of those people are making very bad decisions for themselves and possibly their family?"

Unequivocally - Yes!

Intelligence and reason ARE morality. Morality is the means of happiness. Nothing more and nothing less. Stupidity IS immorality; immorality being a decision to not think.

All happiness, all ecstasy, occurs in the mind, as an achievement of consciously selected values. Those who do not select values can not achieve them, nor can those who do not use reason to pursue and obtain them.

We can conclude that the capacity for happiness in an intelligent person is greater then the capacity for happiness in an unintelligent person.

In other words, FISH ARE FOOD.

We do not ask if its wrong to eat a broccoli, or a pig; we consider it worth it. when two people sit at a poker table, and one is a shark who has devoted a significant portion of his life to honing the skills needed to pursue his values, and the other is a fish who is on some level aware that he is walking unarmed into a jungle...that fish is food for the shark.

If broccoli didn't want to be eaten, they should have worked harder and evolved weapons with which they could fend of and eat humans.

I feel no less pity taking money from an idiot then i do eating broccoli. In fact, i consider it a moral duty to take the money from the fish, "because I can, and it will achieve values".

Is a moral duty anything other then the logical motions required to gain or defend ones values?

Fish and broccoli have values. But apparently, sharks have greater values, or a greater sense of duty to them. We can conclude that the Poker Shark is the Moral, and the Poker Fish is the Immoral.

May the Best Man Win. Amen.


over 6 years ago

poker = skill.... play 1500 hands with a pro at a cash table and keep the same blinds the entire time.. lets see how much money you leave with.. if you don't play texas holdem daily than u have absolutely NO business commenting on the skill involved.. several of your posts lack wisdom.. the same reason you say it's luck is the same reason you don't win consistently.. good luck with that..


over 6 years ago


over 5 years ago

Reading the first few lines of this blog struck me already. I feel bad for those players who have wrongfully fallen into the pit of excessive gambling. I thought to myself that I got to be extra careful playing in online casino , because while other people are rejoicing for my defeat, I am distressing over my loss. But then as I go along, the latter part turned out to be heartwarming. Thinking of how you can give back to players and inspire the world is inspiring enough already.

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