The following is the full transcript of my interview with DN done for an article published in this month's U.K. edition of the WPT Magazine. If you're not familiar with the magazine (while it's Britain's largest selling poker publication, it's not available on U.S. or Canadian newsstands), you can find many of their articles posted on the WPT Magazine site. The edited and published version of this interview isn't up on the site as of yet, but it will be soon. You'll be able to find it in its polished form at http://www.worldpoke...r.com/magazine/One of the problems with converting an interview to article format is the wealth of information one has to cut due to space restrictions. What is 5,500 words of transcribed interview here must be cut down to 1,200 words to fit the allotted space in the magazine. As such, I've posted this for those who are interested in reading the full interview, which covers a much wider subject range, and certain areas in more detail. I am well aware of the numerous grammatical shortcomings. This is not polished for publishing, nor do I wish to spend the time copy-editing all of it. Also, please remember that speech doesn't always translate to print smoothly or eloquently, so there are a couple of areas that might be a little choppy. Disclaimer: This interview, or any parts thereof, may not be commercially reproduced without permission of the WPT Magazine.Tuesday November 21, 2006WPT: I guess we’ll start off by discussing the Protégé tournament, and what your reaction was to Fidler taking down the event at Lake Tahoe, and how successful you feel the first Protégé was as a result of that:DN: Well when we came up with the event, we realized that four $10,000 buy-ins was an amazing prize. Even with great teaching, however, it’s still going to be difficult for a player to do well. Top pros play in ten, fifteen tournaments without doing anything, so any type of cash I would have been excited about with Fidler, but then he ends up chip leader heading into the final table, which just blew my mind. To be heads up, for the World Series of Poker Circuit Event with an opportunity to play in the Tournament of Champions at the end of the year was just mind-boggling. I felt for him too, when he came in second. You could tell he was ecstatic to be there, but totally disappointed when he came in second, even though he’d won himself a quarter million dollars. WPT: And how would you rate his play, especially in relation to things you’d worked on with him?DN: It’s amazing he did as well as he did, because we hadn’t finished. There was still certain parts of his game that had what I would call holes, but he had good instincts, and he had good discipline, and he had obviously improved. It showed when he got heads up, though, and he made a couple of mistakes about things we hadn’t had time to get into yet. You know the funny thing is he played in a couple of tournaments after that – and he played even better, but he wasn’t very lucky and didn’t do as well. He was already a decent player coming in however.WPT: Which he definitely proved by winning the first Protégé…. Looking towards the second one, however, what are you looking to change from the first, and what made you decide to switch the venue to the Bahamas?DN: Well the Bahamas is a fun environment, and you know the first one we had a great time, the whole group of the first ten Protégé finalists, and I thought about how it was an experience for all of us, so why not do this one in the Bahamas, it’s beautiful there. As far as changes, and some of the struggles we had in the first, we were doing a live webcam as well as filming a television show. This caused a lot more breaks, and other things which were not expected, so for the second one I expect things to run much smoother. Also the structure of the event will be changed, even though there was a lot of play, because I’m big on that - there’s going to be even more play in this one. WPT: And how much input did you have into the structure and design of both these tournaments? Is this most recent one going to represent your “ideal” structure?DN: Yup, I designed this structure in every way, shape and form - it’s all my baby. I feel you can apply a structure that is exactly the same for any event, but manipulate how long the rounds go for. (Impressively rhymes off an entire tournament blind level structure) – you can keep that structure and make it a 4 hour event or a 12 hour event by playing around with level times. I think it’s important to have that gradual increase in blinds, however, as opposed to other events that just go double double. WPT: There was that issue with Foxwoods a few weeks ago now, and I’m wondering what you’re hoping to see from the WPT with respect to the standardization of their rules, and how important getting those rules standardized is to the integrity of the events for the players?DN: Well from a player’s perspective, you have to understand that event is World Poker Tour branded. You come to expect to see the same sorts of things