Daniel Negreanu’s “At Your Seat” EPT Protest
Outspoken poker pro Daniel Negreanu made news earlier today in the €10K “High Roller” event at EPT Barcelona, when he ran afoul of a tight ruling regarding the new “At Your Seat” rule. Negreanu has vocally opposed the anti-wandering rule since its creation and insertion into the TDA (Tournament Directors Association) code last year.
An incensed Negreanu, upon having a hand ruled dead and having his protest to a floor director denied, then essentially quit the tourney. In the next hand, he jammed all his chips in blind, then watched as his A-3 failed to improve against the pocket sevens of Timothy Adams.
PokerNews, one of several outlets which is live-reporting from the Barcelona event, reported in some detail on the happenings:
It all began when Negreanu was in the small blind. Negreanu, who had recently been talking with Philipp Gruissem at an adjacent table, had returned to his table, posted his small blind, and stood behind his chair while continuing to talk across the tournament floor. The dealer began to deal the cards and immediately mucked Negreanu’s hand. When Negreanu turned his head back to the table and saw this had happened, fireworks began to fly.
“I was right there!” shouted Negreanu. “I was standing right there!”
Negreanu immediately called the floor staff over and passionately explained the situation.
“I was standing right behind my chair talking to Philipp. I was one step behind my chair. I had already posted my small blind!”
Negreanu, upon having the ruling killing his hand confirmed, then open-mucked his K-10 and loudly spoke to the table, “This rule is so bad.” he continued. “Fuck it. I’m all in blind. Come on, next hand. Let’s go. I’m all in blind.”
Unless film of the contested hand emerges, that report is about the best we’ll find. The question is, how fair a ruling was it? Following that, were Negreanu’s histrionics called for?
Here’s the rule from the TDA website, which the EPT uses. It calls for the killing of a player’s hand if he is not at his seat or within reach of it when the first card is dealt:
Player Present / Eligible for Hand
29: At Your Seat
A player must be at his seat when the first card is dealt on the initial deal or he will have a dead hand. A player not then at his seat is dealt in, he may not look at his cards, and the hand is immediately killed after the initial deal. His blinds and antes are posted and if dealt the bring-in card in a stud-type game he will post the bring-in*. A player must be at his seat to call time. “At your seat” means within reach of your chair. This rule is not intended to condone players being out of their seats while involved in a hand. [*Note: In stud, house rules may require additional card(s) be dealt to the killed hand in certain situations.]
The key phrase — and the one most open to interpretation — is “within reach of your chair”. Having seen Negreanu in action on numerous occasions, and being aware of his vocal disdain for this rule, it’s possible he fudged how close he was to his seat when his hand was killed.
His heated Twitter rants aside, Negreanu subsequently posted a blog on the incident over at FCP, where he elaborated on exactly this. In that piece, he wrote:
I stood up from my chair to stretch my legs a little bit, threw in my ante and small blind awaiting the next hand. Obviously since I threw in my chips on my own, I was directly behind my chair. My friend at the table next to me said hello, so I looked over at him and said hello back. I moved maybe 12 inches to the left, still very much in arms reach of my chair. I was actually, in the moment, very conscious of the rule and knew it was important to not walk away from the table as my hand may be killed.
When I turn my attention back to the table the dealer scooped in my cards. I at first politely explained that I was standing right at my chair and my hand is live. The dealer argued that it wasn’t. …
Well, this seems pretty self explanatory, but I was the one who threw my ante in, so of course I was in reach of my chair! The dealer claimed I was standing about a foot further back from where I claimed I was standing. Even if I was standing where she said I was standing, my hand should still be live as I could easily reach the chair with my arm….
It’s all very iffy. When I read that Negreanu “politely explained” and the dealer “argued,” my BS meter goes up a couple of ticks, and there’s absolutely no mention by Negreanu in his blog if he was doing quite a bit of roaming between hands, as he is often wont to do.
The unspoken truth is that the dealer’s version may well be closer to the truth, and that Negreanu may be manufacturing and politicizing the situation to try to get a rule that he doesn’t like removed from the books. He’s done such things before, and often in hypocritical ways, which is the biggest hole in his otherwise good-for-poker persona.
(The story of the protest and forced rule changes regarding the WSOP’s annual Player of the Year award is another such example; manufactured by Negreanu and friends Erick Lindgren and Barry Greenstein, that episode stole the 2008 award away from Jacobo Fernandez and gave it to an undeserving Lindgren, said rule changes coerced under threat of a walkout by the three players here named. So, yeah, he’d do that.)
There’s also the question of why he would do this at an EPT event, given its close association with PokerStars, for whom Negreanu himself serves as the site’s most prominent spokesman. Whether or not the buy-ins for these EPT tourneys are paid directly by PokerStars, they’ve certainly been reimbursed by Stars indirectly via Negreanu’s generous sponsorship deal, and so the support of fellow Stars-sponsored player Jason Mercier (who also hates the rule) rings a bit hollow as well. Mercier mentioned that the rule “angers paying customers,” and it might, but Negreanu essentially freerolls these big events. It’s a red herring.
Ah, well. In a nutshell, that’s Daniel Negreanu, both the good and the bad of him. It’s fine to be passionate about one’s beliefs, but it’s also good to be cognizant of the context.