Most recently, Daniel Negreanu said on Twitter that for more than 20 years he has not made a deal or chopped in tournaments.
But at a recent Las Vegas mix game series, Daniel was forced to chop against his will.
To resolve the dispute, he had to turn to arbitrators. The situation was so shocking to Negreanu that he spoke about it on two episodes of his DAT Poker podcast.
Daniel Negreanu: I finished 3rd in the $10,000 Dealer's Choice in the PGT Mixed Series and won the last longer. I took the entire prize pool, because in tournaments I never chop, even when millions are at stake. The next day, the same last longer was organized in a $25,000 10-game tournament. 16 people participated, the prize fund was $32,000. Only Nacho Barbero and I got into the money, and he offered to split it:
– Only we are left, we have approximately equal stacks, can we split it?
At that moment I was in a big hand and answered him with a laugh:
Yeah, we can share.
This discussion ended, and we did not say a word more on this topic.
Nacho was eliminated in 8th place and I was in 6th. After the tournament, he came up to me and asked:
– Well, what do we do with the money?
– What? I hurried. – There was no deal, I never chop.
On this we parted, I went to the toilet, confident that the issue was settled.
The next day, I wrote to Bryce Yockey, who organized the last longer, to arrange how he would transfer the money to me. He said he was ready to give me $16k at any time.
– Why $16k? I didn't understand. – Should be $32k!
“Nacho said that you chopped and already took his half."
Now let's turn to the arbitrators. If Nacho had won, of course, I wouldn't even have cared about the money, I wouldn't even have thought of that. What would you do if you were asked to resolve such a dispute?
Adam Schwartz: Maybe it's the language barrier? How well does Nacho speak English, it's not his native language.
Daniel Negreanu: It didn't affect him at all, he speaks almost perfectly.
Terrence Chen: I'd like to hear his side of things to understand why he thought you agreed. I don't think he was trying to shove so openly.
Daniel Negreanu: I have no doubts about that either, and I immediately told him about it. He decided that I immediately agreed and did not think about it anymore. Let me remind you that I was in the hand, and won it, that is, the ratio of stacks immediately changed. I would definitely not divide equally but would offer my own conditions. In addition, in such transactions, participants always clearly confirm their participation with the words “bet” or something similar.
Terrence Chen: And how do other players who were at the table describe this situation?
Daniel Negreanu: It also seemed to David Baker that I agreed. He commented right at the table that he needed to decide quickly before the hand ended. And we never returned to this issue. It turned out to be a negative freeroll for me. Nacho says he would give me half without question, but I wouldn't take the money myself. I've been in poker for 30 years, obviously I wouldn't take $16k if I'm sure we didn't agree on anything like that. The situation is very strange, I did not agree to any chop, but I found myself in a difficult situation. Now, any such proposal, I need to refuse to the whole room, so that everyone can hear it?
Terrence Chen: If I were the referee, I would take your side. But you also need to choose your words carefully.
Daniel Negreanu: I agree, but this is the first time I've been in a similar situation. Therefore, once again I want to make an official statement: “I never chop. If I nodded or grinned, it does not mean that I agreed.
I will accept any decision of the arbitrators, there can be no talk of any grievances. But to be honest, the situation pissed me off. One of the reasons is that Nacho went and took the money himself, although after the tournament I told him that we did not share. It seemed to him that I was kidding.
In the next episode of the podcast, Daniel talked about how their arbitration with Nacho Barbero ended.
Daniel Negreanu: I'll tell you in detail how it all ended because people who are far from poker do not always understand how we resolve such disputes. After our last podcast, in which I thoroughly described the situation, Nacho and I spoke in a raised voice. But we already apologized to each other.
Adam Schwartz: Tell me more.
Daniel Negreanu: I don't want to. I said something, he answered, word for word, and you can no longer contain your emotions. Nothing special. Last time I said that we would listen to the arbitrators, and in the end, we settled on three. And I allowed Nacho to choose two, but there was a condition that we both had to agree with the candidates. For my part, I suggested Matt Glantz, because he has an ideal reputation, he is well-versed in gambling issues, and is always objective in such disputes, regardless of personal relationships with the participants. Nacho didn't protest. On his behalf, he suggested Scott Seiver, whom I also supported with both hands. And the third named Sean Winter, I was a little surprised but did not object.