but unfortunately right now the way it’s set up the World Poker Tour simply films local events at different places. They are not all necessarily World Poker Tour events, they are simply filmed by the World Poker Tour, and I would highly suggest they change that. Too often you go from place to place, and you encounter rules which are completely different from what you’re used to, they’re not standardized, you know “what’s this rule” “why’s this happening” – some places have slow structures, some places have fast structures, and they put the onus of finding all this stuff out on the players, by checking it out on the website or whatever.The World Poker Tour should protect the integrity of its events by mandating and standardizing simple rules. Like 9 handed tables for example. You don’t want a venue that says “well we’re going to go to 11 handed tables”. You want nine handed tables, you want a similar amount of play per day, you want each one to be a five day poker event. You don’t want to be cramming 18 hour days three days in a row to finish off an event – there should be set amounts of time limits and things like that. And that shouldn’t be too difficult to implement, but it’s extremely important for the players. It’s unfortunate when a player goes to a different event after playing at Bellagio and then says “this is crap”, you know “this is complete crap”. There should be standardized level increases. Some places are 75 minutes, other 90 minutes, some places 25 minutes, what’s going on with this?WPT: Do you think the WPT has enough power as a brand to ask, or strongly suggest if you will, that these tournaments start being run their way?DN: Here’s the thing, I think originally when the World Poker Tour was created they were just looking to get revenue, and they weren’t looking to be the dominant voice in saying “you know you have to do things like we say”. But I feel that new casinos they go to, or any time their contract is up with a casino, they should actually have these standardized rules as a part of the contract. I think they’re big enough, and a powerful enough brand now that they can put pressure on these casinos to do things the World Poker Tour way.WPT: Quick toss up: who’s the more dominant brand – the World Poker Tour or the World Series of Poker?DN: Well the World Series of Poker, for a couple of reasons, most notably the network that it’s on. The WPT is stuck on the travel channel, whereas the WSOP is on ESPN. And also play time, the World Series Events get a ton of re-run time on both ESPN and ESPN 2, so the World Series of Poker because it’s bigger and also because it's been around longer.WPT: Going back a bit, I know you personally find the structure problems frustrating, but have you also heard this from other top players, and even regular people who buy into these tournaments or win qualifiers?DN: Yeah I think a lot of people get annoyed or frustrated when they find out about this kind of stuff after the fact. You know when they tell you that “well it was posted on the website”, I mean if you’re going to do something radically different, it should be your responsibility to let the players know. It’s frustrating to show up at a venue and find out “I’ve got to play 16 hours on Day 1?!” You come from Bellagio where you play 12-9, 12-9, and 12-9 then they sit you down at 10 and they tell you to play until 2 in the morning? It’s unfortunate players don’t find out these kinds of things until they’ve already paid. If they are going to do something different like that, they should be clear about it.WPT: For those who play recreationally, or who play but don’t put in those kind of sessions, can you equate the mental, and even physical, stress it puts on your body to something else you’ve done or know of? DN: It’d be hard to relate it to anything else, but anyone who says that, I mean do they understand what it’s like to be 50 years old, to have to wake up and get prepared for 10a.m., sit there for 16 hours, and then the next morning get up and do it all over again? Because it really does wear on you, if I had to compare it to something comparable it’d be auto-racing, when you look at the Indy 500 or something like that. If you lose your concentration for one small bit of time, you’re going to crash into the wall, and even die. Well poker you’re not going to die, but it requires the same type of intense focus, and these racing guys are exhausted when it’s over. Obviously racing is more physical, but when you do 16 hours day one, 16 hours day two, then have to put in two more days – it’s a huge advantage for the younger players.WPT: Do you find people in better shape, or perhaps people that live and eat healthier, tend to do better in these tournaments? What kind of a role does your health and physical preparation play?DN: I think it plays a huge role. Maybe not on the first day, but you know by day three, if you’ve been eating terribly and haven’t been sleeping, eating a lot of heavy food and drinking booze – it’s going to wear on you and you’re going to