It’s for love and fun of poker
For Kid Poker, the world is full of donkeys. And he likes it that way. The more donkeys at the poker table, the richer Kid Poker gets. The more donkeys roaming the country at large, the more readers Kid Poker gets for his syndicated newspaper column.
Which raises the question: Why would Daniel Negreanu, the all-time biggest money winner on the professional poker circuit, a baby-faced guy who collects money by the pound, not by denominations -- why would Kid Poker want to write a newspaper column? I mean, it's like Donald Trump writing a column about how to build hotels or billionaire T. Boone Pickens writing a column about how to stack large amounts of cash.
So, because Negreanu is officially this newspaper's poker columnist, I thought I would ask him that question. Along with a few others, like, "Daniel, can you spare a fellow columnist a quick million?" (The Star-Bulletin runs Negreanu's column, "Card Shark," on Tuesdays.)
But pinning down Kid Poker for interrogation is like trying to grab a playing card in a typhoon. With poker -- particularly the deceptively complex haiku-like game of Texas Hold'em -- more popular than gravity, Negreanu is hard to catch. I thought I had him cornered for a phone interview in Copenhagen, where he was knocked out of the European Poker Tour championship by a fellow Poker Stars-sponsored player. He then e-mailed me from Australia, where he was involved in some secret movie project, but before we could talk, he had taken wing again. I hoped he would stop by Hawaii, where he honeymooned with his future ex-wife in 2005, but he zipped directly back to his home base in Las Vegas, where we finally spoke.
I REALIZED THEN that -- as fellow columnists -- our lives were a lot alike: In just a few weeks, he had traveled thousands and thousands of miles and made thousands and thousands of dollars, while I had walked up and down the stairs several times between my home office to the kitchen in my underwear.
In the end there wasn't much mystery as to why he became a columnist. You see, once you've won and lost your first several million dollars, money ceases to be a motivating factor in your life.
"It's an opportunity to promote the game, to make poker accessible to a wider audience," he says in his trademark rapid-fire manner of speaking. And that's the thing: Kid Poker plays poker because it's fun, and, as far as he's concerned, that's the only reason to do it.
When you see Negreanu sitting behind a stack of chips taller than he is at the World Series of Poker or one of the many World Poker Tour events, he seems to be having a blast. He's laughing, talking and taunting while it seems most of the other players are steaming, tilting and grinding.
Even in the televised High Stakes Poker games, where hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands minute by minute, Negreanu is having fun. But his "oh gosh" boyish manner disguises a ruthless poker tactician. There is a method to his brashness, and he doesn't mind sharing tips with his readers. In a recent column, for instance, he gave novice players the counterintuitive instruction to make large bets early each hand. That sounds like telling a novice boxer to lean into an opponent's punch, but by betting big, the beginner poker player actually has a chance against the sharks. For an untrained journalist, Negreanu's writing is amazingly clear and readable.
"Writing is not something I learned in school," he said, "but I don't find it difficult. I write as I would speak. If I have a choice between a big word or an easier word, I'll pick the easier word."
In the poker world, bad card players are known as "donkeys." Negreanu lovingly refers to many of his high-stakes opponents as "random donkeys." It's his job in life to free the random donkeys of their money and teach his millions of readers how not to become donkeys. For Kid Poker the quest is priceless.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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