Poker Champion Daniel Negreanu on His Support of Israel

He has made impressive statements and posts explaining his staunch support of Israel, and warns of the dangers of rampant antisemitism -- all in the face of the usual swaths of online hatred.
February 8, 2024
Courtesy of PokerGO

If you are a fan of poker, and boy have I been for decades, you certainly know Daniel Negreanu. He has won 6 WSOP bracelets, amassed over $50 million in live tournaments, and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2014. Also known as “Kid Poker”, Negreanu is one of the most respected and well-liked people in the gaming community.

Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Daniel was born to Romanian parents, speaking English and Romanian fluently as a result. Although he’s not Jewish, Daniel proudly says that he studied the complex Middle East geopolitics well before the events of October 7. He has made impressive statements and posts explaining his staunch support of Israel, and warns of the dangers of rampant antisemitism — all in the face of the usual swaths of online hatred.

Here’s an example of a recent thread, where he’s reacting to some anti-Israel messages in the poker community:

Robbie Strazynski, founder and writer for CardPlayer Lifestyle, told me, “Daniel is an angel. And the Jewish people are extremely lucky to have his support. He has always, since day one, been super generous with his time, and incredibly kind to me, an observant Jew living in Israel.” (Full disclosure, Robbie is an old friend of mine).

Honestly, I’m a huge fan, and it thrills me to not only call him an ally, but be able to talk to him on the phone for this interview, thanks to mutual friend and poker pro Ronnie Bardah:

Why were you interested in this topic, knowing that most people are advised to avoid it by their agents and managers?

Before it was a hot topic on October 7th, I put a lot of time and research into trying to understand the conflict from both perspectives. One of the most valuable assets I found was Rudy Rochman. He sits with Palestinian activists, and tries to find common ground, and really make a difference. He goes to colleges, and tries to have conversations, while people are name-calling and yelling at him. I find his work fascinating.

I find it important, because what I see in the world is that the Middle East is a powder keg. Sides are chosen, and as we see today, it leads to much bigger problems. I really want to understand the history, even if others don’t, and I feel like I did with the time I put in.

What’s it like regarding other poker players you interact with on this topic?

That’s the blessing. The people my age and in my circle…everyone agrees with my point of view for the most part, with very little pushback. There is a faction of poker players who for many years have been part of what you call the Progressive movement. They’re the ones who make microaggressions seem like the most evil things in the world. There’s a guy named Justin Bonomo. I feel like his brain has been broken for many years going down that sort of path. Too far down the Progressive rabbit hole. It’s not surprising that in this conflict he only sees “white, wealthy, backed by military power, and oppressor” when he views Israel. This means he will never see “poor, brown, innocents, or oppressed”, no matter the color of an Israeli’s skin, or the number of times a day that an Israeli family hides in their bomb shelter. When you look at it through the lens of oppressor and oppressed, automatically the oppressor is evil, and morally bankrupt. The oppressed are the righteous, regardless of what they do or how it plays out. And we’re seeing a glaring example of that play out tragically before our eyes.

What politics do you identify with?

I’ve always been a classic Obama/Bill Maher liberal. I don’t feel like I connect with the extremes on either side, because they’re just both crazy for different reasons.

Does Bonomo poke the bear when he sees you in person?

No, we focus on just doing our jobs, which is poker. And I’ve learned not to engage with him at all directly, because there’s no point. I tell these people on Twitter that yell at me, “you know this is pointless, it’s worse than pointless in fact. It’s a waste of both of our time. You’re gonna go through your list of whatever propaganda you’ve found. You’re not gonna convince me; I’m not gonna convince you. And then it’s gonna be a back and forth that ends nowhere. So let’s just cut to the chase and not do it.” But sometimes I do get sucked into these arguments.

You’re either on the side of good or evil. There’s not much gray left in this world. People just think they’re right and you’re wrong these days.

It’s honestly quite easy to parse through those who are not worth talking to. It’s typically when they just keep using buzzwords, like “genocide” and “apartheid” without having any understanding of the reality of Israel. The fact that over 20% of the population is Arab for example. That’s a pretty horrible way to commit an apartheid! In addition to that, it’s a pretty ineffective genocide when the population you’re committing it on has doubled! So when I hear those buzzwords, I know that person is too far gone to even discuss it with.

