Pucks & Poker: Talking Hockey & Hold’em With WPT Champions Club Member Daniel Negreanu

Dec 15, 2021

Daniel Negreanu always has time to talk hockey. (Joe Giron photo)
Daniel Negreanu always has time to talk hockey. (Joe Giron photo)

By Sean Chaffin

Daniel Negreanu brings plenty of history to the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. The Poker Hall of Famer captured the title in Season III for $1.8 million, the second of his two WPT championships. In Season V, he finished third in this same event for another $592,000. Negreanu was among the field again on Wednesday hoping for another deep run. So far things were going well in the beginning of the tournament.

“I started off pretty hot,” he says. “I gambled with flush draw and got there and busted a couple guys. I’ve got over 100,000. I had over 140,000, now I’ve got about 110,000.”

Negreanu now has more than $6.3 million in WPT winnings and $45 million overall. He also scored a nice run in the World Series of Poker this fall, finishing third in the Player of the Year race behind Phil Hellmuth (second) and Josh Arieh (first).

Beyond poker, Negreanu is also passionate about hockey and once again offered WPT.com some of his views on the sport. The NHL was set to take a break for the upcoming 2022 Olympics with players heading to play for their home countries in China. However, recent COVID-19 outbreaks may play a part in altering those plans.

“I don’t think that it’s going to happen,” Negreanu says. “I don’t think the Canadian and American teams are going to go. Robin Lehner, the goalie here [in Las Vegas] and from Sweden] has already said he’s not going to go. Because it’s China, if you’re already concerned about what the rules will be of living in an authoritarian state, they can keep you in a hotel room for five weeks. A lot of these guys will go crazy and I’m sure they won’t be giving them equipment to work out and stuff like that.

“I think unless something changes in the next month or two, it would be a mistake for them to go and I don’t think a lot of these players would be willing to take the risk.”

When it comes to the NHL, Negreanu isn’t certain this year about handicapping teams to watch as possible Stanley Cup contenders. Through the years, Negreanu has regularly shared his NHL views and insight on Twitter as well as some of his wagers. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has only added to the difficulty in making projections about the league.

“It’s so hard to tell now because every day you hear seven guys missing from that team, eight guys missing from this team,” he says. “I do think Vegas is rounding in form right now. When Eichel comes, if that works out, they’ll be pretty deep. They’re going to have to lose a couple players to get under the cap. But I think Vegas is poised.”

The Knights traded for Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel in November. He then underwent artificial disk replacement surgery and is expected to be back on the ice for the Knights in three to five months. Because of so many strong teams in the Eastern Conference, Negreanu sees it as almost too difficult to pick a team that might rise to the top.

“It’s so hard to tell because the East is one of the toughest conferences in the history of hockey,” he says. “Almost every team is good so it’s hard to see who’s going to come out of there. Colorado is coming on, but they don’t have the goaltending. The only team I feel confident in for a final four is Vegas.”

When the subject turns back to poker, Negreanu is pleased to see some momentum for the online version in the U.S. The game is now regulated on a state-by-state basis with legal online poker now in Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Delaware. West Virginia and Connecticut have also legalized, but haven’t seen any operators launch in those states. Legislators in other states have expressed interest in legal online gaming in recent years and interstate compacts may add even more to that. Kid Poker sees things moving in the right direction.

“I think it’s going to go state to state,” he says. “The experiments are already happening in Vegas and New Jersey and stuff, so people take a look and if it seems to be viable and worthwhile, it will just happen that way – slowly progressing. I think people are better off not worrying about a federal law because it’s never going to happen – like ever.”

Back at the live tables in the Bellagio, Negreanu continued finding some traction and had built his stack up to 135,000 near the end of Level 7 as he sat among the early chip leaders.

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer based in New Mexico and Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.

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