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Daniel Negreanu says high stakes poker pros are causing damage to game’s image

Daniel Negreanu wants poker TV shows back on the schedule – because the current high roller set-up is sending people to sleep.

Card playing legend Negreanu became one of the faces of televised poker with his fun and easy going personality at the tables when the game boomed in the noughties.

To this day, he is considered by many as the greatest character ever to play the game, as he sat alongside other boisterous personalities like Phil Hellmuth, Tony G and Phil Laak.

But as internet whizz kids take over the high roller circuit, Negreanu wants to see a shift back to dramatised programming – because the game is now becoming boring.

Shows such as High Stakes Poker, Late Night Poker, The Big Game and the Premier League helped to propel the game to prominence – but have now been moved to the side in favour of long online streams, mostly without confrontation or emotion.

Negreanu said: “I think there is a real danger here, with the trend that we have seen, where you almost have to be too cool for school, you don’t get excited and you don’t show any emotion.

“Frankly, I think the high roller circuit are damaging poker more than you could imagine.

“They all play for money, which is fine. They are there for money and not to entertain. But when people see that, they will try and emulate and mimic that.

“I think they are doing more damage by taking the personality out of the game to be prim and proper.

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“Poker wasn’t designed to be that way. Poker is an antagonistic game, it’s a stick the needle in game where you say ‘I got you sucker, let’s go’. That’s what it’s all about.

“Nobody wants to watch a bunch of polite people shake each other’s hands and say well done. Nobody wants to watch that. It’s not the way to promote the game at all.”

Negreanu, who is an ambassador for GGPoker, the website hosting this summer’s World Series of Poker online, believes that poker’s popularity could drop off if it does not continue to be the box office attraction that it once was.

While keeping your cool with millions of pounds on the line is in some cases aspirational, Negreanu insists that for poker to appeal to a new audience, the high roller scene needs exciting televised competition.

“They are nice people. They are not doing anything maliciously on purpose,” he said.

“But I just don’t think they understand that when you’re on TV playing poker, we are somewhat selling a product. Entertainment is part of the business. If people are not entertained by watching, or by playing with you, then guess what? There’s no game anymore. It’s just you pros sat with each other.

“So how can you make it more entertaining? It’s certainly not by sitting and staring at each other and saying nothing. It’s by talking, by chit-chatting, by sticking in the needles a little bit, showing some emotion.

“One of the reasons the World Poker Tour took off, I think, is that it was this show, like reality TV, with six people and all of a sudden, this guy wins a big bundle of money, his fans are going nuts, his family is all over him and he is crying it’s amazing.

“That’s what people can get connected to, not this guy winning the five million dollar super high roller and just going ‘thanks’. It’s doing more damage than good by not reacting that way.”

The shift towards streaming services such as Netflix and Twitch has seen poker follow suit, with a host of big events now being shown live in real time to tens of thousands of people around the world.

But Negreanu says that’s only suitable for hardcore fans – and not those with a passing interest in the game.

“A lot of the trend has been towards the live stream, which is great for die hard fans and the intricacies that they want to see every hand,” he said.

“But as a packaged show for the mainstream; I’m not going to sit there for six hours and hope that something happens. I’m just not going to do it.

“So what they need is more shows like High Stakes Poker.

“The way High Stakes Poker worked is that we played three straight days, eight hours each, so it was 24 hours in total.

“Then the editors would make it a really exciting and fun-packed show, where they can say: ‘Last week we saw Eli Elezra bluff Sammy Farha, is Sammy going to get revenge, tune in to watch!’ They made it appointment television.

“Live streams for die hards, I am all for it, but we need to create programming that is cutting out the dead time, because what people are watching, come on, it’s boring sometimes.”

  • Daniel Negreanu is an ambassador of GGPoker. To start playing poker online, check out GGPoker today.

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