It is a truth universally accepted that whenever there is a three-deep crowd surrounding a poker table, one of the seats at the felt will be occupied by Daniel Negreanu. Nobody in poker draws a crowd like Team PokerStars Pro’s leading light. There’s no choreographed late arrival. There’s no shower of ticker-tape. There is, simply, Daniel Negreanu. That is enough.
This afternoon in the Amazon Room at the 2017 World Series of Poker, there was a three-deep crowd around Table #7 in the “Gold” section. And in Seat 3 was Kid Poker: understated dark jacket, black-rimmed spectacles, a beard at its peak thickness. The jacket came on and off as per the whims of the air conditioner, but the crowd only grew. At 2pm there was a healthy smattering. By 4pm it was packed.
In fairness, there’s little chance this table would have played out entirely out of the spotlight. They were down to the last six in the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship, which is considered by many to be the most prestigious event at the World Series. It’s a huge buy-in and is played across all poker disciplines. You win this, you know how to play poker.
That is exactly what it was designed to do. Negreanu himself was one of the architects, and this is the closest he has ever come to winning it. Negreanu was going for WSOP bracelet No 7 and a $1.5 million extension of his lead at the top of the all time tournament poker money list.
At around 4:15pm, five players were left. Paul Volpe was knocked out by Elior Sion during a 2-7 Triple Draw hand during the day’s opening stages. Negreanu’s stack had also taken a nosedive in the day’s early exchanges. He was chip-leader overnight, but was down to around 2 million in chips and looking at bets of 150,000/300,000.
“Come on Daniel,” a railbird said. Nobody was keeping their allegiance hidden. It was a razz round and Negreanu had the 3♦ as his up card. “This loooks liiike maaah pot,” Negreanu sang to a tune of his own invention. “Let’s see if I can get it in.”
Negreanu then said, “Raise!” and slammed some chips forward. Only Sion stuck around as Isaac Haxton, Ivo Donev and Johannes Becker all let their hands go. Negreanu saw the 7♥ next and bet again. Sion folded. “Thank god for that,” Negreanu said.
But this was only a small pot, and not long afterwards, as those words were being typed, a round of applause filtered into the media room from the tournament area, which was accompanied by a few groans. It was as clear as could be. Negreanu was out.
In a round of PLO, both Donev and Negreanu picked up a flush draw on a flop of 8♣6♠4♣. They got it all-in there, but Donev’s A♦A♣K♣3♦ was a long way ahead of Negreanu’s J♣10♦9♣4♦. The 2♣ turn ended it, and in the media room, one of the administrators spoke for the nation: “It’s Daniel! Oh, man!”
I dashed out to the Amazon Room to see Negreanu posing for a selfie alongside a man in a canary-yellow polo shirt. It’s unlikely Negreanu will have felt much more disappointed at any point this year, but he was still content to pose for a photo and the fan left happy.
Negreanu left too, out the door towards the ESPN cameras and a chance to relate the latest details of how it wasn’t meant to be. He gets a smidgen more than $300,000 for that, but he doesn’t get a bracelet and so it doesn’t matter.
Here’s one thing we can be certain of though: Negreanu will be back for the Main Event. And they’ll be three-deep on the rail once more.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.