The world’s all-time poker tournament money leader Daniel Negreanu attended the 2016 One Drop Extravaganza this past week to coach the organization’s founder Guy Laliberté in the €1 million buy-in Main Event in Monte Carlo. Yet before traveling overseas, Kid Poker made two key podcast appearances which further delve into his thoughts on poker ecology, online pros, rake rates, Amaya-Stars and much more.
The first interview was uploaded in various clips by PokerTube contributor Rikard Åberg, and featured a segment on the current state of poker that turned quite a few heads over at the TwoPlusTwo NVG boards.
Negreanu was subsequently invited onto the PokerNews Podcast hosted by Matthew Parvis and Sarah Herring.
On that October 6th show, the $32.6 million live tournament winner took the opportunity to shoot on former Full Tilt Poker pro Mike “The Mouth” Matusow — who had referenced Daniel in a PokerNews Podcast episode from a week earlier. I’ll cover this briefly later on, but the obvious headline topic is the Toronto native’s thoughts on the dire need for nosebleed rake in small-stakes online games.
Did Online Pros Have it Too Good in Scheinberg Era?
The insights Daniel Negreanu shared on rake rates were very similar to a conversation he had earlier this year with Poker Life Podcast creator Joey Ingram. In a nutshell, the Team PokerStars Headline Pro believes professional online poker players were afforded far too many amenities in the Scheinberg Era of PokerStars’ glory days. This in turn created a system where winning-to-break-even players thrived on high-volume play while losing recs were kicked to the curb not only by their superior opponents, but also by virtue of the very rewards system PokerStars had in place.
“I’ve seen the numbers and I can verify that there’s some truth to this in that there were too many players that fit into that role of basically looking to make $15k, $20k or $30,000 a year — simply by playing 15 to 20 tables, playing extremely conservatively at the highest tier of bonuses and literally with a goal of breaking even.”
One of the long-term drawbacks to this system was that recreational players’ experience at the online tables decreased significantly. A weekend warrior who’s got a couple of tables running and is looking for action will often need to wait for 20+ tablers to get around to folding their hands before being afforded an opportunity to enjoy any “entertainment value” the low-stakes games have to offer.
For more thoughts on this topic, our readers should check out a recent TwoPlusTwo Thread posted by the forum’s Top Dog Mason Malmuth in which community members do acknowledge the effect this is having at the virtual felts, and reach a certain level of consensus on limiting the amount of tables online players can actively compete at simultaneously.
But the main premise of Negreanu’s argument came at the 27:00 mark of the clip (conveniently cued-up by TwoPlusTwo member Jack!), when DNegs justified AmayaStars‘ small-stakes rake hikes and likened them to goodtime pit game gamboooling.
“What I mentioned earlier about the $1/$2 guy, right? The one who has $200 and he plays $1/$2 No Limit cash online 6-max. He’s gonna get crushed at a much quicker rate than he would if he plays $10 bucks-a-hand blackjack. So while the poker players aren’t getting that money, right? The player experience for those people that do want to gamble for entertainment — whether its poker, blackjack, Spin & Gos or whatever — their money stretches out longer when they’re not in games that are dominated by pros.”
And thus what online poker desperately requires is a significantly larger dropbox at each and every micro-to-low stakes table. It’s pretty obvious actually… recreational players have a lot more FUn when they’re paying exorbitant rake, don’t you think?
Meanwhile any aspiring poker player (which admittedly does include mass-tablers) will be forced to move up in stakes or GTFO entirely. That way we’re left with all the recs who get wafflecrushed by “player experience vig” until they decide to try their luck at one of those 12/1 Bad Reg hometown-honeydicking lines courtesy of BetStars.
You might not make money like it’s your job on any horse at 12/1 in that 28-entry SHR spot, and it might not seem to work out for you either, so lets just herd all the recreational poker players who could spark actual growth in the game over towards the Sevens & Cherries section for some expectation-absorbing real money slot play at CasinoStars instead.
Negreanu’s Plea for Higher Rake
Upswing Poker featured pro Doug Polk openly acknowledges that Daniel Negreanu has done great things for growing poker and representing the game.
The issue isn’t that Kid Poker doesn’t have enough pull within the community for his arguments to be considered fairly, it’s that this new way of approaching poker ecology problems ships such a large portion of commission-based juice right off the top to operators that almost all players get quickly smashed regardless of whether they’re pros or recs.
To Negreanu’s credit, he does address this when it’s pointed out during interviews. Amaya is a publicly traded company, you see? The entity’s top priority by default is boosting its stock price, looking out for its shareholders, etc. Which is ironic considering how ineffective current and past executives’ efforts have been in carrying out this singular, all-important goal since acquiring Rational Group‘s assets in June 2014.
