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Is Daniel Negreanu the greatest ever?

Is Daniel Negreanu the greatest ever?

February 7, 2023
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Every sport has its legends and every fan loves to chew the fat over who is the GOAT in a particular discipline. In most sports, the discussion is fun but as a question, it’s bound up in futility. After all, how can anyone really say who was better out of Joe Montana and Tom Brady or Margaret Court and Serena Williams?

In the world of poker, however, things are a little different, at least for now. The pro game has only really been around for the past 40 years and Doyle Brunson, who was an elder statesman of the sport even in the 1980s still plays in the occasional pro tournament with his 90th birthday approaching later this year.

So it is that we have a relatively level field and we can realistically ask the question: Is Daniel Negreanu really greatest poker player ever? Or was he just lucky to arrive on the scene as poker’s popularity went through the roof and even fairly minor tournaments started to attract serious money? If you’re tempted to try for yourself, click here to find online poker sites where anyone can get a game!

Background

Negreanu’s rise to the top is one of the great tales of perseverance and determination. Born in Toronto in 1974, he started playing poker in his late teens and as soon as the law allowed, he relocated to Nevada to make his fortune on the pro circuit. Like all the best fairytale stories, the move was an absolute disaster. He went broke twice and returned to Toronto sadder and wiser.

From there he started again, diligently recording the ups and downs of every game and seeking every weakness, not just in his opponents but in his own defences. The hard work finally started to pay off in the late 1990s. In 1997, aged 23, he became the youngest player ever to win a WSOP bracelet. That earned him the nickname Kid Poker, a sobriquet that still adorns him, despite approaching his 50th birthday next year.

Achievements

With six WSOP bracelets and more than a dozen other major titles, it is fair to say that Negreanu has won more than any other player. But does that make him the best of all time? When it comes to longevity, he is trumped by Doyle Brunson, whose 70 year career (so far) will surely never be eclipsed. As for career earnings, Justin Bonomo has overtaken Negreanu and is still only 34 – although that is mostly down to the sheer volume of online tournaments he plays.

Negreanu was recently asked the question himself, and his reply might come as a surprise – he told reporters that for him, Phil Ivey was and is the greatest poker player ever. But as far as we are concerned, that confirms it. To be deserving of the GOAT label in any discipline demand some truly exceptional quality. And modesty like that is exceptional indeed in any form of pro sport.

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