Daniel Negreanu Still Relevant?

3 years ago
Negreanu Still Relevant?
11 Jan

(Photo: Pokerstars.com)

Two or three years ago the vast majority of poker enthusiasts would point to Daniel Negreanu when asked the question: "who's the best poker ambassador?" - and for a good reason. He was considered opinionated and polarizing yet honest and likable.

He's one of the most successful tournament poker players of all time and one of the most entertaining personalities to watch at the tables. Negreanu was also "the people's champion" standing up for the "blue collar" poker players in dark times. Unfortunately, since the end of 2015, Daniel Negreanu seems to be more in touch with the needs of his corporate overlords than the demands of the people, which casts a shadow on the image he managed to create over the years.

Polarizing Figure

It's important to remember that Daniel Negreanu was always a polarizing figure. He was never afraid to call it how he saw it, which was especially apparent after the events of Black Friday when Daniel became one of the most prominent critics of Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and the rest of the crew responsible for the biggest crisis in the history of online poker.

Negreanu never shied away from sharing his strong opinions and promoting his beliefs or lifestyle choices which meant that he was never universally loved (people on the internet are really quick to hate when presented with a worldview alternative to their own) most of the poker world recognized Negreanu's passion and sincerity.

Damage Control

It's hard to imagine that the same Daniel Negreanu would suddenly change his rhetoric from brutally honest to the one that sounds like damage control right from the PR textbook. Unfortunately, this is precisely what some people think happened back in 2015 when PokerStars announced a sudden change in their VIP program. We should give credit where credit is due and recognize that Negreanu was, in fact, critical of how the communication with the players was handled by PokerStars, but he was also defending many of the decisions other professionals were critical of.

It's important to point out that "KidPoker" is most likely contractually obligated to support the company that sponsors him, and while some of the players like Victoria Coren Mitchell and Isaac Haxton opted to leave PokerStars when there was a conflict between company policies and sponsored player's beliefs, it would be unfair to expect a similar reaction from every sponsored player out there.

After that PokerStars, VIP scheme kerfuffle Negreanu continued to support his employer's management strategy based on prioritizing marketing deals and creating revenue over the interests of their high volume customers. Even if we assume that PokerStars has an army of crazy talented analysts producing data that supports the company's vision, even if we acknowledge that the Spin & Go experiment showed the poker world that the concerns of regular players aren't always correct, and exploration of new poker formats that are attractive for recreational players might be a worthwhile pursuit - it's hard to view Negreanu's endorsement of a poker format like Beat the Clock as anything else than a PR stunt.

Politics and Religion

Poker is supposed to be entertaining and over the years Negreanu certainly added to that entertainment with his colorful social media presence. However, in a recent year, his Twitter account became almost exclusively about liberalism and identity politics with some poker updates and "spreading the vegan message" sprinkled in.

Talking politics was always the best way to make people feel alienated and even though I'm also vegan (which in accordance with a famous meme I was obliged to share with you all) even I'm getting tired of hearing that "humans are the only animal that drinks the milk of other animals" and so on. Negreanu's Twitter used to be entertaining and insightful, now it's only... arguably insightful if you happen to be a liberal, vegan, poker player.

It's hard to shake the feeling that in the last year Negreanu started to morph from the poker world's "cool uncle that we all love to hang out with" to "that weird uncle that's always interrupting a fun Christmas dinner with a crazy rant". Fortunately for him and for us the transformation is far from complete and while Daniel might have lost some credibility he can still go back to being "the people's champion" we'd all want him to be.

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Mateusz has been writing about poker for the better part of the last decade. He's deeply interested in many poker related subjects like psychology, game theory, fitness, nutritional science etc.Read more


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