Daniel Negreanu Leaves the Bridge of Starship PokerStars

Star Trek has never been the same since James Tiberius Kirk left the Nexus to help defeat Soran and ended up in a hole with Jean-Luc Picard holding a dirty spade. Every magnificent ship has a leader standing on the bridge, decorated with more stars than the Milky Way, and they never move as gracefully once the cord is cut.

Ask one hundred people, clueless about poker, to name a famous poker player, and Daniel Negreanu is going to get more hits than most. The 44-year-old is one of those rare finds – a poker player who makes an impression in the mainstream. I mean, come on, he starred in an X-Men movie for peat’s sake.

Over the weekend, Negreanu announced that the rubber band that had held him close to the beating heart of the PokerStars machine had snapped. Despite being of paramount importance to the Red Spade organisation for 12-years, the band didn’t erode through old age. Negreanu and Eric Hollreiser each grabbed the scissors and sheared, amicably. 

There is a clip in the Netflix documentary ‘Kid Poker’ where Phil Ivey says, “few have done more for poker than Daniel,” and it’s hard to refute such a bold claim from such a titan. Negreanu ensures he’s always in the public eye. In the beginning, it was his humour and engaging table manner. Then his illuminatingly honest interviews and blog posts, then later his vlogs and intense activity on social media. Each clip, word or image was growing poker and PokerStars, but not everyone adored Negreanu. 

In the aftermath of the Supernova Elite disaster, Negreanu publicly criticised PokerStars for the way they communicated (or didn’t communicate) the changes, while simultaneously backing his employers over the ‘why’ behind the decision. 

Negreanu’s stance led to a vitriolic attack from poker players affected by the changes, and those that didn’t agree with his viewpoint. The longest and nastiest pointed finger accused Negreanu of being a shill. 

In my dealings with PokerStars and Negreanu, I never believed that he was a shill. He was loyal to PokerStars, but he didn’t tow a corporate line. I’ve no doubt, had Negreanu been opposed to anything that PokerStars had done, he would have left. His controversial views were his own, and we will get to see that now he is a free man. 

Negreanu spoke about his split in a short video posted on Twitter explaining that his recent marriage to Amanda Leathermen and his desire to start a family tied in with his decision to leave. I hope that doesn’t mean that Negreanu will be spending more time away from poker. The game needs people like Negreanu – honest, transparent and willing to give the community an insight into a world that we rarely see from our stance on the rail.

One thing is for sure; we are never going to see the likes of Daniel Negreanu again. Relationships between ambassadors and online poker rooms will be more’ War of Art’ than ‘War and Peace’. A decade plus ambassadorial relationship is going to be a rare thing indeed. 

And for Negreanu, the captain, what next?

He says he is looking forward to the future, so let’s leave him with some words of wisdom of one of the best captains in the business. 

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown — only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.” – James. T. Kirk.