Negreanu says Phill Hellmuth is stupid
No one has won as much money at poker tournaments as Daniel Negreanu. The 43-year old Canadian has already received around $ 36 million in prize money, leading the world’s money list. In addition, “Kid Poker” secured six winning bracelets at the World Poker Championship in his home town of Las Vegas.
Negreanu has been one of the top professional players for 20 years and is one of the few poker stars in the United States outside of the scene. He made an appearance in an X-Men blockbuster and starred in a music video by Katy Perry. When he sits in the stands as a fan of the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, he is shown and cheered on the video cube. Negreanu is a real poker figurehead.
In the SPORT1 interview he talks about his personal poker training and private laps with Hollywood stars. In addition, he shoots against his long-time rival Phil Hellmuth, who had criticized the top German pros at SPORT1.
The interview between Sport1 and Daniel Negreanu
SPORT1: Mr. Negreanu, poker is changing. What do you do to stay at the top of the world?
Daniel Negreanu: The game keeps evolving. I have been there for 20 years. Every few years, I look at myself: What are the young players doing right now? What do they learn and how do they learn it? If you do not understand what they are doing, you will not stay relevant and competitive. I worked hard with coaches last October, November and December to improve my game. For example with a software developer from California. It is very important to do that. I think the game has changed in the last 1-2 years more dramatically than in the decade before, largely because of better and better analysis and training software.
SPORT1: How did you go about your training camp?
Negreanu: My coaches came to my house, working four to six hours a day. Sometimes we just looked at one hand and analyzed it for four hours. I used to think, what does the opponent think about me? Then I tried to adjust my game accordingly. Today I think: what would be the right strategy and how I would play against a computer in this situation? We’ve worked a lot on formulas, but you can use them at game speed – because in the High Roller tournaments, there is a 30-second shot clock.
SPORT1: The expensive high roller tournaments with buy ins of 50,000, 100,000 or even a million dollars have been dominated recently by young German players. Their longtime opponent Phil Hellmuth said in a recent SPORT1 interview that the Germans are still not the best players in the world. What do you think?
Negreanu: Phil Hellmuth is – in a word – stupid! The truth is: Deep inside, he knows he can not beat the Germans. He is jealous. He could just say: Okay, they are very good, they work hard, they are the best in the world and they play the high roller tournaments because they can. Instead, he has to insult and criticize them. I challenge him more often because I know that’s nonsense. It just is not true.
SPORT1: Hellmuth criticizes that the Germans play only the expensive tournaments against the same, small group of opponents. Including often rich businessmen. He, on the other hand, would compete in cheaper tournaments with much larger fields. Nevertheless, he has recorded more than $ 20 million in prize money.
Negreanu: The Germans could also play the cheaper tournaments and would be the best players there too. They are the cream of the crop. Phil has no chance in their tournaments. He is just delusional and jealous. The truth is, he would play the expensive tournaments if he thought he had a chance. Or if he got the money for it together. These tournaments are very, very expensive. So you either find people who invest in you, or you only put your own money in, just like I do. I think Phil does not want both. It is easier for him to distract and offend people. When I say: Hey, I bet against you, he always talks big. But he never gets in. Because he is a coward! He actually knows the truth, but he does not want to admit it publicly. I think that would damage his ego.
SPORT1: After all, he is a record world champion with 13 World Series of Poker winning bracelets. He says: The bracelets are the most important.
Negreanu: Why do you think he says that? (laughs) He even invented his own “Player of the Year” award. Do you know what the list looks like? Only the tournaments he has played – nothing else matters! Of course, WSOP bracelets are important. He has more than anyone else because he played in times when it was easier to win. But to say that the High Roller tournaments are not important and the biggest performance test, just is not true. I mean, these are the best players in the world today. That’s just a fact.
SPORT1: Speaking of performance test – SPORT1 shows from January 26 the highlights of the European Poker Tour exclusively on TV. What is special about this tournament series?
Negreanu: The EPT is currently the most successful tour in the world in terms of player numbers and quality. The tournaments are very tough and very prestigious. To win an EPT tournament is extremely difficult.
SPORT1: The new Hollywood movie “Molly’s Game”, released in March, is all about different games, namely secret celebrity poker games. Have you ever participated in such games?
Negreanu: I participated in such a celebrity game several years ago. In the house of actor Tobey Maguire. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Black, a few Hollywood producers and such people were there too. It was fun. There were also relatively high stakes. To be nice, I did not look at my cards before the flop. Then it’s more fun! (laughs) I also joined the Casino Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was actually a private game, they just played it there. These were very good laps, very lucrative. But that was never my scene.
SPORT1: Who was the best player among the stars?
Negreanu: So, when I played, certainly by far Tobey Maguire. He was good. He could have become a pro.
SPORT1: Again and again, celebrities from other industries compete in highly-paid poker tournaments, in Germany for example Boris Becker. What do you make of it?
Negreanu: It makes sense: Let’s take athletes. When their careers are over, they continue to be competitive people. Many play poker later because they experience the same intoxication just without breaking their bodies. Actors often go to poker because there are many similarities. You bluff and make a certain face. I think it’s only natural that these people like to play poker. That’s the cool thing about poker. I also wanted to play basketball against Michael Jordan or golf against Tiger Woods. Thats not OK. In poker, you can compete on equal terms with the best players in the world. You just need the money.