Poker Mind In Depth Part III: Daniel Negreanu

[Content Disclosure: Poker Mind In Depth series]

I began my first session with Daniel Negreanu by asking about the difference between the 2004 World Series of Poker and the 2005 Series. In 2004 Daniel was WSOP Player of the Year with six cashes, five final tables and a bracelet. In 2005, there were just two small cashes and a lot of frustration. I asked Daniel how he dealt with those two very different years.

Daniel: "At 34 I have learned that there is a difference between playing bad and running bad. In 2005, I just flat out ran bad. I played well but I just got no cards. In 2004, I ran great. I think anyone who has that kind of a year has to acknowledge that they were running well. You have to be careful, when you are actually playing bad you have to adjust your game. But when you are simply running bad, you have to accept it and not try to tweak your game, which is essentially just fine the way it is. You can't fix the cards by fixing your game and you may just ruin your game by making adjustments that are unnecessary."

"I knew going into the 2005 Series that I had no chance of living up to the expectations of repeating my 2004 performance. Sure I was disappointed by my run in 2005, but my game was solid. There are times when you just have to accept it is not your day or even it is not your year. Just recently I have been running really well but not getting cards as we closed in on the final table. I have had a bunch of good runs in tournaments but no wins to show for it. Again, nothing wrong with my game, just going card dead at the wrong time."

Next, I covered the demands of PR, interviews and other drains on the players time and energy. With Daniel, Phil and Mike these can be so extensive that the players actually need a strategy to fit them all in, without cutting into their game concentration.

Daniel: "Actually for me this is pretty simple. The tournament breaks for me are too long, I don't need them. So when someone wants a quick interview on the break it is never a problem for me. Dinner break especially, I bring my own food, so dinner is an hour or more of dead time. I always tell the media to catch me at dinner."

"On the other hand, I do get requests that are not reasonable for my schedule. If I am playing the 5 PM Series event, then I am not going to come in for an ESPN interview at 1 PM. I have tournament preparation to do, even if that is playing a round of golf. But driving to the Rio through traffic four hours before my event is just not going to happen. Catch me at dinner or schedule me at four. I am probably the easiest guy to get an interview with."

Poker Shrink: "Speaking of easy, you also always seem to be willing to take the picture with a fan or sign an autograph. How do you deal with those demands.

Daniel: "Look if something has gone wrong that day, the fans don't know it. If you just wave them off, all they will remember is that they met me and I blew them off. You can't explain to every person that you are having a bad day. So, my attitude is that you have to keep all of that to yourself. Take a moment to sign the autograph or take the picture. A fan may only get one chance, maybe thirty seconds to meet you and I want that to be a positive experience."

Poker Shrink: "Let's continue with that positive attitude idea. I have seen you genuinely upset at the table just one time and you got past that very quickly. How do you stay so even through all the bad floor rulings and bad beats?"

Daniel: "You just simply have to stay professional. Yes, the bad beats are frustrating but bad floor calls are worse. Those just shouldn't happen. And I do have my say, but then it has to be over. It does me no good to get angry or upset, it can only have a negative effect on my game. Sure you should be involved, particularly about a floor ruling but then move on. The anger serves no useful purpose and can only hurt you in the long run."

I guess I should explain about that one time I saw Daniel upset at the table. I mentioned this incident recently in another post, it was the 2006 WSOP during a Short-Handed NLHE tournament. The interesting point here is that Daniel was justifiably upset, as were Gavin Smith and Kathy Liebert, who were also at the table. The floor made a terrible decision and did not inform the players of that decision. My point here is that after the discussion and the resolution of the dispute (a poor resolution from the player's point of view) for Daniel it was over. He was back to his game in less than one hand. His ability to not tilt or let a bad decision affect his game really was on display that day.

We will continue with Daniel in the next installment of The Poker Mind In Depth.