Daniel Negreanu’s advice to professional poker players living in the United States: Move out.
“I think people don’t have a choice; they have to move out of this country,” Negreanu told Covers.com. “The U.S. government has just basically said this is no longer a free country when it comes to poker, so they have that option."
The 36-year-old Toronto native is respected by fellow pros for a body of work that includes more than $14 million in tournament winnings, four World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour titles.
Negreanu also is noted for having one of the sharpest minds in the business, and he has no shortage of opinions – nor a lack of willingness to share them -- when it comes to issues that affect his chosen field.
We caught up with Negreanu last weekend at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno during the Nevada State Poker Championship. The poker pro shared his views on the potential impact of Black Friday – the April 15 arrests of online poker executives and shutdown of their services to American players – on the future of poker, as well as his take on the upcoming World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Q: What do you think the short- and long-term impacts Black Friday will have on poker?
A: Well you know, the truth is, there are still a lot of free countries across the world like Iran (laughs), all over Europe and Canada, where Internet poker still will thrive. I think a lot of people will move, leave this country and pay taxes in another country.
I think a lot of money is still tied up online, and I think you’re going to see a whole bunch of young, 20-something guys who are really geniuses entering a job market that is already crowded and taking jobs from other people.
So this isn’t just going to affect poker players, it’s going to affect other people who are going to be less qualified than some of these really intelligent guys.
We’ve really screwed up in a monstrous way; it’s not just the 100,000 people out of jobs in this country, it’s all the other people who are going to be shut out of jobs.
Q: How viable of an option is it for players to move out of the country to play online poker legally? Are a lot of players seriously considering this option?
A: I think for a lot of the young guys, if you don’t have a family, you’re not tied down, make an experience out of it. I recommend people moving.
I am actually going to get a place in Toronto in downtown so I can play online, because to stay current and stay ahead of the curve, playing online poker is really a great place to practice.
Q: Would it behoove some players to just take a wait-and-see approach regarding the potential legalization of online poker in the U.S.?
A: I don’t know how long it’s going to take for poker to get regulated (in the U.S.), but it would seem like a real no-brainer for it to happen eventually. But I have no idea on a timetable as to when.
Q: Were you surprised at the timing of Black Friday, or that it happened at all?
A: Actually, a lot of people heard rumors that it was going to happen a year ago, but nothing did. But it seems as though the Department of Justice was working on this case for over a year and finally sprung it on everyone.
The timing is really interesting because there was so much positive talk about poker being legalized. The Wynn made an affiliation with PokerStars, Nevada has legislation for it and Washington said it would be legal.
So it’s really shocking that it happened at this time, and raised a lot of questions about why it’s happening now and things like that. People are suspicious.
Q: What percentage of your poker career was devoted to playing online, and how much of your income did it account for?
A: Well, it took me a while to get good at it; in the beginning I was a losing player online. I had to make the adjustment. Part of the way I played poker was the ability of looking at people in the face, and losing that ability caused me to learn to play the game in a completely new way.
Only in the last year did I really start to get good at it. But it really wasn’t a big part of my income; it was just a big part of me staying current.
Q: Will attendance at the upcoming World Series of Poker provide an accurate barometer as to the overall impact of Black Friday on poker?
A: I really think the numbers will be down at WSOP across the board. If you can’t have online satellites … that’s what made that event so big.
Because you don’t have 7,000 or 8,000 people willing to put up $10,000 to play in that event. So you have guys who were putting in $40 or $200, and they can’t do that anymore.