Daniel Negreanu – sporting a thick beard and bright pink t-shirt emblazoned with the words “cleans up nicely” – made a surprise appearance on Jason Somerville’s Twitch stream Wednesday during a $2,100 PLO WCOOP event.
Over the course of ninety minutes, the dynamic duo – who recently completed a publicity swing of California in favor of PokerStars’ entry into any future legal market – spoke off the cuff about a wide range of poker topics. And whether it was about Phil Ivey mentoring Negreanu, the synergy between ESPN’s poker coverage and poker celebrity, or the NHL coming to Vegas, the banter was fast and highly entertaining.
The impromptu visit sent fans into a frenzy, with viewership soaring and comments flooding the chat box. And despite Negreanu’s bombshell revelation that Somerville’s famed “dirty basement” isn’t really all that dirty, it was a great moment for poker entertainment, and highlights the power of Twitch as an advertising platform to reach a new generation of players.
Learning Pot Limit Omaha from Phil Ivey
Putting on his journalist hat for a moment, Somerville asked Negreanu how much of an influence Phil Ivey was in his development as a player. Negreanu responded that the “learned PLO from Phil Ivey.”
After a disclaimer that the game has evolved considerably since he learned it, Negreanu gave the poker community a rare window into how the game’s best player thinks about strategy, “He was like, dude, just limp…every hand. Just limp in. And then, when they don’t want a flop…just take it.
What I loved about this statement is that if you read between the lines, it demonstrates how the world’s best poker mind views confident, fearless aggression as the way to capitalize on weaker opponents who are afraid to mix it up.
A peek behind the curtain of ESPN poker coverage
After Somerville busted the PLO tournament, he set his sights on the “8-game” cash tables. This launched Negreanu into a history of the WSOP Players Championship event, which uses the same format.
“The idea was to recreate the big game,” he said – referring to a game that could go as high as $4,000/$8,000 blinds. “We wanted to recreate the big game, and then play NLHE at the final table.” The reason of course was so that the final table would be broadcast on ESPN.
However, after initial success, the final table was changed to HORSE. That caused ESPN to quickly lose interest, and without the possibility of television exposure to entice runners, the field plummeted. Although there has a been a rebound in interest from players, the tournament does not enjoy the same level of enthusiasm with poker’s casual fan base that it did when televised.
“This was a huge mistake in poker history,” Negreanu said, “that event had a lot of chutzpah, a lot of the top players. The first year you had Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey. Then what happened was ESPN said ‘listen, if you guys don’t keep the final table as NLHE we won’t film it.’”
It’s another perfect example of the importance of media exposure in generating interest and action from players and fans alike.
Negreanu on a Vegas NHL franchise in 2017: “Done deal bro. Book it. Get your tickets now.”
Born in Canada but making his home in Vegas for many years now, Negreanu has been on a personal mission to bring a hockey franchise to the desert for quite some time.
It appears he is confident that his vision will soon become a reality. In response to a viewer question about what progress has been made, Negreanu responded that it was a “done deal bro.” He then added, “I mean it’s not official, the commissioner [of the NHL] hasn’t said so. But I did. Which is close enough.”
Looks like you should get your seats now for the 2017 home opener.
Negreanu was a great sport to give his time freely and share some great “insider” stories. And I have to admit that even as a poker writer, getting the opportunity to watch two of poker’s biggest names over Twitch was lot of fun and got even my inner fanboy going.
I still think it remains unclear if Twitch streaming will be the magic bullet to bring massive growth to the game. But after seeing the entertaining and fun way Somerville and Negreanu casually “hang out” with the fans, there can be no doubt that poker has something good going here.