become exhausted. Being in better physical shape is going to allow you to be less mentally stressed, and if you look at these events later on, you see these fit guys doing well; Allen Cunningham, John Juanda, Gus Hansen, myself – these are people who actually take care of their bodies. WPT: Looking forward now, are you planning on taking part in any of the European Poker Tour events, or any other events in Europe?DN: I’d like to, there’s one scheduled in March which I’m hoping to make, but I have to see how it fits my schedule. But I’d definitely like to spend more time in Europe, because I haven’t spent a lot of time there.WPT: Can you perhaps comment on some of the differences in European poker players compared to North American players?DN: That’s an easy one. I can always spot a European player based on the way they play their hands before the flop. Generally speaking, the American style, of the good players at least, is what we call “chop away”. Making smaller raises and betting smaller amounts, calling before the flop raises – trying to see a lot of flops. The European players play a much more aggressive style preflop. For example, where the blinds are 100-200 I might come in for five hundred with a given hand that a European might be raising up to 1500 or 1200, something much bigger. Hands like 77 or 88, or AJs, players like myself might call a 500 raise, whereas a European might push for 5000 more. They also make very large sized bets on the flop, they believe more in winning the pots early whereas the American style is to look to be a little more careful. I think that it’s a dangerous style, the European style, in the sense that you’re forced to play preflop with them, but they also risk themselves and expose themselves a lot more often, and much more easily trapped than American players. WPT: Is that why perhaps a lot of the top European players haven’t necessarily translated their EPT or other European tournaments success well in North America? DN: I don’t think that’s the case, I think it’s a question of geography, and them actually making it over here. I think that both styles can do well in tournament poker, the only thing about the European style is that it is much more difficult to be a consistent winner, because you depend on not running into big hands. Because when you do – you’re done. You know you make a move before the flop, push all your chips in, and the other guy has Kings. It’s like “oops, see ya”. WPT: Are you saying that European play relies more on, not what I’d call luck, but maybe a short-stack mentality of play, would you agree?DN: Yes, in a way. I mean they take bigger risks without seeing the flop, and on the flop make really big bets. The idea is “I’m aggressive, I’m going to protect this pot with everything I’ve got, and if I get caught, oh well…. Sort of like an all-or-nothing approach”. It does sort of coincide with the European way of life, in a sense, they’re all or nothing kind of people. They’re passionate people, they live life to its fullest, and they play poker the same way – by the seat of their pants. “I’m ready to go let’s do it” you know?WPT: Who, in your opinion, based on what you’ve heard and who you’ve played against, would you say is the best European tournament or cash game player(s) right now?DN: Well there’s a guy like Surinder Sunar, who’s always a threat in tournaments. Overall, I think part of the wave of the future is already here in guys like Julian Gardner, who came second in the World Series Main Event. He’s a very talented player, although he does play a more “American” styled game, he doesn’t play like the typical European does. WPT: Shifting gears to the new U.S. gambling legislation, which is now obviously a huge topic in the poker world, perhaps you might first share your thoughts on where this all came from and how it came about? DN: Well first off it’s simply absurd. A guy name Bill Frist, a Republican, had been trying to get an online gaming bill passed for quite some time, but was not successful. So what he did was pull just a very shady political play, in that he attached it to a bill that had to pass, the Port Security Bill, which is very important. He’s just one of these shady guys who comes in the middle of the night and pulls the wool over everyone’s eyes. Now the reason for him doing this is because he has problems with gambling, but it’s so hypocritical and wrong that he’s accepting money from Harrah’s to fund his campaign. I mean what does he think Harrah’s does? You know they don’t sell shoes. I believe wholeheartedly that it was just an attempt to appeal to the conservative religious right, but I think he missed the boat on poker. He needs to understand that poker isn’t something that’s looked down upon in the bible. Nowhere in the bible does it say you can’t play poker, and nowhere in the bible does it even say you can’t gamble. I think the reason for him doing it was “oh I’m going to touch upon the of the moral fibers of the voters and we’re going to win more votes”. But I think the