Some poker players stand out with big titles like Stu The Kid Ungar and for being exceptional at the game. You need more than one to be really big whether it’s the SBOP or the WSOP or a notable big hand. It will get the media and then the fans going mad for you.
But there is another way! Some players have ugly table manners! And one sure thing that gets you talked about is that. Having bad table manners doesn’t mean you're a bad guy. For some they just play that way. Then after the game Mr. Smooth is back. They are typically good players in their own right but their ugly play has the fanbase going crazy.
What makes for bad table play?
It can be whining about every little thing, disrespecting the game and the other players. Some continue to be bad dudes away from the tables. They are not so popular but definitely talked about. We reveal 10 ‘bad players’ in this article.
1. Phil Hellmuth A poker brat with the ability to win big titles. The undisputed king of WSOP bracelets clearly knows how to play. But you don’t win them all. Yet Phil thinks he should and every time he lets you know it was bad luck and that he is the best. “If there weren’t luck involved, I would win every time.” he said. Some close to him in the community say he is a nice guy away from the tables.
2. Tony G Tony will berate the pros and cross the line. It makes for great TV and he gets carried away for sure. He doesn’t ‘hit’ the amateurs though. It’s like the pros should know better. Traditionalists don’t like it. He has had many entertaining ding dongs with Hellmuth.
3. Will Kassouf Kassouf divided the community on what is acceptable to do to get an edge at the table. Kassouf used ‘speech play’ to try and get tells and advantages from his competitors. He was pretty much unknown apart from a great run in the 2016 WSOP main event. Eventually he lost and it seemed justice was served to many. Griffin Benger in the last hand got the better of him.
4. Jamie Gold Winner of the WSOP in 2006 and a very big 12 Million in the main event. Another player who used ‘Speech Play’ and bluffing to the extreme. A casual player at the time and trash talker got the community going. But he fizzled out much to the delight of his detractors.
5. Scotty Nguyen A class veteran with five WSOP bracelets and over 12,000,000 in winnings, Scotty is one of the legends of the game. Normally and at his best he is actually nice and chilled whilst playing. He is welcomed by the poker community. However the evil alcohol changed his demeanour on one occasion which gets him onto our list. In 2008 at the WSOP H.O.R.S.E. event worth $50k he drank beer after beer and got increasingly abusive. He won and apologised after the event, playing down his behaviour at the same time. He lost a lot of fans and of course it upset him.
6. Mike “The Mouth” Matusow A very good player at his prime is Matusow. But he was very well known for going on rants that once they got started didn’t die out easily.He earned his nickname The Mouth. He would let the table know how bad his luck was or how good other people were. He now has his own podcast and is online.
7. Luke Schwartz When you mouth off you run the risk of alienating your fans. Luke in 2020 verbally came at Phil Galfond and called him a washed up pro unable to cut it against the best anymore. Just one example of the UK pros ‘game talk’. Luke seems to take pleasure in his trash talk beyond getting an edge. This for some would-be fans is a step too far.
8. Humberto Brenes An old hand at the game Brenes got the nickname “The Shark” due to his shark figurines card protectors he always uses. Not only does he use them to protect his cards he uses them as a vehicle for insulting or taunting his opponents. Those eventually who play long enough see that these sharks are all teeth but no bite and find that his table performances can easily be zone out.
9. Ivan Freitez Freitez has made his name through Angle Shooting. His ethics are not so respectable.The 2011 EPT Grand Final tournament saw a hand where Freitez pulled a shot against Eugene Yanayt. In a game where guessing the intent of your competitors is a factor you can manipulate things by changing your mind. The rules don’t allow you to change your play from raise to call once called. But this is what Ivan did- knowing it wouldn’t be allowed. Signalling an intent in this way, it was all a ruse to confuse Yanayt. People watching the game on TV were disgusted by this foul play. It gave the player a name for the wrong reasons.
10. Scott Seiver If Scott comes after you it won’t be in a brash in your face kind of way. His style is a subtle provocation and no doubt he is a sharp guy under control. He has been known to break poker etiquette by turning over a set of opponents cards before they can muck them. He seems to think this is ok though he is the only one! Strangely pros have also commented on the way he sits and breathes, hardly something that could be against any rules! It could be his best effort at holding a poker face.
Poker's Colourful Characters It certainly helps make the game more interesting for those watching at home to get some of this banter between pros. As you have seen on the list some are more in your face than others, but the aim is the same. Upset and confuse your opponent. Just be careful though as it can backfire.