World Vegetarian Day: Poker's Crossover With Plant-Based Diets

Daniel Negreanu

October 1 marked not just the turning of the calendar but also a special day for those around the world who choose to build their diets around plants instead of animals. It's World Vegetarian Day.

According to the North American Vegetarian Society, the group established the day in 1977 and it has taken hold as a day to raise awareness about meatless diets and "promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism."

Among the reasons listed by the NAVS to commit to a vegetarian diet:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Long-term commitment to more efficient use of world food supplies
  • Avoid financially supporting unethical treatment of animals
  • Environmental factors including reduced greenhouse gases and nature conservation

This is PokerNews, so we celebrate World Vegetarian Day by looking at some of the crossover between poker and vegetarianism.

Poker-Playing Vegetarians

The leading link between poker and a vegetarian lifestyle needs no introduction to the readers in this space, of course. It's Daniel Negreanu.

Negreanu has long espoused the benefits of sticking to a vegetarian diet. In fact, "Kid Poker" goes the extra mile as he's fully vegan, consuming no animal products whatsoever. This summer, Negreanu said on Twitter he's been a vegan for about 18 years.

Daniel Negreanu
Daniel Negreanu's life changed when he embraced a vegetarian diet.

Anyone who follows Negreanu on social media knows he's the type to do his diligence and research things, so there's no doubt he's well aware of the touted benefits of vegetarian diets. However, in 2015, he boldly proclaimed that his vegan diet is not only good for his body, it makes him a better poker player as well.

He said the changes he's made have been reflected in the community as a whole.

"Poker has changed," he said in the linked Vice piece. "In the past, high profile players were obese, now they're fit. They've swapped their moobs for pecs. Players now are educated people, they're smart, they do the research, they care about their health. It's not like the old days."

Could Negreanu be on to something when he says being a vegan makes him a better player? There's no way to be totally sure, but Huffington Post's "12 Superfoods to Boost Your Brainpower" — includes vegetarian staples like walnuts, berries, spinach, beets and avocados.

Poker's most famed player isn't the only prominent grinder to embrace the meatless ways. Prahlad Friedman, famed high-stakes cash crusher for many years, also lives a vegan life. World Series of Poker bracelet winner Cyndy Violette is so committed that she started a restaurant, Violette's Vegan, with the mission of sharing the vegan lifestyle and making vegan food more accessible.

In a community as large as the poker world, there are undoubtedly countless other players for whom World Vegetarian Day is a chance to share their commitment to a plant-based diet.

Cyndy Violette
Cyndy Violette founded a vegan restaurant.

Prop Bets

Poker and vegetarian life have mixed in another way over the years: prop bets.

Poker players will bet on anything, and the stark contrast between the typical poker player's diet — look around the tables and you'll typically see players scarfing down nutritional no-no's like pizza in between swigs of beer — and a vegetarian diet has produced some legendary action.

In the most famous throwing down of a veggie gauntlet, Phil Ivey accepted a challenge from Tom Dwan, committing to a meat-free year of living in exchange for the prospect of a $1 million payoff. The bet was booked in front of poker fans the world over on an episode of "High Stakes Poker."

Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey couldn't do it when he tried going vegetarian.

Ivey was at first confident but then changed his tune early on.

"I'm gonna lose," he declared shortly thereafter. "I know I'm gonna lose."

Lose he did, as Ivey reportedly bought out for $150,000 just weeks later.

The reverse bet has also taken place, getting a vegetarian to munch on some meat. While he may be reviled by many in the community these days, Howard Lederer once enjoyed status as a popular pro, and he discussed with Bluff a prop in which David Grey paid him to eat a cheeseburger.

Sitting at the table, Grey offered Lederer, who had been a vegetarian for about four years, $10,000 to eat a cheeseburger. Lederer obliged without hesitation and collected easily, showing that even poker players who value their health and their vegetarian lifestyle sometimes still have a price.

  • According to Daniel Negreanu, being a vegan has helped his poker game.

  • Remember that one time @philivey couldn't lay off the beef for $1 million?

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