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2 June 2016
By Aaron Todd
OK, I lied. I said that last week's top 10 list was my last column before leaving Casino City. Turns out, I tied up most of my loose ends with two days left on the job, and rather than simply run out the clock, I decided I had one more in me.
Of course, that decision was made easy when I woke up this morning with this announcement in my Twitter feed:
I actually asked PokerStars.com, which produced the documentary, for a copy of KidPoker several months ago so we could write a review, but they never got back to me (other than to say they'd get back to me). But now, with the film available on Netflix, I could just stream it on my own.
Overall, the 88-minute biopic was entertaining. The film features interviews with poker pros Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman, Antonio Esfandiari, Maria Ho and Vanessa Selbst, among others. There is also a treasure trove of content from an interview with his brother, Mike, as well as a few childhood friends.
Since the documentary was produced by PokerStars, it had a good deal of cheerleading, but there was some interesting information about Negreanu's life that even the most devoted poker fans may not know if they haven't already seen the film.
Here are 10 things you'll learn about Daniel Negreanu by watching KidPoker. Worth noting, there's not a lot to "spoil" in the documentary, but if you want to watch it with fresh eyes, be aware that there is quite a bit of information from the documentary offered up below.
10. He's a numbers guy
Much of Negreanu's poker game is predicated on knowing what other players have and how they will react to his play. Compared to the Internet poker wizards who have excelled in the last decade thanks to a strict mathematical approach, his game is a throwback to an abandoned era in poker. But just because he relies on reading people, it's not fair to say that Negreanu doesn't know the math behind the game, too.
One great anecdote from the film is that Negreanu kept logs with the statistics for players in sports video games before the games did it for you. That said, the anecdote also produced a small blunder in the film, as Negreanu said that as a result of analyzing those stats he could tell you off the top of his head that "3-for-11 is .372, or .373, pardon me." (It's likely that Negreanu just misspoke, as 3-for-11 is .273.) Regardless of the small error, I found the detail to be fascinating.
9. His mother had nine miscarriages
If you walk away from this film thinking just one thing about Negreanu, it's that he misses his parents a great deal. Anyone who was in attendance at his Poker Hall of Fame induction in 2014 already knows that (a good deal of his speech from the event is used in the film), and it most certainly comes through in the film. One heartbreaking detail is how much his mother struggled to have children. This detail helps explain why Negreanu's mother was so devoted to him, even as a grown man. (More on this later.)
8. His big brother is literally a big brother
Negreanu's older brother Mike was five years ahead of him in school, but also towered over others growing up. He was six feet tall in sixth grade, which is a bit ironic considering Negreanu's small stature. Negreanu says that having such a big big brother allowed him to behave in ways that he may not have otherwise, because he knew that his brother always had his back.
7. His father spoke very little English
Negreanu's parents immigrated to Canada from Romania, and his father spoke very little English. This led to a serious of pretty hilarious exchanges with people he was working with, because when someone asked him to do something, his response was the equivalent of "OK" but in Romanian. I won't spell out what the translation sounds like in English, but let's just say it's not something you should say to your boss.
6. He was young when his father died
Negreanu was an adult when his father died, but at just 21 years old, he had not fully formed his identity. Sadly, he was not able to be there the night his father passed away, because he was in Windsor playing poker and the weather was too bad for him to make the return trip until the next day.
5. You probably wouldn't have liked young Daniel
Negreanu hasn't always been the affable poker ambassador you see today. In his youth, he was cocky and arrogant. (Some might say that he is still cocky and arrogant.) There's an argument that could be made that those are exactly the qualities necessary to become one of the world's most successful poker pros, but it isn't all that endearing. There's one cringe-worthy moment where Negreanu admits that, as a teenager, he dismissed one of his teachers because he made more money playing poker than the teacher earned. To be fair, it seems clear that this attitude is one Negreanu looks back on as foolish, and he has certainly grown and developed a great deal as a person over the last 20-30 years.
4. He went busto in Las Vegas multiple times
When Negreanu took his first shot at Las Vegas, he brought $3,000 with him. One day later, he was broke. He went back to Toronto to lick his wounds and built his bankroll back up to $3,000. He returned to Las Vegas, and once again, he went broke. He repeated the process several times before he finally learned how to beat the games in Sin City.
That took a lot of guts. No one would have faulted him had he decided to stay in Toronto and beat the home games and the private club games he was playing where he had a solid history of success, but Negreanu always wanted to play with and beat the best.
3. He lived at the Budget Suites when he got started
As someone who frequented the Extended Stay America on South Valley View during the WSOP many times, I can appreciate someone who takes advantage of a bargain. I love that Negreanu stayed at the Budget Suites when he was establishing himself in Las Vegas. He found a way to beat the games in Las Vegas in part because he was able to live frugally in those early years.
2. His mom used to pack his lunch
Once Negreanu started staying in Las Vegas for extended periods of time, his mother felt the need to check in on him and make sure that he was OK. Once he had established himself and had a proven track record, he bought her a house in Las Vegas so she'd have a place nearby to stay. She made him a bagged lunch to take to the table, and in fact, also started to make lunches for some of his friends, including Phil Ivey.
1. Won the first WSOP event he ever played
Negreanu's first World Series of Poker bracelet came in 1998 when he won the $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em title. I knew he was the youngest WSOP bracelet winner at the time of his win, but I had no idea that it was the first WSOP event he ever played.
Negreanu won his seat by beating Todd Brunson heads-up in a satellite. He planned on selling the tournament lammers if he won, as the cash equivalent represented more of his bankroll than he was willing to risk in a high-variance tournament, but when Brunson offered to take a piece of him, it gave him the confidence he needed to enter.
Negreanu also displays a rare bit of humility here, admitting that his heads-up opponent, Dominic Bourke, was "so much better" than him at pot-limit Hold'em, and also says that it almost seemed like he shouldn't have won.
"It was just surreal, because it felt like I didn't deserve it yet," says Negreanu. "It was too early in the game. It was my first event and I won already."
Top 10 Negreanu facts from the KidPoker documentary is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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