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Jun 14, 2014

Daniel Negreanu nails what will make TV Poker interesting again

By RTR Dennis

Daniel Negreanu 2014 Rake The Rake

Daniel Negreanu 2014 RakeTheRakeEver since Joe Hachem's Aussie Millions interview back in January, where he said that poker is lacking in interesting characters, the poker world has been debating what will make the game more appealing. And one pro who's been especially vocal, and knowledgeable, on the matter is Daniel Negreanu.

Having been around poker since the mid-90s, the 6-time WSOP champion has seen a lot of changes in the game. And one change that he notes with regard to the Hachem-started debate is how TV poker has evolved. In a recent interview with iGaming, Negreanu explains that televised games and tournaments could stand to focus more on players' back stories, rather than just what happens on the felt. Below you can see some of the key points that 'Kid Poker' makes on the subject.

441 Productions changed the Game

By itself, Chris Moneymaker's dramatic rise from an accountant to 2003 WSOP Main Event champion is pretty intriguing. But as Negreanu contends, the way that 441 portrayed Moneymaker's run is what really made TV audiences stand up and take notice.

"The incredible team of 441 did such an amazing job of selling the Cinderella story about this guy who came out of nowhere, some accountant, playing his first ever live tournament," Negreanu told iGaming. "He qualified for $40 (through a satellite) and all of a sudden, he won $2,000,000. When it finally happened on TV, and the way they portrayed it, it got a ton of people at home watching, thinking to themselves, 'I can be that guy' and they genuinely believed that."

Telling a Story

Negreanu admits that the way 441 spun Moneymaker's amateur tale back then no longer works over a decade later. But he still believes in the way that the production company told stories about players and showcased their personalities.

While speaking about how 441 portrayed charismatic players like Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth, he said, "They promoted the stars perfectly, and I think that’s the biggest difference to what we see on TV now. They created stars from the people they chose and had a story worth telling." Negreanu later added, "The way they shoot poker nowadays is nowhere near as good as that. The main reason is that they were looking to tell a story back then while now it’s all focused on the poker."

Promoting the New Stars

Unlike Hachem, who contends that poker is dying because the younger generation aren't dynamic enough, Negreanu thinks that pros are just as interesting today as they were during poker's boom years. But according to him, their stories aren't being conveyed properly.

"To think that back then there were people like Allen Cunningham, Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, who didn’t say a word at the table," he said. "There are so many players right now that are equally, if not more, interesting than these guys, but the problem is that these stories haven’t been told yet."

He went on to say, "Phil Ivey didn’t say a damn word when he was on TV, Ferguson was a robot nit that didn’t move; Howard Lederer was a monotone condescending professor guy. These were not people with bubbling personalities! Their characters were created, and I can see someone like LuckyChewy be the new Huck Seed, a raw foodist, super genius, super skinny, slow Buddhist-like guy, the Zen-Chewy! I could do it! If I was a producer I could take a lot of these ‘new’ guys and turn them into stars where they don’t have to say a damn thing when they play."

Negreanu definitely makes some good points in his interview. And hopefully poker TV producers take some of his suggestions into account. Of course, one thing that's changed today is the general audience's increased knowledge of the game, which makes discussing poker strategy more integral to shows. That said, the key may be finding a nice balance between back stories, what's happening in hands and strategy discussion.