WSOP 2016: How Daniel Negreanu plays a short stack

July 13, 2016

Daniel Negreanu plays a short stack differently than you do.

You, if you’re like a lot of people, sit at the table looking at your pathetic stack and lamenting everything that’s happened and turned your tournament into a tragedy. You fiddle with your few chips and find some way to punt them into the ether.

That’s not how Negreanu does it.

Today, Negreanu has drawn a seat right on the rail, and the fans have flocked. Young, old, men, women, people of every race. They have crowded in with their phones at the ready, snapping photos like they could sell them to the tabloids.

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Happy fans on the Negreanu rail

Negreanu’s stack has dropped below 10,000. He has less than 20% of his starting stack. The blinds are 300/600/100, and Kid Poker’s time looks short. The crowd pushes in closer, and one of Negreanu’s opponents sees an opportunity. He turns to the crowd and quips, “I appreciate you all supporting me today.”

It gets a laugh, but he’s only the warm-up act. There is a fervor building, and the guy realizes it’s all for Negrenau. He admits aloud, “I played PokerStars because of you, Daniel.”

At this point, it’s open season. The other players at the table pull out their phones and start taking pictures of their most famous opponent. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and for the moment, they are happier about seeing Negreanu than the fact they have made Day 2 of the Main Event. Somebody takes note of the fact Negreanu’s stack is the smallest at the table.

“I’ve got more than enough. Plenty!” Negreanu says.

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The big blind and ante account for almost ten percent of his stack. Facing a raise, he folds. When he completes in the small blind and is later forced to fold, he loses another 700. It looks grim, especially when he has to fold his button to a raise.

That’s when Henderson, Nevada’s Brittany Morris’ day turns into a lifelong memory.

“You’re my favorite player,” she croons.

And it’s clear she is telling the truth. Morris is beside herself. She is bubbling. Percolating. She’s filling up her phone memory with pictures of Negreanu when she spots Phil Hellmuth in the middle of the room. There is no way she will get that photo without crossing the rail.

Negreanu offers his best advice. “Walk with purpose,” he tells Morris. “Like you belong there.” He gets up to demonstrate, and someone asks if Negreanu will just take the Hellmuth photo for her.

“No,” Negreanu laughs. “Phil’s head is big enough!”

Now in the cutoff, Negreanu folds again. As he waits for another hand, he reconsiders his position.

“Is your phone ready?” he asks Morris. “If I fold this hand, I’ll go get it for you.”

Morris’ face looks like she’s just been told she won a lottery.

“That’s why he’s my favorite player!” she titters.

Someone else on the rail calls to Negreanu, “You’re the best!”

His hijack hand is worthless, so Negreanu mucks it, grabs Morris’ phone, and runs three tables over to Hellmuth. He gets right up in the Poker Brat’s face and fires off three pictures on Morris’ phone.

As Negreanu runs way, Hellmuth calls to him “Did you triple up yet?”

“Working on it!” Negreanu yells over his shoulder.

Now, Morris has her phone back in her hand is flipping through pictures of Hellmuth that…Lord, have mercy… Daniel Negreanu took.

“That was epic,” she says.

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Now, Negreanu’s short stack is in middle position. When he mucks, a man appears with a marker and points to his shirt.

“Can you sign this?” he asks.

“Where do you want it?” Negreanu says.

“Anywhere you want.”

“Well, I’m not going armpit!”

Now, somebody else on the rail has an idea. His homegame players are slow and inattentive. He’s got the perfect way to let them know the action in on them. Seconds later, he has a video of Daniel Negreanu looking into the lens and declaring, “It’s on you!”

It’s at this point that any observer might wonder just how Negereanu does it. His stack looks miserable. Meanwhile, Negreanu looks happy. Moreover, he’s making an entire of rail of people feel like he’s there for them.

“Danny!” says a voice in the crowd.

It’s Pat Humphries, Phil Ivey’s famous superfan, and he’s come over to introduce Negreanu to one of his friends. That’s how famous Negreanu is. A man who has dedicated his fandom to another player is asking Negreanu to meet his friends.

Negreanu mucks another hand, and it’s starting to feel like less of a party for a second. The blinds are almost back, and Negreanu can scarcely afford to lose more.

Now under the gun, Negreanu starts to cut out chips.

“I’m going to raise to 1,400,” he says. “Watch them all get scared because I’m under the gun!”

Two men aren’t scared. Negreanu gets called in two spots.

“My cards are pretty good. Are yours?” he asks.

On a flop of K♦3♣A♣, Negreanu reaches for chips again.

“Two thousand? Is that okay?” Negreanu says.

When he gets called in both spots, Negreanu mutters an expletive in a stage whisper. It’s for the crowd’s benefit more than anything.

The turn is the J♦.

“Well, I’ve only got 4,000 left,” he says, and he slides them into the middle.

The call comes quick, maybe too much so.

“I’ve got two pair,” Negreanu says. He tables A♥J♠. It’s good and unbeatable against A♠2♠.

“Look at that!” Negreanu exclaims. “We’ve got too much money now!”

The crowd is ecstatic as Negreanu doubles, and more so when he doubles again a few minutes later. It’s as if they themselves had just doubled up in the Main Event.

Watching at a distance, Olivier Busquet offers some real talk.

That’s the point. Negreanu may have started this day with very little. He will still have to work hard to finish with anything. But no matter whether he makes Day 3 or his summer ends here, he’s done his job today as poker’s greatest ambassador, and Brittany Morris has the pictures to prove it.

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is the PokerStars Head of Blogging. Follow him on Twitter: @BradWillis. WSOP photos by


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