Daniel Negreanu fails to place in U.S. Poker Open leaderboards

Jon Pill
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Posted on 06/16/2021

The U.S. Poker Open was supposed to be a triumphant return to form for Daniel Negreanu. Instead, his performance was poor, compounding a year of ugly losses, and nearly a decade of mediocre performances.

We should stress that “poor” and “mediocre” mean different things when you’re talking about someone like Negreanu, who operated in the stratosphere for decades. I still wouldn’t want any of my bankroll in play on a table he’s playing at. The man’s still a shark.

In that light, his recent loss is a comedown from G.O.A.T. to “pretty great.”

When the USPO events started, Negreanu made a big announcement about chasing the leaderboard. In the end, he didn’t even place in the top ten. Eleven events (he missed one of the USPO’s dozen) is by no means enough to draw a line under a career. But it might well serve as the full-stop at the end of Negreanu’s final paragraph.

His performance included what he himself described as “one of the worst PLO hands in [his] entire life.”

Negreanu’s most recent first-place finish listed on the Hendon Mob was in 2015. His most recent WSOP bracelet was in 2008. I’m not counting, WSOPE or WSOP APAC. But even if you choose to count them, then it’s still been since 2013.

In fact, in the last year, he has become primarily known for high-profile losses. He lost to Doug Polk. He lost repeatedly to Phil Hellmuth. And he loses his temper every other day. You can put down his 2-0 loss to Hellmuth as variance if you like. 25,000 hands against Doug Polk is a harder one to lay at variance’s door. Especially when you look at Polk’s EV graph for the challenge.

Compared to his impressive past, there is a definite feeling of decline about Negreanu lately. It would be a little easier to watch if it didn’t seem to be triggering a dramatic mid-life crisis for the guy.

…and now doth time waste me.

Negreanu fell for the ChoiceCenter sales pitch a few years ago, and he doesn’t seem to have recovered since. ChoiceCenter offers a woo-based course based on improving emotional intelligence. Since completing the course, Negreanu seems infinitely more tiltable and less emotionally aware. From Twitter to Twitch, his temper seems shorter than ever. The irony is palpable, but the blame might not lie entirely with ChoiceCenter.

His entire life has been about poker. For a long time he has competed at the very top of the game. He is coming to terms with being merely very good at poker now, and that must be a hard hit to take for someone who was once among the planet’s top five players.

When framed like this, Negreanu’s odd reactionary stances to the world start to make sense. This is a man meeting his mid-life and failing to adapt.

From his patronizing takes on the state of the Middle East to his moderately transphobic position on women’s sports, to his defense of Dan Bilzerian’s repeated sexual misconduct, Negreanu sounds increasingly like the right-wing politicians that he spent the last four years lambasting.

No one can take Negreanu’s achievements away from him. Then again no one seems to be trying to do so half so hard as he is himself.

Featured image source: Flickr by WPT