Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #28 Annie Duke and Daniel Negreanu
When I think back on the year for both Annie Duke and Daniel Negreanu, I will remember them both as being poker icons and ambassadors of the game. And while they both had such positive things that happened to them throughout the course of the year that I could talk about, the story that I will remember the most about these two involves a feud that erupted between the poker “odd couple” over an event at the World Series of Poker this year, which oddly enough, neither of them played in.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the validity of the Ladies Event at the WSOP, and whether or not it has a place at the WSOP. There are many people who sit on both sides of the fence on whether or not the event it is a good thing for poker. Negreanu is a huge fan of the event, and Daniel began this story by stating his opinion on why he was in favor of the ladies event in a video blog, and then again on his written blog. He wrote about how good it was that there were more than 1,000 ladies that plunked down $1,000 for the event, and that his assistant Patty was a great example of how it was the one event that she looked forward to each year. The article was titled “Men Playing in Ladies Events” and really focused more on how lame it was that guys would even think of playing in this event for any reason, especially in protest. He even threw in a little dig at Annie Duke and Shuan Deeb’s expense saying “why should 1000 women be deprived of having a good experience at the WSOP because Shaun Deeb and Annie Duke don’t like it?” Shuan Deeb’s dig was certainly justified as he was one of a handful of men who decided to cross the gender line, and play in the Ladies Event.
Annie has been a longtime opponent of the WSOP Ladies event, and she tactfully laid out her arguments again in a blog post of her own titled “The Ladies Event: Redux”. She mentions the common arguments that people have that are in favor of the event, and then takes them apart point by point to defend her stance in a long argument on why the game would be better off without a Ladies Event at the WSOP, and why it should be removed from the WSOP schedule. Annie’s blog makes it very clear how much she was not in favor of the event in the least, and she even went so far as saying that she “strongly agreed” with Shuan Deeb entering the ladies event saying that “if you can’t do it the quiet way behind the scenes, which I have been trying to do for years, then why not make some noise and get some real public debate going on the issue.” And that’s just what Annie did with Daniel Negreanu, as the two of them launched a blog war that will be remembered as their story for the year.
Daniel went back to his blog the next day and posted “Sticking up for the ladies one more time” where he opens by attacking Annie, saying that he just doesn’t get how she can be proud to “call herself The Best Female Poker Player in the World, yet at the same time argues that there shouldn’t be separation between men and women in the poker world.” He goes on to say how the number of women that are participating in open WSOP events has increased, but the percentage hasn’t because there are more people as whole playing. He closes by quoting a response he received from a lady who’d responded to his blog saying “If women don’t have the right to congregate amongst themselves then they are not truly free.”
Annie responded back in her blog “Last Post on Ladies Event” that addressed the arguments again point by point, and again specified why she is opposed to the event, even saying that “I feel that if I am going to champion the cause of getting women to play the open events instead of the ladies event then I should do my part in giving woman the tools to do so. So I teach an academy just for women (I also teach many academies open to both sexes). I feel this is putting money where my mouth is. And I hope the women there get enough confidence in their game out of the process that they feel they can compete with anyone, man or woman.” After making her arguments again, she said that she was through with it, and wouldn’t write about it again. And she didn’t.
Daniel wasn’t done however as he went back to his blog later that day, so juiced up on the topic stirred up by Annie that he wrote “The Best Female Poker Player in The World? Really?” He harped on Annie ducking the question of how “she justifies calling herself the best female poker player in the world.” It was clearly a slam piece, and he threw the gauntlet down to have a further public war between the two as Daniel looked like that obnoxious little kid in the playground who just wanted to pick a fight. But when a month went by and Annie didn’t take the bait, Negreanu was quoted in a Euro publication dropping the “C-U-Next-Tuesday” acronym as a label, in addition to his little “f-bomb” to begin the phrase, which stirred up all kinds of controversy. The article hit twitter and the way that news spreads now, it was like wildfire.
The backlash from the whole fiasco saw Annie taking to her blog again, this time going after Daniel and his sponsor, PokerStars. In a blog titled “An open letter to PokerStars” Annie calls out PokerStars for not distancing themselves from Daniel and these lewd comments. She highlights the section where the PokerStars Support Team member (Katja as her name would be), says that Negreanu is an “entity to himself, and as such will always be encouraged to express his views and speak his mind as he would otherwise do, PokerStars Pro or not.”
The whole issue died down quickly as I believe that someone got to the two of them and told them to cut it out NOW. I don’t know who that someone was, but I’m glad that an end was put to the situation before even more was done. But the reality is that the worst of the damage had already been done as the two feuded for the world to see just about as loudly as possible. Since then, PokerStars has issued a message saying something to the effect that they wished that Daniel had not used the word and that they do find it offensive and vulgar. Daniel has taken ownership of the interview, which I found to be a noble thing. He stood up and said “yes I said that.” But he basically said that he thought the conversation that he was having was off the record, with a friend of his that was also in the media, and that he never thought that the words would end up in print. While it was inappropriate, I do have to commend Daniel for owning up to the words, and not trying to duck them. That does go to show what kind of character Daniel does have.
I would have preferred to remember the story about how great a year 2010 was for Annie Duke at the poker tables thanks to the win that she managed at the NBC Heads Up Championship. Under the cameras and the lights, Duke bested 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Eric Seidel to claim the top prize of $500,000, her 2nd largest career score after the $2 million that she won for the 2004 Tournament of Champions. Her deep run at the WPT LA Poker Open was memorable as well. Or even how she finished runner up on Celebrity Apprentice, and unfairly lost to Joan Rivers in a situation where it was clear that “the fix was in” from the beginning. There are so many great stories there, but I won’t touch on any of that in any further here. It was most unfortunate for Annie that she was basically drawn into this fight the way that she was. But it takes two to make a fight, and she certainly didn’t shy away from trading blows with the face of PokerStars.
For Daniel Negreanu, it was a year that saw him win another ho-hum $600,000 playing live tournament poker. While $600,000 is a lifetime of work for so many people, it was basically a down year for Negreanu as it was his first year in 3 that he failed to reach $1 million in earnings. But considering that he’s hit that mark in 4 of the previous 6 years, I guess you could call it a down year. So while I could tell the story of his win in Europe, his final table at the EPT, or any other tournament that Negreanu played well in, that’s not what I’m going to remember on the year. I’ll remember Daniel picking a fight that got blown way out of proportion. Bluff Magazine recently did a phenomenal piece about Negreanu and how impacted he has been this year following the death of his mother after a long illness. I don’t think that’s the reason for the entire fiasco, but I will say that since that has taken place, Daniel has been in the news in negative ways a couple of times, with this situation being at the head of the class, a conflict with Andrew Roble on the PokerStars “The Big Game,” and a less than admirable exit from the EPT event where he was involved in conflict after having been “slow rolled” at the final table.
At the end of the day, the bottom line is this: while Annie and Daniel both have excellent arguments over whether or not a Ladies event should exist, their arguments got lost by the derailment of personal attacks, which caused me to have this be the highlight of their year. Not what they did on the felt, and not what they did for poker off the felt in efforts to grow the game. This will be my memory for two of the most high profile ambassadors of the game. A feud that will be forever be labeled as one of the biggest dumpster fires of the year. Which words can’t express how disappointing that really is.