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Daniel Negreanu gets hundreds of e-mails from people who believe they are on the threshold of making a big splash in the poker, but need the 2004 Player of the Year to help them reach their potential.
"Of course I can't help everybody," Negreanu says. But it did give him the idea for a great promotion.
Negreanu, a spokesman for FullContactPoker.com, created "Daniel's Protégé," a single-table tournament consisting of 10 online qualifiers vying for a grand prize which includes personal instruction from Negreanu himself and $40,000 in tournament entry fees.
"(The winner) gets a chance to be the person that I take under my wing and take on the road for fourth months," Negreanu says. "(He'll get) a taste of the life; what it's like to be a pro. I'll teach him everything I know, fix his game and make him a better poker player and give him a chance to win millions."
While the statement might seem like marketing hyperbole, the tournament winner, Brian Fidler, has proven that it could become reality. Fidler, a 27-year old hedge fund accountant from Stamford, Conn., finished second at the World Series of Poker Circuit event at Lake Tahoe earlier this month to net more than $200,000 in winnings.
"It takes skill of course, but it also takes a good run of cards," says Fidler. "It's amazing how many great players there were at (the circuit event in Lake Tahoe), and I outlasted 108 of 109 of them. It's crazy."
Not too shabby for a guy who's only played poker for a little more than two years. And according to Fidler, this is just the beginning.
While he has already received some instruction from Negreanu, Fidler asserts that the most important lessons are still to come.
"He's taught me a lot on how to think and a lot of general stuff about tournament strategy," Fidler says. "Now (that he's seen me play) he can actually fit that towards my style, which is pretty cool, seeing that I've already done pretty well in a tournament."
Fidler will be Negreanu's protégé for four months. He has already played in two $10,000 buy-in events, and will also play in the $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event in late July. Fidler will use the remaining $10,000 in prize money to buy into a number of smaller buy-in events starting in mid-July.
While the tournament buy-ins and advice from Negreanu are great prizes, Fidler is also enjoying his time living life like a professional poker player. During his trips to tournaments, Fidler has been able to skip lines at some of Las Vegas' most popular clubs and has played golf with some the world's top poker players.
Negreanu has mentioned the games on his blog, saying of one game, "Fidler absolutely stunk it up on the golf course. His score card looked like: 8 8 8 7 8 9 6."
The digs at his game, however, don't bother Fidler, who played golf for his high school team, as much as losing money on the course does.
"I'm going to be going to the range a few times a week, trying to catch up a little bit," Fidler says. "I don't want to lose any more money to (Negreanu). That was the worst part of my vacation last time."
While Fidler may not be able to match Negreanu on the golf course, he just might end up matching wits against his mentor during this summer's World Series of Poker.
In his previous life, Aaron Todd was a sports journalist by day and a poker player by night. He can now be found covering the poker beat for Casino City and making horrendously unsuccessful bluffs in his home game.
Write to Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org.