Daniel Negreanu “Broke Even” in Live Tournaments Last Year

Shortly before the turn of the new year, Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu tweeted, “In 2017 I cashed for $2,792,104. Do you think I spent more or less than that amount I cashed for?”

About two-thirds of the 22,458 people who voted guessed that he spent less than that on tournament buy-ins, a natural assumption when talking about one of the best poker players of all time. But Negreanu, being the cheeky bastard that he is, revealed in a blog post on his site, FullContactPoker.com, that he was actually a net loser for 2017, spending $2,874,164 to win that $2,792,104. On the year, Negreanu lost $86,140.

He sums up why he posed the question as such:

“I posted a poll on Twitter mentioning that in 2017 I cashed for $2,792, 104 and asked if people thought that was more or less than the total number of buyins I spent on the year. I mention this because I think my 2017 was a good illustration of the illusion that players cashing for $2 million in a single year is a great accomplishment. In the old days, before super high rollers, you could all but guarantee that cashing for $2 million would mean the player had a winning year. Well, the truth is, if a player plays the full high roller schedule and cashes for $2 million, they are all but certain to have had a losing year, and that’s before expenses.”

What’s awesome is that Negreanu has so much money that he considers this breaking even. Let’s just imagine for a second what that would be like. Mmm… that’s nice. My wife was in a car accident just over a month ago and though she was okay, the car was totaled. While we could afford it, it certainly wasn’t enjoyable cutting a down-payment check and committing to making monthly payments for a few years. But if I had Negreanu’s money, I’d be down less than a buy-in! The cost of the car would almost be negligible.

Daniel NegreanuI’m needling a bit here, but Negreanu’s “break even” statement makes sense, as he noted that his average buy-in last year was just over $40,000. Thus, his annual deficit was only about two buy-ins. While Negreanu’s losing year meant it was possible he couldn’t pay for food  — it didn’t literally mean that, as he had money in the bank, income from other poker-related gigs, and these numbers don’t even take into account cash games and online play — looking at it as two buy-ins puts it in a bit of perspective. It would be like me losing 30 chocolate Hanukkah gelt coins over the course of the year. Disappointing, as I have a sweet tooth, but not life-ruining.

Negreanu sees 2018 as a year which could really mess with some players.

“With the $1 million buy in One Drop coming back this year, and the Super High Roller Bowl, and countless high rollers held here in Vegas and across the globe, it won’t be much of a stretch to see players spending upwards of $5 million in buy ins. $5 million dollars. Just in buy ins,” he wrote.

Imagine being a player who committed that much to buy-ins and wasn’t able to cash, or only hit a couple min-cashes. It will happen to someone.

Negreanu said that most players do not fund all of their buy-ins completely; most have backers to some extent. With the level of buy-ins that he predicts this year, though, players will still be on the hook for a bundle. He stated that he puts up his own money all the time, though he will likely sell about half of his Big One for One Drop action, since $1 million buy-in is steep even for him (it’s actually not that it’s too steep, it’s just that it’s “a crazy amount of money to risk in one tournament,” which is a very reasonable take).

Daniel Negreanu didn’t just share his 2017 stats on his blog; he listed his performance for the past three years. 2016 was actually a much worse year than 2017, as he lost $1,246,693 in live tournaments. As mentioned, he has other sources of income (PokerStars and Poker Central, for example) and plays in other types of poker games, so he might have still come out ahead on the year, but it is interesting to see those negative numbers in black and white.

On the whole, though, for the past five years, Negreanu won $19,062,527 and bought in for $10,329,453, good for a profit of $8,733,074. He played in nearly 300 events and cashed in almost a quarter of them. His big year was 2014, where he nabbed over half of his payouts. The reason for that was his second place finish in the Big One for One Drop, in which he won $8,288,001. If he paid the entire $1 million buy-in himself, that tournament essentially comprised the vast majority of his five year profit. He likely didn’t buy-in completely, though, so if he, say, ponied up half the buy-in and took half the winnings, that tourney still made up two-fifths of the $8.7 million he made in the last five years.

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