Daniel Negreanu – Poker Articles
My First Big Tournament WinPoker article written by Daniel Negreanu and published in Card Player Magazine
After attending my first World Series of Poker in ‘96, I just couldn’t wait to get back to playing the big tournaments. Of course, I wasn’t actually able to play any of the events at the WSOP in ‘96, but just being there gave me the itch. So, I decided to sporadically take some road trips and try to learn the ropes on the smaller-tournament circuit.
My first stop was Foxwoods, where I ran into an old friend from Ottawa, Rob Gingras. Rob was already a successful tournament player, and always a threat to win any event (more on Rob in the next issue). I wasn’t. I was very green, and as Bill Seymour once put it, “a little raw.”
Anyway, I got really deep in a few of those tournaments, and made a few cashes here and there but no final tables. Rob, of course, was battling for the best all-around player award, which was no surprise to me. I would have been happy to just make a final table, but that would have to wait.
I tried my luck at the Taj Mahal and managed to cash once there, too, but still, no final table. Let’s fast-forward to the ‘97 WSOP. My game was still a little too “raw,” and I wasn’t able to take a shot at any of the expensive tournaments there. It began to get a little frustrating, but at the same time, it motivated me that much more to improve.
A couple of my friends told me the action was good in Los Angeles, so I thought, what the heck. I’d never been to Commerce Casino before, and I really didn’t know anybody there. Of course, nobody knew me, either. It was the annual Heavenly Hold’em tournament, and the buy-ins were reasonable, $200 to $500. Luckily, my friend Rob Gingras was there, and that made me feel a little more comfortable.
The game was limit hold’em, the game in which I had the majority of my experience. I’d amassed some chips early and continued to build. At last, I would make the final table. Unfortunately for me, Eskimo Clark was also at that final table with the chip lead.
I was able to maneuver my way around and finally got heads up with the intimidating Eskimo. If you’ve ever seen Eskimo, you understand what makes him so intimidating. He is a big, burly man, with a dark beard that covers his entire face, and he has won numerous big-time tournaments. Just by looking at him it’s easy to understand where his nickname came from.
When we got heads up, Eskimo had a 6-to-1 chip lead on me. I could hear a few of the spectators already saying, ”Looks like Eskimo won another one.” For all intents and purposes, that was the case. Besides, who was I to play with the likes of Eskimo Clark? The result had already been predetermined by the onlookers, but I didn’t feel that way — not deep down inside of me.
We must have battled for a little over two hours. Never did I have a lead on him, but I just wouldn’t go away. At one point, I finally got close to even with him, and he stood up from the table. He went over to talk to, I assume, his backer at the time and said, ”Let’s cut the kid a deal.” At that point, I knew I had him. I knew he was getting tired, and was obviously fed up.
His backer said, “Oh, come on, finish him off.” Little did Eskimo know that even if his backer had agreed, I simply don’t make deals. About 20 minutes later, I finally had my first big win, a little more than $19,000 — making my bankroll about 10 times larger.
I learned something very important that day, something that may help you in the future, as well. Confidence is a necessity. Now, I don’t mean cockiness, that is something completely different. My confidence had suffered some through my first two years at the WSOP, but I was clearly overmatched there. Playing with players who were closer to my skill level gave me the confidence I needed, not to mention one other important point: Eskimo gave me confidence by indirectly declaring he’d had enough. That was just what I needed to get me over the top. It was the perfect psychological boost. The importance of psychological warfare was something I would be conscious of and use as a weapon from that point on.
I realized how important it is not to look defeated, and to never let your opponents know that you are wounded. My position of no dealmaking has won me my fair share of tournaments. I never cared for the money that much, because I knew the money would come eventually. I took advantage of others in tournaments who were worried about the money. ”Oh, come on, I’ll give you a good deal.” No. “How about this?” Sorry, no thank you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been down to threehanded when both of my opponents have glanced over at the prize board to see the difference between second and third place. They were playing not to lose, while I was playing to win. They made it easy on me.
Deals are not all bad, they’re just not for me. If I can put financial pressure on my opponents, or show them that I’m afraid of nothing, that can only help me. Anything you can do to give yourself that extra edge should be exploited — anything within the rules of poker and ethics, that is.
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Card Player Poker Articles
With over one hundred poker articles spanning the last five years and a new poker article written every two weeks and published in Card Player magazine, Daniel Negreanu brings the world of poker to the tables of countless poker enthusiasts and poker players alike.
As a regular Card Player columnist, Daniel's poker articles have helped many readers learn the game of poker from the early days of an upcoming professional poker player to the realization of a true poker champion last year as Daniel became the 2004 Card Player Player of the Year, as well as, one of the most successful tournament players in history with 36+ worldwide wins and bragging rights as the WPT All-Time Top Money Winner.
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