opposite of that’s happened. I think a lot of the people who grew up Republican, poker players especially, will never vote Republican again. Moving forward, Bill Frist was definitely able to put a big dent into online poker. But he won’t kill it. All the law really says is that it’s illegal for U.S. banks to transact with online gaming sites. Frankly that wasn’t even happening anyway. Banks would send money over to Neteller, which would then move the money to the online sites. And that’s still pretty much status quo. Banks have 9 months to comply with the law, and in that time new forms of payment will come about and these online sites will flourish. A couple of years ago there was a law passed saying credit card companies couldn’t do this either, and everyone thought “oh this is the end of online poker”. Far from it. Neteller’s come up, Firepay, debit cards, and other things. Online poker’s too big, and it’s great to see that the rest of the world gets it. Italy just got onboard, and the United Kingdom trades these companies publicly, and it’s a great way to get more tax money and stuff like that. If the U.S. government were to regulate it, they’d be looking at 5-6 billion dollars a year. If I was a politician, I’d be using that as a selling point as why we should have it, you know “I’m going to lower your taxes”. WPT: Have you ever been interested in running for politics in any capacity?DN: I can’t. I’m honest. I tell the truth and stuff, that doesn’t usually work if you’re a politician (laughing). WPT: An organization like the Poker Player’s Alliance, which is now over 125,000 strong, I know you’ve been encouraging people in your blogs to join, but how powerful could an organization like this be? As a poker players organization, do you think it could get big enough to be a threat to congress or the senate?DN: Well I wouldn’t call it a threat, I would say that it needs to get much bigger, it needs to have about a million people. There’s more than enough poker players, the word needs to get out. Basically the only way we’re going to get things done in the poker world is to go the lobbyists and things like that, and get them signing off on some things. If we have a million strong, that’s too much to ignore. People running for office and people in office and so on can’t ignore that many people. Before talking about that, however, I think there was a mistake made by these online sites before all of this started. They should have been greasing the palms of the politicians before this happened. Bill Frist accepted money from Harrah’s, this guy who’s morally… whatever, and if some of the bigger sites like Party Poker had of just spent 5 or 10 million dollars, to fund some of these politicians, then we probably would have been okay right now. WPT: Do you see this situation reversing itself in the next decade or so?DN: Yes, I think it’s inevitable. Who knows, maybe this is already one of the steps that they’re going through, you know trying to cripple the online market so they can turn around and regulate it, that’s one of the theories out there. But it’s too strong, it’s too popular, you cannot regulate the internet. Really, it’s so offensive what the U.S. government is doing with this. Let me give you an example. If I went to Amsterdam and smoked a joint in Amsterdam, and had sex with a prostitute in Amsterdam, which both are perfectly legal, would I now be a criminal in the United States of America because it’s not legal there? The reason I say that is because when you go online, into cyberspace, you’re basically visiting other countries. When I go to a .uk site I’m essentially visiting another country. I should be under the laws of that country, not where the computer is actually located. For the government to try to say that what you do in the privacy of your own home, where you visit, if they’re going to start that war, well porn is a much bigger problem than online poker. WPT: Is there any part of his arguments that you’ve said “Okay well maybe he’s got a bit of a point there?”DN: I’ll tell you what the problem is. With any one of his points they’re so hypocritical because the government offers the crack-cocaine of gambling, the state lotteries – and online as well. When you say gambling is wrong you’re being such a something or other hypocrite, I mean you’re being just such a edit. The truth of it is also that they don’t understand poker, they don’t understand that the player has a chance to make a living. If he has any point, it’s that clearly more people lose than win at online poker. But a lot of people take on endeavors that they’re not going to do well in. A lot of people open up restaurants, right? A lot of them aren’t going to be successful, but are we going to take away their right to try and open up these restaurants and say “you’re just not going to make it buddy, sorry, but it’s not going to work”? The majority of small restaurants, probably something like 95% are not successful. Should not the U.S. government step in and say “you know what Mamma and