Negreanu, Stars, enemies: musings on bad faith and why we do the things we do?

After Daniel Negreanu created a nuclear winter across Twitter with a series of opinions that a large swathe of the poker community met with sarcasm and scorn, Lee Davy, tries to figure out why he continues to bother, why people react and more.

Some people
grind away
making their
the ultimate
of their
they are
their only
to meet

– Downers, by Charles Bukowski.

I can’t put it off any longer.

Negreanu, Stars, enemies: musings on bad faith and why we do the things we do?I’m procrastinating because I’m afraid. I nearly used the word ‘terrified’ – a tad melodramatic – but that’s the word my melancholy wanted to use.

I used to love writing opinion pieces. Few people were doing it. A point of differentiation. A way of being less like the other swans, swimming in this pool of poker, a place where, on times, it can feel ice cold.

I write 4-5 pieces per day.


It’s like I don’t exist.

The feeling of being lost, like a ‘Williams’, desperately leaping out of the Yellow Pages, confirmed, with the stab of a fountain pen used to accentuate the full stop, driven through the paper, and deep into your thigh bone like a needle searching for marrow.

The pointlessness of it all is not lost on me. I have spent a lifetime tricking people into thinking that I have abilities and capacities I lack. Like an errant eyelash in a burrito, I don’t want to be found out. I don’t want people to see how clueless, and unsophisticated I really am.

An opinion piece is different.

It feels like you’re writing it using a trumpet instead of a pen. It’s Leftfield noisy, and if you do it well, it elicits positive feedback on Twitter that you can package into a pill, swallow it, and keep the imposter syndrome feeling at bay, a little while longer.

Then there is the hate.

It’s wrong for me to say that the poker industry is more or less hateful than any other industry when it comes to the passive-aggressive tact of firing a missile or two at an opponent from behind their laptop or mobile phone 5,000 miles away from the target, because I have never experienced THIS in any other format.

That’s untrue.

I have.

I exist inside another bubble, one that pops when the addict drinks alcohol. Whenever I press ‘publish’ and blow so hard on a podcast, blog post or point of view that it spreads around my world like winged seeds, grace and gratitude meet my opinions.

Not here.

Not in poker.

In a sense it’s a good thing. I’d love to have a philosophers’ picnic, and dip my toes into the river while someone else cuts my theories and thoughts apart like the cucumber that’s finding a new home in between molar one and molar two.

Poker is different.

It’s no picnic, that’s for sure.

Yesterday, an interview that I conducted with Andrew Robl hit the airwaves. The discussion was different, vulnerable, and inspirational. As I watched it on YouTube, I noticed four thumbs down. I sent a link to my wife on Whatsapp, with this message.

“An interview has come out between Andrew Robl and me. Can you check the comments to see if I am going to puke if I read them x.”

I can’t handle the hate anymore.

I can’t even handle the minor disagreements.

Doubling 140-characters is still too many moves away from the perfect choreography needed to get the point across, but it seems to be the ideal number for a hypodermic needle point full of sarcasm and scorn.

I sense something else happens when I write an opinion piece. I lose people. Important people. People that you want me to interview, but won’t respond with a simple ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘fuck-off’ when I contact them because they have read something I have written and decided that those 1,000 words define everything about who I am from my ethics, morals, values, beliefs – everything.

So I duck and dive.

I don’t do it anymore.

Until, today.

Daniel Negreanu

I am envious of Daniel Negreanu.

People believe ‘envy’ is a shameful, embarrassing feeling, and to share it with the world means you’re a sleeping bag short of a cracking camping trip.

I am envious of his home, his financial status, his network, his service, his talent, his experiences – past, current and future, and I won’t be alone.

I’m not envious of the shitstorm he faced this past week when tweeting his thoughts on what constitutes a ‘bad’ and ‘good’ poker player, his views on taking 100% responsibility for your actions, and views on loaning money.

I picked up my machete, and started to hack through the noise, and noticed plenty of phlegm hanging from most of the threads. It all seemed a bit much, and because of that I wondered what was really going on? My thoughts only came up with more questions.

Why does Daniel Negreanu go through the pain of posting his views on Twitter? It’s not only Daniel. Cate Hall is another polarising example of someone who continued to share her views on almost everything, and at the same time, having to deal with the blowback.

Tony Robbins believes our actions either take us towards pleasure or away from pain. Does this mean that Daniel, Cate and anyone else who continues to use Twitter as a communication tool despite receiving the equivalent of ‘real world’ punches in the face enjoys the mayhem?

Is there pleasure in the pain?

‘No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead”, and acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us, from which the cruellest bodily torture would be a relief.’

I pinched that from the opening of Alain de Botton’s book ’Status Anxiety,’ where the philosopher suggests that perhaps our drive to improve, maintain or lower our status is heavily linked to our search for love.

If this is true, then perhaps people who use Twitter to ‘gain attention’ do so because subconsciously they know that beyond the pain of the repeated mortar attacks lies the love of being thought of as someone worthy of hitting. After all, you can only hit someone you can see, and don’t we want people to see us?


