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Daniel Negreanu's Poker Blog

Making a Difference
31 Jul 2014

2:30am now as I write this after a night out with the boys in one of my favorite cities, Toronto, Canada. Confession: I have had a few cocktails and then a few more to top it off as I write this. I wanted to write this as it was fresh in my mind, despite my mind possibly being a bit cloudy at the moment:

Had a cab drop me off at my hotel and noticed a street vendor selling hotdogs and the like. Most of you have likely experienced the kind of hunger you feel after a night of drinking, and how good of an idea a street meat hotdog sounds like! Being a vegan myself, I was happy to find that this vendor offered a veggie dog. I happily ordered two and smothered them in ketchup, mustard, and plenty of pickles.

There was a park bench right next to the vendor, three park benches actually, and I promptly sat down on the bench and gorged on one of my guilty pleasures. I noticed that two benches down laid a homeless man with a long gray beard peacefully sleeping. I don't know this mans story, how he got there, who he was, but as I munched on this awesome meal I pondered about this fellow human being and what got him to where he was. What struggles he may have faced, what losses or abuse he may have dealt with. That thought process led me towards compassion for him.

As I was sitting there alone in thought, two girls sat down on the bench in between us to enjoy their own hungover meal. I had already thought about what kind of a difference I wanted to make for this man, but when these two girls sat down, I thought about the situation in a bigger way.

People who do charitable acts and talk about them publicly are either applauded, or vilified as attention whores only seeking to be seen in a good light. I'm sure some of you reading this blog may feel that way right now and I'm fully aware of that. There will always be naysayers, but they don't stop me from being public about making a difference because I feel like there is a deeper value in that. A bigger game if you will.

Sure, there is something noble about giving without anyone else seeing the act, but does that mean there is evil in giving with the hopes of inspiring others to give as well? I don't think so. Recently, led by a group of young German poker players with a conscious for living a bigger life, one that consists of more than just using their talent to beat people out of money at the poker table, have started an initiative called REG- short for Raising for Effective Giving REG

I applaud their efforts to make a difference on a bigger scale, and all those that either use their personal wealth, celebrity, or influence to make a difference in a public way.


So let's get back to me on the street at 2:30am eating a delicious veggie dog alongside two young girls and what I presumed to be a homeless man. As I said, I'd already been thinking about how I could make a difference for this man. Buy him a hotdog and leave it by his side when he awoke? Or maybe leave a few bucks in the bag he laid on while he slept, when a bigger game dawned on me. Here is what I chose to do:

The man was asleep and the difference I made for him isn't something I'd likely see with my own eyes, but what would be a bigger game? What if I could make a difference for the two girls on the bench beside him? How could I do that?

Well, I decided to give it a try. Shamelessly, I made an elaborate display in front of them, reaching into my pocket as I'd already inhaled my veggie dogs, and pulled out $10. Of course, this $10 doesn't change my life any as I've been blessed financially, but my intention was to make a difference, in the moment, with that $10. I looked for a spot to put it so the man wouldn't lose it and didn't see any real safe place other than right in his hands. I got close to him, put the two $5 bills into his hands, making sure that he had a firm grip on them. Once I placed them in his hand, I walked back to my hotel. The two girls obviously saw the whole thing and said, "You are a nice man."

As poker players, lets look deeper into this situation and break it down a little further shall we? What was my real motivation for doing that? What was my motivation for then coming straight back to my hotel and writing a blog about it? What is the purpose of sharing this story with all of you?

There are at least two ways to look at it. One being that I did this to impress these girls by showing them how generous I am so they would like me, and then sharing this with all of you would give you all the warm and fuzzies so you may respond with, "Wow, Daniel you are such an awesome guy!" I'm certain that at least some of you will think along those lines and I won't make you wrong.

What is another possibility? I wanted to make a small difference for a homeless man. I also wanted to teach/show the girls the value of giving and that there are good people in this world that are willing to help someone who is down on their luck. Writing a blog about my experience, well why would I do that? Another possibility... to inspire. To anyone reading this that wants to live a bigger life, that wants to make a difference for their friends, family, community, and the world.

I have seen crazier things! A year ago I offered a woman $10 to quit smoking for a year. She was just a fan railing me at the WSOP and when she told her kids about the offer they encouraged her to do it! Just this summer, a year later, she came back to my rail while I was playing the One Drop. 25 pounds lighter, smoke free, and soda free! Now, am I taking credit for the commitment and dedication it took for her to achieve such an accomplishment? Hell no, however, I do believe that it's possible that the encounter with me sparked something in her that created a chain of events that led her down a more positive path.

Seeing her succeed like that is akin to a high I yearn for. I was so happy for this woman, and the thought that I could have possibly inspired these changes for her and her family are more rewarding than winning any poker tournament ever could be.

I consider myself to be quite self aware and I also have thick skin. I already know what some of the comments to this blog will create. Truth is, I don't really care to waste my time or energy on those that choose to nitpick on why I do what I do. That frustration or annoyance pales in comparison to what I have seen with my own eyes, when people do good deeds, share their stories, and inspire others to make a bigger difference for those in their life, their community, and ultimately, the world.

Picture of the Homeless Guy


Daniel Negreanu is the 2004 Card Player Magazine and World Poker Tour Player of the Year. He presents his poker strategies in one-on-one virtual training at pokervt.com and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column.
Read all of Daniel Negreanu's poker blog and poker articles at Full Contact Poker


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