Pappa, we’re not going to let you do this because chances are you’re going to go bankrupt?” What’s the difference between that kind of gambling and putting your money on the poker table? The majority will fail, but a lot will still make a very good living out of it. WPT: Would you be able to give a brief overview of the last month or so for you, and how you felt you played in the big tournaments (Bellagio, Foxwoods, and Niagara)?DN: When playing in these big tournaments confidence is a big thing. When you’re doing well confidence wise it’s a lot easier to do well at the table, looking back to 2004 it felt like I was winning everything in sight. Bad luck comes into play though, and you start to second guess yourself. More recently I felt like I went through a little bit of a slump on the World Poker Tour, but at Foxwoods I went back to some of the old tricks I’ve used in past, and I really feel like I’ve got a lot of my mojo back. I came in 27th, getting pocket aces beat by the eventual final winner, otherwise I think I would have a great shot at winning another World Poker Tour event. These World Poker Tour events are important to me from a history perspective. I am number two on the all-time money list, and it would have been nice to recapture the lead. WPT: What are the most important tournaments to you? I know you’ve said that you considered the $50,000 Horse event the premier poker event in the world right now, but do any others, like the WPT North American championship in your native country, hold special value for you?DN: I would say I have a crown jewel, feather in my cap list, and the $50,000 Horse event would be number one. WPT: You feel that event is the premier poker event in the world right now?DN: It is the World Championship of Poker, bar none. There is no other event even close. I’d put that as my pinnacle. The next one, obviously, would be the main event at the World Series of Poker followed by the World Poker Tour $25,000 buy-in championship, followed closely by the NBC Heads-up poker championship. WPT: How do you feel your game is suited to heads up play, as it is so different from 9 handed play?DN: I think my game is very well suited to heads up poker because it’s a game where you need a lot of psychology to do well, because you can’t really come in with a set strategy and say “okay this is what I’m going to do”. You have to be able to read your opponent and adapt to what they’re doing which is a style that totally plays into my game. WPT: After being named the Player of the Year in 2004 and the bracelets and WPT wins, I know there’s still a lot you hope to accomplish, but is there anything you feel you have left to prove, whether it be to yourself, your fans, or your critics?DN: Always. I feel like every time I go a month without winning a tournament I have something to prove. That’s pressure that I put on myself, because staying on top is more difficult than getting there in some ways. On the way there you’re always hungry, and when you get there, you run into distractions and other things outside of poker. For me, when I hear stuff like “he’s lost it” or “he’s no longer the best”, well it sucks to hear sometimes, but it also fuels me.WPT: Well you definitely put yourself out there more than most people, especially through the forums. A lot of the criticism that I’ve seen has been about your perceived lack of focus on poker, things like the business ventures you’re involved in and golf etc. Do you feel you ever did get off track with poker, and if so, do you feel you’re now getting back on track?DN: I feel good about where I’m headed right now, and people also forget that in 2005 I also got married, and was helping to launch an online poker site. And clearly yes, that’s going to take away from my ability to play my best game. But I’m still one of the top players in the world, but I’m enjoying playing again, and I’m looking forward to the next Bellagio event in December, the one I won two years ago. WPT: Speaking of Bellagio, you had mentioned in your blogs how important you felt it was to spend some time in the NL cash games there to get your confidence back up and stay current. How important do you feel staying current in poker is? Do you see any other game or sport out there evolving as quickly as poker is? DN: Well the thing about is, and I’ve said this before, is that the players who did well in the 80’s and 90’s but are gone now never adapted – they stopped learning. It gets tougher and tougher as new and young players come into the game with new and special ideas constantly challenge the old-school train of thought on how the game should be played. You take two years off and it’s like a computer. You buy one in 2003 and by 2005 it’s pretty much obsolete. And with poker and all the players coming from the internet world, if you’re not familiar with it you’re not going to be equipped to do well in tournaments. It’s important to play online to get a vibe on how they act in situations so you can figure out how to one-up them. WPT: Outside of