Players Responsible for Poker’s Woes?
Depending on who you ask, even absurd operator fees aren’t the worst of it when stacked up against the blatant attacks by PokerStars on high-volume, professional players over the past two years. Amaya’s top brass has kept busy transferring blame for online poker’s poor performance onto longtime patrons while bragging about how much of a killing they’re making off of said “customers” during public quarterly conference calls.
Then there are the mandatory Roman Candles to the face of break-even/winning players who were instrumental in building a steady revenue stream for the online poker behemoth regardless of whether that is now perceived to have been a bad business deal by operators.
PokerStars’ aggressive marketing during the pre-Black Friday era was definitely great for online poker, but how much of that growth was actually driven by word-of-mouth? Many of our readers may not have been involved in the industry a decade ago, but once upon a time winning online poker players praised the game by shouting from the rooftops about the possibility of becoming profitable through skill-based play. This “stand your ground” insistence by pros during that time played a major role in generating widespread interest in four-suited fishing.
“I got into poker because I saw that people were able to win,” says Polk. “No one deposits their $50 and they’re like, ‘Oh man! I hope I run this guy down to zero!‘ No. They dream of one day learning, becoming better and moving up in the world.”
So although the former Eight, Breaks & Ball in Hand weight lifter gets far better shape on spinning his sponsor’s money-grab-mutilation of Internet Poker than the in-house PR team, using decreased market activity to justify up to 7x “experience fees” is still silly.
Kid Poker vs. The Mouth
Late last month, former Full Tilt Poker pro and 4-time WSOP bracelet champion Mike “The Mouth” Matusow called into the PokerNews Podcast to talk with Matt and Sarah. Mike’s been dealing with some health problems recently, but still has plenty of spunk when it comes to giving his opinion on the current state of poker.
According to Matusow, the money has pretty much dried up in poker. No one has any. The swongs are just as horribad as ever, and overall we’d be better off if Donald Trump won the upcoming presidential election.
Before moving on, The Mouth was genuinely pleasant when it came to discussing his longtime acquaintance with DNegs. Things haven’t been the best between the two, but Mike hopes it all gets straightened out and lobs up a floater for a friendly return volley.
Unfortunately for Matusow, the 2014 Big One for One Drop runner-up was having none of that in his October 6th PokerNews Podcast call in. The headline Team Pro called BS on Matusow’s “projections” and dropped a generous amount of Choice Center brimstone into the troubled relationship.
Live poker activity is definitely hopping if you ask Daniel (or Doug)… just open your eyes. The Mouth has made certain life “choices” that are his own fault Negreanu states, and by the way Hillary Clinton should be the next U.S. president.
Daniel Negreanu Editorial Review — October 2016
As Doug Polk told his YouTube fans, “We have to look at the bottom line. The bottom line is more money when we play is taken from our accounts and given to PokerStars and then paid out to shareholders.”
It’s not as if players don’t have a legitimate gripe when they rant about AmayaStars‘ solution to a struggling online poker industry and it’s not as if the public company’s recent push towards lottery style, breakneck-rake formats hasn’t been noticed.
Daniel Negreanu is a marquee name in the poker industry who has put in more than his fair share of effort to promote the game we all love, and he has been extremely open with the community despite past missteps and attacks against certain contributing members.
But the brand name he represents no longer enjoys that same credibility, and increased rake is a highly debatable means to “attract” new players to the game.
This isn’t 2004 anymore. The Micro Transaction Pay-To-Win hellhole has already run its course in “Free to Play” social games, which means even the average senior citizen is much more savvy about getting nowhere after months of grinding than before. Real money online wagerers are looking for the best deal, not the biggest swindle.
PokerStars’ regulatory exposure across a number of key global jurisdictions, looming clawback battle with former owners Isai and Mark Scheinberg, as well as the resistance it now faces from DFS and Multiplayer Video Game storefronts makes it only a slight favorite to survive through 2017 without finding another posse of wheel ‘n’ deal whales who hate money enough to invest in that ridiculous apparatus voiced by Hollreiser and Lee Jones.
If you’re going to tell us you’re 7 feet tall (when you’re actually not), then please go ahead and tell us you’re 70 feet tall instead, so that way we can at least get a couple of chuckles out of the tall tale before moving on to what the real story is?
(If you’re interested in improving your poker game, check out the Upswing Lab! Doug Polk and Ryan Fee collaborated on this A to Z training course and the great reviews keep rolling in! Check out our Upswing Lab testimonials page here)
David Huber (known as “dhubermex” online) has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade. He currently assists several poker and gaming entities as a researcher, writer, and consultant. Former Editor-in-Chief & Head Moderator of online tournament rankings site PocketFives (2006-2011).