With hat pulled low, a young gentleman walks into the room. A torn Target bag in his hand, he lays it to rest next to his chair and pulls out a bottle of water, a few sheets of paper out of a manila envelope, and a container of sliced watermelon. Immediately, the cameras are everywhere and a boom mike is lowered within six inches of his face.
Welcome to Daniel Negreanu's work day.
Daniel Negreanu is in a great mood to start the day. He introduces himself, chats with players, and laughs as the guy next to him says, "I can't believe I have to have you on my left." Hordes of reporters gather around and I hear a woman whisper next to me, "That's Daniel Negreanu, poker god."
As the World Series day 1C begins, Daniel is dominating his table of relative rookies. He sees the man to his right enter his first pot of the day, counting out his green chips one by one to clumsily enter a raise, and chuckles, "That's the sign of an internet player right there."
Within the first ten minutes, Daniel has gotten himself right in the middle of a big pot. As usual, he has raised the pot preflop and the board has come down 8-8-6. Two players check to him and he checks as well. The turn comes a 3, and it is checked to Daniel again. He decides to pull the trigger, pushing in a bet about 2/3 the pot. His opponent quickly check-raises him a thousand, and Daniel just as speedily fires in three more yellows for a raise of 2000. His opponent goes into the tank and finally folds, as Daniel sighs.
"I had the stone-cold nuts, buddy," he laments. "I was praying you had 33 or 66, though. Did you have pocket 7's or 5's?"
"Something like that," his opponent answers.
"Exactly like that," Daniel pries?
"You're an amazing hand-reader," his opponent says, nodding in amazement. "Nice bet, though."
"It wasn't a nice bet, or else you would have called!"
Daniel frowns, down that he couldn't get paid off better. If he is upset about this little bump in the road, he has a long day ahead of him.
A few hands later, the same weak opponent comes in for a minimum raise of 100. Daniel quickly pops it to 575, or 11 times the big blind. He surprisingly gets a caller in the small blind, and the original raiser calls. After the hand is checked down, both opponents show A-K for no pair, ace high and Daniel mucks his hand. The eyebrows of his table-mates start to go up. "What could he have raised so much with preflop that he couldn't even beat A-K high?" they ask each other. This is the beginning of the struggle for Daniel Negreanu.
Daniel has been open-raising pots consistently for the first hour, but when his opponents realize he is a mere mortal, they start playing back, wondering what kind of junk he is trying to take pots down with. He brings it in for a raise, and an opponent calls. On the turn, his opponent goes all-in for over 12,000 in a pot with 400 chips in it, and Daniel folds. Daniel open-raises again, and this time his opponent calls and checks the flop dark. The flop comes three diamonds, and Daniel makes a bet of 500 into a 300 pot. His opponent pushes all-in for 15,000. Daniel is now becoming visibly frustrated and folds.
"That's poker," says the man as he stacks up his newly acquired chips.
Daniel laughs. "That's not poker, that might be how you all play poker. Poker's a lot of things, but…" He trails off, seeing the blank stares of his table. The concept is not worth explaining, it's clear, and he doesn't bother finishing his thought.
Daniel's luck continues to turn sour as he picks up AA and brings it in for a raise again. His opponent calls with a J-9 of clubs. After Daniel bets every street heavily, his opponent leads out on the river for 1500 chips, about a third of the pot. Daniel thinks for a while, seeing that the turn and river came runner-runner clubs and wondering if his opponent could have possibly stayed in for the unlikely flush. He makes the call and his opponent shows the flush. Daniel flips over two red aces and shakes his head.
It's a little bit more than an hour and a half into the first level of play, and Daniel is down to under 3500 chips. T.J. Cloutier comes by and says hello to Daniel. "Hey Kid Poker, how ya doing?" Daniel quietly says hello and sees T.J.'s seat at the table next to him, with a stack of over 18,000 chips in front of the pushed-out chair. Once chatty, he remains silent and brooding, wondering what has happened and what could have been. The ESPN camera vultures circle, waiting to capture his possible demise.
Half an hour later, I come back to the table, and somehow, Daniel has turned his 3500 back into 7000. He is chirpy once again, singing various songs and sharing to the table his penchant for rapper Lil' John. He begins to rap, as onlookers gawk at a 30-something Canadian yelling gangsta Rap and discussing the virtues of a krunk cup.
The Poker God rakes in another pot, bringing him above 7500, and yells triumphantly, "I'm back!"
Daniel came all the way back in his day one bid. From the brink of elimination to over 70,000 chips, in the top 5% of chipleaders after day one. Join us as we continue to follow Daniel through the main event. It looked like we might be done quickly, but now...it looks like we might be here a while.