Two nights ago, there wasn’t a single person present in the Amazon Room that wasn’t, in some way, shape or form, rooting for Daniel Negreanu to make the World Series of Poker Main Event’s ‘November Nine’. You can claim you weren't. You can claim you didn’t care. You can claim whatever you want, but deep down, you did.
It doesn’t matter what hat you wore; fan, player, media, you wanted him there. A half dozen people, maybe more, were live tweeting every hand at the ‘Main Table’. Every time he was involved in a big hand, the entire room held their collective breath and every time he won a pot, the entire room erupted in celebration.
When he doubled right before the Day 7 dinner break, he left the ‘Thunder Dome’ like Joe Namath running off the field after Super Bowl III, with a fist pump replacing the infamous finger wag. You wanted him doing pushups and the entire crowd counting along with him in November like he did on Tuesday night. You wanted four months of insane buildup around a player that could potentially be the biggest star in poker and one of the best to ever play the game. You wanted him to be playing, dare I say, for an unmatched legacy in terms of poker players in the 21st century. Trust me, you wanted him there.
Instead, you got a brutal river, another 11th place finish and a diverse but freakishly talented final table that will still be must watch television in a few months.
Immediately after Negreanu’s elimination, various members of media outlets and players alike voiced their opinions on ‘Kid Poker’s’ fate, as he was not going to be seated in the Penn & Teller theater come November. Some made it seem like a family member had just passed. Some just stopped caring all together. Some even made the claim that the rest of the players lost out on money, exposure, profitability and a variety of other terms that you can probably find in the glossary of a high school marketing textbook.
The build up to the ‘November Nine’, with Negreanu included, was going to be madness. It was every media outlet’s wet dream and then some. But to say that the other players are missing out on anything is unsound. For one, everyone who comes back on November 8th has just over $1,000,000 already in their bank account and a shot at the most elusive title in poker. Add on that fans are going to watch weeks and weeks of ESPN coverage, with Negreanu front and center of it all. That alone will generate an insane amount of buzz for this year’s Main Event and attract your regular poker fan.
That regular fan is going to eat ‘Kid Poker’ up. Negreanu alone has that effect and after he busts, they are going to want more. They are not going to watch Negreanu make a run for a month and a half and then just shut off their TV’s the second the queen of hearts spikes on the river. Sending him first to the ground and then the rail.
They want to see if Joe McKeehen can knock out the best and most liked player in the field and continue to pick off the remaining players at the final table, one by one. They want to see if Max Steinberg, who will enter this final table as the only former bracelet winner and with potentially the most supportive and boisterous rail, can add to his lengthy poker resume on poker's biggest stage. They want to see if 72 year-old Pierre Neuville can go from the oldest ever ‘November Niner’ to the oldest WSOP Main Event winner in recent memory. They want to see if one of the other, and I say this with all due respect, unknown players can find a way to write their names into poker's history books.
Yes, I wanted Negreanu. We all did. But, I also want to see what story lines play out in November because with or without ‘Kid Poker’, the Main Event always creates memorable moments. Moments that hopefully will inspire the next generation of players just like past Main Events have inspired me.