actually playing, is there anyway you try and improve your game? You previously mentioned how you picked up some of your own tells after watching High Stakes Poker Season 1 - how important has video footage become as a learning tool?DN: Yeah (laughs) sometimes my wife is like “you were just sitting on the couch today” and I have to explain that I was working; watching certain players, looking for tells, looking for patterns. I watch a lot of the poker shows to get information, and I figure there’s a lot of players I don’t actually get to see too often, and I get to see how they play at a final table without actually sitting with them. WPT: Seeing how well Full Contact Poker has been doing as an online card room, have you ever considered opening your own B&M card room, or associating yourself with another card room like you did previously with the Wynn?DN: I don’t have the time quite frankly. I don’t have the time with everything I have going on, and plus I don’t want to work for anybody. WPT: 10 years from now, where do you see yourself as a player, and where do you see poker heading?DN: I don’t think we’ve even hit the tip of the iceberg with poker. I would hope, though, in 10 years there’s more cohesiveness. Poker’s very chaotic right now in that it’s on a bunch of different channels and there’s some crappy television and you don’t really know where to see the pros. I’d like to see poker come to be something that’s a lot more organized where the pros can play in one spot that’s higher end television. The problem is poker players in general are loners, and they like to do things on their own. We need to just get a group together like that. WPT: Everyone seems to be doing their own thing; Doyle has his own site, you’ve got the Full Tilt people, you’ve got your own site…DN: Yeah what poker needs won’t necessarily coincide with our own personal interests. For example, I know Phil Helmuth likes to wear sunglasses because he wants to get a deal from Oakley, but if all the players wear sunglasses it’s not good for the game. Forget about what’s good for you, it’s not good to wear sunglasses on television.WPT: If this type of movement occurs, do you feel it’s going to be a top down thing? Guys like yourself and Helmuth and Greenstein and so on sitting down, and agreeing to put your personal interests aside and hammer something out?DN: Yeah something like this has to start at the top. It won’t work, any grassroots movement surrounding something like this. There have been a lot of people who have tried, actually, they get a lot of poker players, but they come to the top players later, and none of the top players want to be involved with it and so they fizzle. If you get the leaders in the poker world together, and on the same track and organized, then everyone else will follow. WPT: As a number of the top players are very close and spend a lot of time both hanging out and playing against each other, do you guys ever discuss this?DN: Yeah I mean there’s a movement now, it’s been decent, the World Poker Association – they’re at the World Series and stuff building numbers and they want to be a governing body. They don’t want to run tournaments or anything like that, they just want to be the voice of the poker players and get people on board for the major events. WPT: How much do you think pride and ego comes in to play when it comes to the top players, and people like Jamie Gold who have won a major tournament, but feel like they have to maybe sit down in the big game or on High Stakes Poker to prove they can hang with the big dogs?DN: I think that any poker player who makes it to the top level has a lot of self confidence, that’s maybe borderline cocky, maybe you want to call it arrogant - whatever the case may be. But it is important, ego and feeling good about yourself. If you want to be the best you’ve got to prove it to yourself by beating the best. Even myself, I could make a lot of money playing lower limit poker, but I would rather shoot myself in the head. I like the challenge, I like to test myself, and I think all the top players do. You see six professionals at a table and you say “wow, why are they playing?” Because it’s about more than just the money, because when you have money already it’s about the challenge of playing against the best. Sure they could all play against six easy people, but how much fun is that?WPT: Alright well it looks like we’re near the end, one last question – What is something people don’t know about you?DN: (thinks) uh… let me think….. that *****edited******WPT: (laughing) I don’t think we can print that.DN: Don’t print that. But let me see…. That I’m completely addicted to something. I’m completely addicted to a fantasy hockey league. I spend countless hours doing research on hockey, and watching hockey for the pool, I’m a huge hockey fan. Shortly after this interview Daniel went on to take 3rd in the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond Classic.
Wpt Magazine Interview
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