Editor's note: Day 3 of the WSOP main event, featuring Daniel Negreanu, will air on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
You know about everything Daniel Negreanu has accomplished in poker. You know about the bracelets and the WPT wins and the top spot on all-time money list and the TV appearances and the cash game prowess. Most of you love to watch him play, and the few of you who don't love to hate him. Regardless of which side you're on, you have your reasons to tune in and watch him ply his trade on Tuesday's ESPN broadcast of the World Series of Poker.
What you may not know - or at least, may not have dwelled upon - are the many roles Negreanu plays within poker circles when away from the table: shrewd businessman, ambassador, voice.
"Well, I'm not much of a follower in life," said Negreanu. "I'm opinionated and passionate about a lot of things in poker, whether it be tournament structure, rules, the way things are done. I'm just not one to sit by and I'm very opinionated. I like to contribute. I feel like with my experience playing tournament poker and TV poker, I have a good idea of what people want. Not just the players but the audience."
Negreanu's not the only one who thinks so. "If there's a player out there who would get credibility carrying a commissioner business card and one I'd happily work for one day It's Daniel," said WSOP vice president Ty Stewart via email. "He's the complete package. There are many brilliant thinkers on the poker side. but he understands the business and marketing side as well as anyone is able to."
Stewart went on to say that Negreanu has had more impact on WSOP enhancements than any individual over the last half-decade, a tremendous compliment considering the source. Amongst the WSOP's Negreanu-inspired innovations are the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, the elimination of rebuy tournaments, the growth of 6-max events and the general improvement of structures. His influence has been so profound that it's caused some to joke that the Players Advisory Council (PAC) should be renamed the DAC.
"What you respect the most when you engage him is that he's not just shooting an angle for himself," Stewart continued. "He digs in for what he thinks is right for the game and the industry, even when it's not popular. You have to love a guy like that."
Most of the time. Negreanu's brand of honesty can get a little rough, with no one immune if he's passionate enough about a topic. Matt Savage, one of the most-liked people in the poker industry, recently found himself at the opposite end of a Negreanu barrage, while Negreanu's adversarial relationship with Annie Duke is well-documented, as is his frequent targeting of Phil Hellmuth.
When asked for a thought on Daniel's voice and ambassadorship, Hellmuth couldn't stifle the chuckle. "Yeah, he's definitely a good ambassador for poker," Hellmuth admitted. "He's a really good one, maybe great. He generates a lot of interest amongst fans all across the planet. People want to watch him play, hear his shtick, you know? He seems to be a hell of a businessman, too. Seems like he and [Negreanu's agent] Brian Balsbaugh have done some really cool stuff, but sometimes, even Daniel will admit that he should have hit the mute button."
"[Blogging] is exhilarating," Negreanu enthused. "That's why I started. Blogging lets me be more of myself. If there's someone in my life who's uncomfortable, I'll keep things private, but my blog has always been something I've used to get things out there. It is cathartic."
Although Negreanu may regret the occasional overshare, the benefits of his toeing the line are obvious. With the power of his voice (@RealKidPoker has over 121,000 followers), his willingness to speak to injustices goes a long way in getting them corrected.
"I think a lot of stuff goes on in poker behind closed doors," says Jason Somerville, a friend and instructor on Negreanu's PokerVT training site. "To have someone like Daniel, who will speak openly, go on the record and say 'that's not right,' is incredibly valuable to the community. It wouldn't be as valuable if it was someone complaining on a forum. It means something because it comes from someone who has a voice. If no one spoke about the things he sees, they wouldn't get changed. At times, he'll word things too sharply or harp on things that may not impact that many people, but I agree with him way more often than not. His intention is to do right by the game and the community."
Somerville is just one of many young pros who have benefitted from Negreanu's honest approach to talking about his game. Asked to name the people in poker he respects the most, Negreanu first named PokerStars owner Isai Scheinberg, then contemporaries Phil Ivey and Huck Seed, then followed them up with Eugene Katchalov, Sam Trickett and Vivek Rajkumar, three of poker's new generation of professionals.
While many of the original TV pros will keep their spotlights on themselves, Negreanu is happy to share his with the new breed of professional players who have helped him refine his game as poker continues to morph at its highest levels. "If you read his blog, he'll mention the young guys who he's talking poker with," Somerville said. "By doing that, simply by mentioning their name, he's giving a blessing that's really valuable. It's like he's knighting the young players he's mentioning."
It's the selflessness that lends Negreanu's words so much credence. Although he's not infallible, when he speaks, you know he thinks he is advocating what is good for the whole. It's a lot of responsibility, without much personal benefit, for one player to take on when you consider the demands of maintaining his poker game. It's one more reason to appreciate him when you watch him on the WSOP broadcasts on ESPN.
You can read more of Gary Wise's musings at jgarywise.com.