The mark of any sporting great is the ability to transcend their chosen discipline and cross borders into the mainstream. Michael Jordan did it in basketball, Muhammad Ali in boxing and Tiger Woods did it in golf.
Having the necessary skills to rise to the top in sports is one thing, but having the ability to rise above the niche and make non-fans aware of your presence is quite another. Naturally, athletes such as Jordan, Ali and Woods are few and far between. However, when one does emerge, a movie or a book, like Super Bowl Gold, which we reviewed, often follows.
Of course, not all documentaries hit the mark (check out Bleacher Report’s review of Michael Jordan documentaries), but the ones that do give us a rare insight into the mind of a star and that’s what happened recently when KidPoker aired in Canada.
Painting the Portrait of a Poker Pro
Focusing on the leading poker player of all-time, Daniel Negreanu, the documentary (the trailer is shown in the video above) gives viewers a personalized account of how one man climbed up through the poker world and became a global star. As of January 2015, Negreanu is at the top of the global all-time money list with over $32 million in lifetime tournament earnings.
After initially planning a short online video capturing the highlights of Negreanu’s career, producers Gary Davis and Francine Watson found themselves creating a full-length biopic featuring friends, family and fans.
According to the producers, Negreanu’s poker wins have been seen by millions on TV over the years, but his non-poker personality and life has always been something of an untold story. Despite participating in hundreds of interviews over the years, the man behind the poker face had never really been shown to the masses before this documentary.
Public Persona and Corporate Collaborations
For those who care to take a look at Negreanu’s résumé, you’ll see that, like the aforementioned greats, he has an impressive record. His millions in live tournament winnings (helped by a second place finish in the World Series of Poker Big one for One Drop) has made him the biggest poker winner of all time and his association with online poker giant PokerStars has made him a figurehead for the community.
Much like Jordan made the Chicago Bulls the hottest thing in basketball at the time, Negreanu has done similar things for PokerStars. Although it was already known as the largest online poker site in the world before he joined, his status as a Team PokerStars Pro has exposed his talents to a much greater audience. In fact, during his time as a PokerStars pro, Negreanu was even given the chance to meet Barack Obama, who is said to have called him “that poker guy.”
Beyond Negreanu’s Poker Face
However, beyond his stats and public persona, Negreanu is also a man with an interesting history and with deep family values, and that’s the message Davis and Watson wanted to get across in KidPoker.
After a screening in Toronto, the documentary was then shown on Canada’s TSN4 before being aired internationally. For those who haven’t seen it, the story is a behind-the-scenes look at how someone started from the bottom and reached the top. In Negreanu’s case we see him rise above the card rooms and pool halls of Toronto to worldwide fame.
Although poker might not be uttered in the same breath as major sports such as football or basketball, there’s no doubt it’s a skilled discipline and it’s because of this that Negreanu has been able to attain star status. Moreover, like all sporting greats, Negreanu managed to achieve such success thanks to the support of his loved ones.
A Family Tribute
Throughout the documentary, audiences are treated to candid insights from those closest to Negreanu, including his brother, Mike, who offers a heart-warming account of how Daniel became the best poker player in the world.
Beyond the touching accounts of Negreanu’s early years, viewers are treated to testimonials and personal stories about Negreanu from some of poker’s top players. Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari and Jennifer Harman all help to give a professional critique of Negreanu’s skills as well as add a touch of Las Vegas shine.
Completing the collage of information presented by Davis and Watson is a collection of first-hand interviews with the man himself. Shot in his natural settings, the talking heads and personal moments not only provide a greater depth to KidPoker, but tie the documentary together in a more intimate way.
A Sporting Documentary for All
When it comes to documentaries of sporting greats, KidPoker might not necessarily receive the same attention as those focusing on the likes of Jordan (such as Dream Team). In fact, the man himself probably won’t ever be famous enough to have a toy made for him like the top wrestlers of all-time. However, the poker production is certainly a fitting testament to the game’s greatest player. Unlike many other attempts to tell Negreanu’s story, KidPoker doesn’t fall into the trap of simply focusing on his professional life, and chooses to show the man behind the talent instead.
While his $32 million in tournament winnings is certainly an integral part of his story, it isn’t the only part. Indeed, as the documentary reminds us, for Negreanu it’s the work ethic instilled in him by his family that allowed him to get to where he is today. All in all, KidPoker is a film worth watching regardless of whether you’re a poker fan or not.