Why are you so interested in Israel specifically, rather than any other region of the world?

I guess it just saddens me that people don’t see the reality of the region. There’s one sliver of a population where democracy is king, where gay people can walk freely, you can practice any religion that you want, women have full rights…And they’re surrounded by nations so different from that. It was shocking for me to see Progressives, and how opposed to Israel they are. They support the very people that would literally drag them through the streets on a bike, and throw them off a roof, in so many cases. I imagine that in that moment, right before they would be killed, they would be crying and praying that the IDF would save them. It’s very easy for those in Western culture to make rash judgments, and make them fit their paradigms.

I saw a tweet that I’ll botch, “We’ve lost touch with war and what it looks like.” It’s very easy for us to say “let’s just be pacifists, and not have war.” So what’s actually realistic? Ukraine shouldn’t fight back because innocent people will die? Innocent people will die in every war. War is tragic. Yet when they cite the numbers that come directly from the Hamas Ministry of Health, they treat them like the Word of God. “80,000 children are dead, and only 4 were Hamas!” Gee, I wonder where they got that from. Every single victim is a child or a completely innocent journalist.

After Israel managed to kill a recent Hamas leader, the first comment  online cracked me up, “Per the Hamas Ministry of Health, he was a 12 year old female journalist”.


Do you have any kids?

Not that I know of!

Does this topic come up with your wife?

She knows I’m passionate about it, but when we’re together, we try avoid sad topics, because she’s highly empathetic with all deaths really affecting her. Occasionally things do rile me up, and I’ll share with her anyway.

I’m well aware that my efforts online are not gonna change anything. If you see what’s happening on TikTok especially to the younger generations, they’re completely becoming brainwashed, and it’s so dangerous. It’s a whole generation of people who are being fed info directly from a Chinese-run company, allied with Russia, who’s allied with Iran, whose right arm is Hezbollah and Hamas. The whole algorithm and content are teaching these kids. So many of these kids are chanting slogans, and don’t even know what they’re saying. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” It’s catchy, even a cool tune, but do you even know what it means? No.

Regarding TikTok, plenty of research has been done, where you look at the numbers of pro-Israel people versus Pro-Palestine, and Pro-Israel is dwarfed about 9-1 there. It’s horrible.

Who are the Jewish people in your life?

Ronnie Bardah and Robbie Strazynski are Jewish friends. There’s (Israeli poker pro) Eli Elezra. I grew up in Toronto with 2 Israeli guys named Regev and Oren. Our families were close, and we have been ever since. They taught me some Hebrew in fact, including a bunch of bad words, and even a song.

(He then sings me a song fully in Hebrew about famous “crybaby” poker player Phil Hellmuth, starting with “Phil Hellmuth Ben Zonah” which requires no translation for anyone who’s taken remedial Hebrew.)

Is this your first time in a Jewish publication?

Robbie has written about me, and also I know the song about Phil Hellmuth has gone viral in Israel, because I’ve sung it before for people on camera, and they love it.

Have you visited Israel?

No, it’s one of the top 5 countries I most want and need to visit.

With your poker lifestyle do you have a crazy sleep schedule?

I sleep 8 hours every night like a baby, and wake up at 10am.

Do you miss out on any of the best games as a result?

I don’t really play cash games anymore; I’ve got money. I just play tournaments because I enjoy them. Poker is for joy, not income at this point. I honestly find cash games boring.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have to go because I have to finish my weekly “Chosen Links” before I go to sleep tonight. So I’m going to be an idiot and hang up on one of my poker idols!

Lilah tov!

Follow Daniel here:

Twitter/X – https://x.com/RealKidPoker

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DNegsPoker

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/dnegspoker/

Boaz Hepner works as a Registered Nurse in Saint John’s Health Center. He moonlights as a columnist, where his focuses are on health, and Israel, including his Chosen Links section of the Journal. He is a Pico/Robertson native, and lives here with his wife Adi, and children Natalia and Liam. He can be found with his family enjoying his passions: his multitude of friends, movies, poker and traveling.

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