I myself have arbitrated a very large Dan Bilzerian bet in the past, and I will say that it is a very thankless job. You must carefully listen to all parties, study all the details and make a fair decision. Therefore, I am grateful to all the arbitrators for giving us their time.
Adam Schwartz: Have you all met in person?
Daniel Negreanu: No, we talked online. First, Nacho outlined his version of the situation, then I sent my version. The arbitrators asked us additional questions and interviewed other players, after which they made a general decision. Their conclusion is more like an extract from the court, it turned out so thoughtful. I'll read some points:
Nacho made a clear offer to share the prize money. Daniel did not reject him, and did not agree. It is clear that Daniel did not plan to agree, but Nacho took his answer unambiguously. Separately, we want to emphasize that it is obvious to the arbitrators that none of the parties planned to deceive the other. The whole dispute arose due to a clear misunderstanding and the main question is how to find a fair solution.
Daniel is responsible for not giving a clear answer to Nacho's specific suggestion. Daniel's answer, although not intentionally, sounded ambiguous. Nacho is also responsible for not confirming the deal and waiting for confirmation from the opponent. For a world-class gambler, this is an unforgivable oversight, any bet or transaction must be confirmed in writing or verbally in a clear manner. Daniel claims that he never chops at all, and this is his principled position. And Nacho claims that the belief that the deal was finally made affected his game in the late stages of the tournament.
We contacted David Baker and asked him a question: “You were at the table during the negotiations. Did you think that at the time of Nacho's elimination from the tournament, there was a deal between them?
David's response: “I'm sure Daniel is telling the truth and would never take the money if Nacho won. At that moment I was focused on the game, so I didn’t follow the negotiations very closely, but I got the impression that they both agreed to share.”
We asked the same question to another player who was present in the hall.
His response: “It seemed to me that they shared. This surprised me, because on Daniel's twitter, I just recently read that he never shares.
Daniel ended up in a negative freeroll. However, he drove himself into this situation, as one of the reasons was his ambiguous answer. If two independent witnesses thought the deal had gone through, Nacho could be sure of it all the more. But his fault is that he did not confirm the deal in any way.
It is important that none of the players intended to deceive the opponent, the problem arose due to a misunderstanding. However, the responsibility for the current situation lies with both players, and they must accept it. If not for the words of two witnesses who took Daniel's answer as consent, our decision would have been completely different. But you can't argue with the facts, in these circumstances we believe that both players are equally to blame for the misunderstanding that has arisen. So our decision is to split evenly the $16k that Nacho took for himself.
Terrence Chen: In my opinion, this is the ideal solution. And from the first words I was sure that it would turn out to be so. I would like the courts that sentence people to 20 years in prison to approach decisions with the same responsibility. In the last podcast, I immediately took your side. But you didn't really say "no" clearly. The arbitrators did an excellent job with their role, and this story is another confirmation that there are many honest and worthy people in the poker community.
Adam Schwartz: In general, I agree with Terrence, only I was confused by David's reservation that he did not follow your conversation, while I am sure that you agreed. I would not take into account his words when making a decision.
Daniel Negreanu: It's clear that for me it's not about money. But to be honest, for a couple of days, when we talked with the arbitrators, I was crazy on tilt. I didn’t even say anything, just texted on the phone, but my dogs felt the negative energy emanating from me and hid in another room. I really was so annoyed that I was ready to break something. It was at that moment that we exchanged messages with Nacho, for which we later apologized. For me, the decision of the arbitrators was a huge relief. I agree that if I had said "no", then there would be no questions at all.
Our argument is another reminder that the poker world is much fairer than the real world. Without a written contract, no one would simply listen to us.
Terrence Chen: In the real world, all your $16k would go to lawyers.
Daniel Negreanu: Exactly, but our arbiters spent a lot of their time and got nothing for it. If you are offered the role of an arbitrator in poker, then you are trusted, and this says a lot. When I am asked to act as an arbitrator, I always approach the issue with all seriousness and carefully study the arguments of both sides. And I participated in the resolution of disputes for astronomical sums.
Adam Schwartz: Can you give any examples?
Daniel Negreanu: One guy challenged himself to reduce body fat from 30% to 12% in a year. Dan Bilzerian bet a lot of money that he could handle it and won the bet. But his opponent doubted the honesty, he suspected that the guy was on steroids and faked the test results. I had to study countless documents, and in the end, we sided with Bilzerian. The test turned out to be honest, the guy really reduced the amount of fat to 12%. And the words about steroids remained words, no evidence of this was found.