You can’t argue with biology; we need to be likeable. The benefits of belonging to a tribe are well noted. Harley Davidson turns outsiders into beloved insiders, Deadheads followed Garcia everywhere, and we all know of the benefit of belonging to the right tribe in poker.

It’s demoralising, disconcerting and disturbing to learn that you have enemies.

There is a scene in The Simpsons when Lisa breaks Ralph’s heart that reminded me of the war of words between Shaun Deeb and Daniel, with Daniel playing the role of Ralph, and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Player of the Year donning that dress again to be Lisa.

During the thunder and lightning that accompanied Daniel’s views on loaning money, Deeb wrote: ‘Can’t wait until two years this tweet is about divorce.’

Daniel responds over a series of tweets, which I have merged into one statement: ‘That’s a pretty shitty tweet even for you, Shaun. What compels you to write that? Tasteless and classless. Like, what is the point? Going for laughs?”

Daniel even asked him to apologise so they could both move past it.


Was this posturing Daniel’s way of trying to eliminate an enemy before he became one? After all, an enemy wants to humiliate us and make us look stupid.

And what’s going on with the enemies?

Why do they feel the need to respond, and I’m not talking about the people who do so in the spirit of trying (as impossible as it is on Twitter) to have a productive debate. I’m talking about the people who go for the jugular.

In the School of Life’s classic book ‘Who am I?’ there is a chapter on enemies, that ends with a series of questions for the reader to answer.

Maybe you could answer them yourself?

What do you think motivates them {enemies}. Are they right or peculiar to hate you?

What might have gone wrong for them in the past that they are taking out on you, now?

Name five of your biggest enemies across your life. Do they have anything in common in their accusations?


Whenever I am upset about something, I can often follow the breadcrumbs to a scared younger me, holding a stale piece of bread, in a car park, looking for the duck pond.

It’s like someone is holding a mirror in front of me, and I can see myself behaving in the same way as the person I am about hurl 280-characters of abuse at.

I can’t help but think this is happening to Daniel.

You don’t have to plug these ramblings into PioSOLVER to figure out that one of the five things that you can find in common amongst the abuse is Daniel’s faith and support in PokerStars, despite their decision to end the Supernova Elite program horrendously and unacceptably.

When PokerStars chose to end the program in that brutal way, I imagine those affected felt like Stars had zero integrity. In breaches of trust like this, it’s challenging to mend the broken relationship. When Daniel comes out and defends those that have wronged you, I understand why he then falls into your crosshairs.

But there are things I don’t understand.

One of the most common themes I read in messages of hate towards Daniel is that he’s a shill who profits from a company that in the eyes of the haters, has zero integrity.

But so are you.

And you.

And you.

The French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, had integrity.

Negreanu, Stars, enemies: musings on bad faith and why we do the things we do?In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, but refused it because he thought the award was ‘capitalist’ and ‘bourgeois.’ One idea, that Sartre was famous for was the phenomenon existing without truly taking freedom on board, and he called this ‘living in bad faith.’

According to Sartre’s idea, we exist in ‘bad faith’ when we believe we have to take up a particular job or career, continue to live in the freezing wet cold or share a bed with a miserable cold-hearted bar steward all because we think we have no other choice.

Each time you log on to play on PokerStars, you create revenue for them; you’re swelling the numbers, and are a walking, talking billboard.

And it’s not only online.

Turn up at a PokerStars Live event, and you’re doing the same thing, even if you refuse to take a winner’s shot holding a shiny version of their logo in your hand, with the company slogan, brand and symbols standing tall and proud behind you.

Is this not bad faith?

Help me see, how this behaviour is different from Daniel’s when it comes to the specific point of profiting from PokerStars, and please don’t tell me that you’re benefiting from the player because they wouldn’t be there is it wasn’t for the event. And don’t tell me that you need to be there because you have bills to play as many professional poker players do fine without playing online or live at PokerStars.

This phenomenon doesn’t stop with Stars.

We hope that sports betting becomes legalised in the USA because it makes it easier for poker to follow suit. That hope is like the last leaf of Autumn, crisp and yellow, clinging onto a branch with a twister on the way after the Department of Justice reconsidered its 2011 opinion that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting.

Card Player ran with the headline: ‘Sheldon Adelson Gets His Way, Department of Justice Says All Online Gambling Illegal,’ before going on to explain how Adelson has poured millions into the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which by default, stops online poker.

Online poker is a bird with a broken wing.

Sheldon Adelson is a hungry cat.

So why do we play in his poker room?

Like I said, more questions, and I will leave with a few more to summarise my points.

Why do people continue to use social media when it causes so much emotional pain and suffering and takes up so much of our time?

If you profit from PokerStars by playing in their online or live tournaments, why is this any different from Negreanu benefiting from them as an employee? If it’s easy for him to quit, why don’t you?

And a reminder.

The purpose of this piece is to create a debate.

Like Daniel, I don’t want hate.