Leave it to Daniel Negreanu to make the World Series of Poker Player of the Year race as compelling and controversial as possible. After starting our 2013 poker season with a memorable fifth bracelet victory in Melbourne in the WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event, Negreanu captured bracelet number six and the WSOP Player of the Year title in one fell swoop tonight in Paris, France. He is now the first-ever repeat Player of the Year winner, having previously earned the title in 2004. He also joins Tom Schneider as one of two players to win multiple gold bracelets in 2013. Moreover, he becomes the first and only player to win bracelets in all three of the WSOP series.
"I love drama," Negreanu proudly admitted following his second victory of 2013. "What is better than bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, you just gotta win?"
Honestly, Negreanu didn’t even need to win the first-ever WSOPE High Roller bracelet event to become the first-ever two-time POY, but he decided to win with a flourish, taking down the bracelet and a €725,000 payday. He only needed to finish in the top eight to surpass Matthew Ashton, who took the lead in the contest this summer in Vegas by making five final tables and winning the $50,000 Poker Players Championship title. Negreanu celebrated when he made the final table, but his work didn’t end there.
Even though Negreanu was dead last in chips heading into the eight-handed final table, he had his eye on another prize besides POY honors.
"I honestly felt like I was going to win [the event] the whole time," Negreanu admitted. "The thing was I played the Main Event earlier and I sat with 10-15 big blinds the whole tournament. I was fighting it, but I ended up getting knocked out 25th. Then I thought to myself, 'Eight big blinds? How are they gonna knock me out again?' And once I doubled up and was at about 20 [big blinds]...once I was back in the mix and I doubled up again, I saw the faces, I saw the people looking around. I could sense it and I felt like, here it is, my opportunity to win this thing. "
Negreanu did just that, defeating Nicolau Villa-Lobos heads-up to claim the bracelet. Even though the Canadian pros win meant the previous frontrunner, Matthew Ashton, would not be taking the POY title, the young Brit had encouraging words and one request for his competitor that he sent via his twitter, @mmashton: "Congrats Daniel, good luck today(I mean it this time!) finish it in style.
Not only did Negreanu finish in style, he defeated one of the most stacked final tables of the year that included bracelet winners Timothy Adams and Scott Seiver,WSOP APAC High Roller Champ Philipp Gruissem, top young pros David Peters and Jason Koon, and Hall of Famer Erik Seidel. Aside from Villa-Lobo, every single player had more than $1 million in career tournament earnings. When asked to compare this final table to some from his past runs in WSOP events, Negreanu was quick to explain why this one was much more difficult than the rest.
"The one thing that is different about poker now than it was in 2004 is that, when there were two tables left, it was like pulling teeth. I came in with a good stack where, in the old days, I could've coasted to eighth place no problem. Not with these sixteen players. The amount of mistakes made in the late stages of tournaments today are so minimal that you have to capitalize on every little bit that you can and create a strategy that is going to work for you. You know these guys are precise, they are all professionals. They are top professionals, because this is a High Roller."
This tournament was a €25,000 buy-in High Roller event that drew 80 entries, including top pros from all over the world. This is the second year for a High Roller tournament at the WSOPE Europe series, but the first time the event counted for a bracelet. Last year, there was a €50,000 non-bracelet event that Mike Watson won. That tournament drew 60 entries, including Gruissem, who finished in fourth place.
While the win in such a stacked field may seem more than sufficient for Negreanu to tally up bracelet number six and POY honors, there are those who always suggest a bracelet won outside of Vegas is not a bracelet. Negreanu has never been one of those people and once again reiterated his longtime support of the expansion of the WSOP into new poker markets.
"A lot of people in the poker community debate whether or not World Seires of Poker events should happen outside of the United States and, again, I go back to the fact that it is called the World Series of Poker. When you look at the scope of it, there were 60 events in Las VEgas, five in Asia, and I think seven here. I think it shows a respect for the rest of the world where we're having events outside the United States where we are giving some players home turf advantage," Negreanu argued. "I think it is important what the World Series of Poker has done and I support it wholeheartedly. I think there is a line that tips the scale, but I think they've done a really good job of listening to the players and respecting the integrity and prestige of the bracelet."
The sixth bracelet and the prestige associated with it may be important to Negreanu, but more important is the recognition that comes with his sixth win and the second Player of the Year honors. Over the course of the 2013 season, Negreanu won two bracelets, made four final tables, and cashed ten times for over $2 million. The hard worked paid off with the POY honors and the bragging rights as the first repeat winner. That kind of validation is why Negreanu plays the game.
"I gotta be honest with you, Player of the Year is a big a deal to me and it is a goal of mine every year. I'm going to win bracelets, I know that. I'm grateful to have six now, which puts me back in the race in terms of all-time, but Player of the Year, to win that twice when no one else has ever done that really just cements me belonging where I always felt I did--at the top of poker."
Enjoy the view from the top, Mr. Negreanu. You've worked hard all year and deserve a little time to enjoy it.
Here are the final table results from the WSOPE High Roller Event:
1st: Daniel Negreanu – Canada - €725,000
2nd: Nicolau Villa-Lobo – Brazil - €450,000
3rd: Philipp Gruissem – Germany - €250,000
4th: David Peters – USA - €150,500
5th: Timothy Adams – Canada - €100,600
6th: Scott Seiver – USA - €74,600
7th: Jason Koon – USA - €63,500
8th: Erik Seidel – USA - €55,400