2013 was a banner year for Daniel Negreanu. It’s the only instance in his career in which he won two World Series of Poker bracelets in the same year – one in April, in the main event of WSOP Asia-Pacific in Australia, and the second in a WSOP Europe High Roller in France.
Negreanu’s fifth and sixth career WSOP bracelets had people rightfully talking about a charge towards the upper echelons of the all-time list. At that point, Phil Hellmuth was well ahead of the pack at 13, with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan tied at 10 WSOP wins and Phil Ivey one behind at 9.
And over the last decade, tournament success has continued to be abundant in Negreanu’s life. He passed $50 million in lifetime tournament cashes, and racked up a staggering $14,219,969 in results in live WSOP events alone. But since October 2013, one very specific thing has eluded one of the greatest tournament poker players to ever take to the felt – another WSOP bracelet.
To put that into context, two players – Brian Hastings and Shaun Deeb – have each won five WSOP bracelets in that stretch. Eleven others have four WSOP bracelets. Hellmuth bumped the all-time record up to 16, and Ivey got to 10.
And that’s not to say Negreanu hasn’t been close. His two biggest WSOP cashes in his career have happened during this stretch – a pair of runner-up finishes in the 2014 Big One for One Drop and 2019 $100,000 High Roller. He’s had five second-place finishes in the last 10 years, along with five third-place results and 20 final tables.
Some of the best boxers in history made their careers on absorbing punches and continuing to push forward. But even for Negreanu, who has watched the Rocky movies more times than he can count, getting that close so many times just to get knocked down again and then waking up again to play the next day is a feat in and of itself.
“On one hand, I’m resilient, obviously, to be able to sort of take the beats and keep coming back,” Negreanu said. “On the other hand, I’m also emotional. I allow myself to experience the experience and feel everything. People see that in the vlogs on a daily basis. This isn’t a game where it’s as simple as if you do all the right things, you win. It can be frustrating when things go bad. But [I feel it in that moment], I wake up the next morning and I can’t wait to play again.”
The anticipation that Negreanu has for this summer is palpable, and he’s had May 30 circled on his calendar since the WSOP schedule was announced. He’s spent months training to get his mind and body as locked in as he can possibly be. With the 88 tournaments he has on his radar, with buy-ins from $300 to $250,000, covering No Limit Hold’em and every mixed game under the sun, Negreanu puts a lot of stock into the prep work being as important as getting thing done once cards are in the air at Horseshoe Las Vegas.
“I understand the grind,” Negreanu said. “And so what I do is before the World Series of Poker, I get in decent shape physically, because I know for seven weeks what it takes. That means a lot of coffee, a lot of chocolate, chips, sugar, whatever the case may be – whatever my body needs in those moments. I set aside that seven weeks to just go as hard as possible and leave it out on the field.”
By the time everything is wrapping up at the WSOP in mid-July, it’s hard to count many players who are more likely to end the series with at least one title, even considering Negreanu’s long, unlikely dry spell out of the winner’s circle. He embodies the question, “Who wants it more?” every time he steps up to a table, and he’ll fiercely grind out an amateur-laden $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event with the same focus and intensity he puts into his yearly favorite, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship.
That tournament in particular represents everything that he loves about the game of poker. And while he’d be happy to win his seventh career WSOP bracelet at any point this summer, it would carry particular meaning to break through in the PPC.
“It’s just special,” said Negreanu. “It’s a very deep structure, it’s all the games and I pride myself on being an all-around player. With a lot of other events, even the $250K, I’m going to be playing the $1,500 or whatever smaller buy-in event the day before, and if I missed the $250K, so be it. But the [only tournament I won’t do that for is the] $50K Poker Players Championship. I won’t miss that, and I’ll show up on time, too.”
Clearing out a day on his WSOP schedule carries even more meaning when you look at Negreanu’s schedule and realize there’s only two open days from May 30 through the end – June 17 and July 4, the latter of which is also the day before Day 1C of the WSOP Main Event.
That kind of commitment, paired with the long list of results Negreanu has racked up over the years and the amount of himself he’s shared with the world via his vlogs and social media have kept him among the most recognizable faces in poker for the last 20 years. Negreanu’s also constantly looking for the next move to keep himself ahead of the curve, and that’s certainly part of the equation for 2023.
As Negreanu heads to Horseshoe Las Vegas every day, his fans and investors will be right there with him with a piece of the action. Negreanu sold 25% of his action online at PokerStake, allowing others to share in his wins and losses throughout his marathon journey of events.
“I play poker, but I don’t need the money. I do it for fun, I do it because I love it and it’s my craft,” said Negreanu. “But when I decided I was going to do the vlog [again], I wanted to help promote [myself and] the World Series of Poker so I thought what better way than to give people a chance to have a little piece of the action and a sweat along with me.
“Every day in your inbox, or your subscription on YouTube, you get to watch 20 minutes [and see] your money on the line. When you think of sports and you’re watching an 0-7 team against an 0-9 team, there’s nothing interesting about that game. But it becomes a little more interesting if you’ve got a little bit of money on it. That’s kind of what I was thinking – creating a spectacle, and it’s like a sports show or reality show where you have an additional sweat.”
Everyone with money on the line will be watching along with the vlogs all summer, and poker fans around the world will be keeping an eye on how Negreanu performs along the way. Could 2023 be the year where Negreanu finally breaks through again, and resumes his climb up the top 10 on the all-time WSOP bracelet list? At the outset, it doesn’t seem like a smart move to bet against him.
And while he stopped well short of a guarantee, Negreanu’s feeling locked in heading into the $25,000 6-Max No Limit Hold’em event on Tuesday, and everything beyond.
“I think with every year at the World Series, you learn a couple of tricks in terms of what helps you, and I’ve had a lot of experience,” Negreanu said. “And I feel good about my game.”