"I am not a believer in restrictions, regulations and stuff. If people want to play craps online for money, if that’s what they choose to do, I am OK with that." — Daniel Negreanu
Much the poker community is still heavily engaged in a debate about PokerStars' future and the room's decision to increase the rake for certain games and announce the launch of online casino games worldwide, and it's no secret that Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu his a vocal part of this industry. Guest of honor on the 190th episode of PokerNews Romania's Peste Prajit (Grilled Fish), Negreanu sat down with the hosts Julian and George for an intense one-hour long talk that involved the decisions of his sponsor, plus much more.
Open to touch all of today’s most sensitive issues, and in line with his role as leader of the Team PokerStars Pro, Negreanu started the interview by defending the room’s decision to increase the rake on some of the games available in its platform.
"Let’s say that you go to the movies and the popcorn is $4, he said. "Then all of a sudden the popcorn become $5. How many people will be happy to buy popcorn then? Anybody? No. Nobody will be happy."
However, according to the six-time World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner, what happened at PokerStars has been nothing more than what usually happens every day in any other part of the economy.
"This is what happens in every industry," Negreanu said. "Gas prices go up. Movie prices go up. PokerStars is still the cheapest place to play online poker at, and it has the cheapest rake than anywhere else."
He then continued, "I understand why some may be upset, but I think what these people are not understanding is that the demographic and the landscape of poker has changed. New taxes have been introduced, new limitations came in, and we have witnessed a decrease in volume in a lot of places.
"Also, for these guys who make a lot of money playing poker, it is important to get new players in, as otherwise the games will be gone. From what I hear, the money is going to be used in marketing projects designed to get more recreational players to come, so these guys can all beat them and make money off them."
You Need To Give People What They Want
Let it be about casino games, sports betting, or about the induction of the popular (yet, somehow controversial) new games such as the lottery-style Spin & Go sit-and-gos, Negreanu says he fully supports the direction that the company is headed.
"PokerStars always comes up with some kind of innovations, Negreanu said. "They came up with Home Games in the past, and now they have launched the Spin & Gos, which were planned long before Amaya came around."
He also opened up that the success of some of these games weren't exactly planned as such.
"Spin & Gos ended up being way more popular than anyone would have expected," he admitted.
However, in his opinion this unexpected fortune does not justify the criticism moved against PokerStars by a group of the room’s hardcore players, who claimed that the introduction of the lottery-style sit-and-gos and the success these had among recreational players became a serious obstacle in their road to the prestigious Supernova Elite status.
"I believe that the Supernova Elite cannot hold the company hostage by saying that any change the room makes has to be on their timeline," stated Negreanu.
According to Negreanu, a room has to ask itself "What do the majority of people want to play?" and then simply offer everyone what they want. "You can’t refuse that only because a bunch of guys are going to have a potential pay cut in their yearly earnings," Negreanu said.
"I Don’t Want To Be a Hypocrite. Poker Is Gambling"
A few days after the pro expressed his views over the launch of casino games on PokerStars from his Full Contact Poker blog, Negreanu decided to go back on the issue with a comment that has sparked another area of discussions.
"I am not a believer in restrictions, regulations and stuff, he explained. "If people want to play craps online for money, if that’s what they choose to do, I am OK with that. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to say that it's OK for some people to play poker and lose their money at the poker tables, but it is not ok for them to play craps and lose their money there."
This is all something that could be viewed as a direct reply to Victoria Coren Mitchell's decision to leave PokerStars because of the introduction of casino games. Negreanu also added, "I feel that a lot of poker players feel like 'OK, if they are playing casino, I get nothing out of that, but if they play poker and they are degens or they develop gambling problems, then all of a sudden it's OK because they are playing poker and I am profiting from it.'"
"Poker is gambling," Negreanu stated further. "Exactly as backgammon is gambling. When you play for money, you are gambling — you can either win or lose. [Poker] is a form of gambling you can beat, just like sports betting, but it is gambling. To say that we want to distance ourselves from gambling, it would be dishonest."
Bullying Is a Part of What the Internet Has Become
During the long talk, Negreanu also discussed about the imminent wedding between poker pro Phil Galfond and American actress Farah Fath. After expressing his congratulations to the couple, Negreanu commented on the way the poker community reacted to the news and on some not-too-pleasant messages published on a number of forums.
"The Internet people have the opportunity to be brave," he said. "They can say whatever they want, and they can be big shots. The truth is that most of them just look at somebody else who is happy and successful and, in order to feel better about themselves, they tear them down. In person they would never say that to Galfond, because they'd be chicken s***. He's got big arms and he would strangle them. But on the Internet, they can be tough guys. That’s what people do and that’s unfortunately what the Internet has become in a lot of ways."
Negreanu's views aren't simply from an observation standpoint, either, as they are based on personal experience.
"It happened to me, too, when I was dating Ms. Hungary, Krisztina Polgár," Negreanu explained. "She was a really nice and sweet girl — we have spent some time together, and that bothered her. For me, I wouldn’t care about what people say, but I can tell you that it made her cry. Sometimes when these people who post things, they don't understand the impact they can have on people. It’s really inconsiderate from them. They’d never do that in person, but on the Internet, why not!"
Listen To the Full Interview