To be a professional poker player, it takes a lot more than luck and a lot of money. Of course, skill comes into it the most, but having an absolutely show-stopping personality can make an average win the talk of the poker circuit.
So who are the most talked about poker players on the planet? Take a look at some of the brightest characters ever to have played their hand at the poker table – if you’ve never heard of them before… where have you been?!
1. Mike Matusow
Nicknamed ‘The Mouth’, Matusow has quite the reputation for trash talking at the poker table. Often found verbally mocking, taunting and berating competitors, he is a lot of fellow players’ worst nightmares. His personal life away from the poker table has also made him quite the talking point, with his beginnings on the circuit fuelled by stolen money from his mother’s purse, to a jail sentence in 2004 for possessions of cocaine, Matusow’s poker story is just one part of his colourful character.
2. Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott
From the humble beginnings on a council estate in Hull, Devilfish started out his money-making career by breaking into safes. One of the most memorable cases of his thieving ways was when he lost £5,000 at the bookies and, unhappy with his loss, robbed the bookies’ safe and wheeled it home that evening in a pram. Prescription shades & ‘devil’ and ‘fish’ knuckle-dusters gave Ulliott a strong image, which was coupled kindly by multiple WSOP wins and a seat on Channel 4 series ‘Late Night Poker’ in 1999.
3. Chris Ferguson
A Doctor of Philsophy from UCLA, Ferguson is better known for his “Jesus” persona at the poker table. With long dark hair, beard, shades and cowboy hat, Ferguson sits motionless at the table and has a trademark ‘unreadable’ poker face. More than just a figure of the Messiah, he is considered one of the best players on the scene, securing himself over $6 million in poker tournaments and being the only player in the world to have won 3 WSOP circuit events.
4. Thuan “Scotty” Nguyen
Well known for his veritable rags to riches story, Nguyen was born in Vietnam and came over to America on a boat which was reportedly being chased by the Communist Police of Vietnam. Once in America, Scotty developed a disruptive persona and regularly played poker instead of going to his usual high school classes. He started out as a dealer in a casino and is now one of the most popular players on the circuit, earning himself the title the “Prince of Poker”.
5. Phil Hellmuth
Known for his “poker brat” personality almost as much as for his 14 WSOP bracelets, Hellmuth is notorious for taking bad beats particularly poorly. One instance of this happened on NBC’s Poker After Dark’ where Hellmuth requested his fellow poker pros stopped talking when it was his turn. Angry that he was talking over them, the other poker pros mocked Hellmuth saying ‘please be quiet so we can talk’. As a result, Hellmuth threatened to never play the show again and walked off set.
6. Robert Panitch
Also known as “Uncle Krunk”, Panitch is characterised by his odd and often grumpy personality. At the poker table, he would regularly be found snacking on fruits and nuts packed away into little plastic bags, rarely seen eating anything else. He also gained notoriety with his fictionalised Twitter persona, often firing aggressive commentary about the contemporary poker scene, making him one of the most animated characters on the circuit.
7. Chris Moneymaker
With a Master’s Degree in Accounting and real surname ‘Moneymaker’, it’s fair to say Chris Moneymaker was born to be a professional poker player. Considered one of the most notorious, not because of his temper tantrums, but because of his ability to generate mass hysteria around the game of poker in its earlier years, Moneymaker has been credited with starting the poker boom, which many in the industry refer to as the “Moneymaker Effect”.
8. Dan Bilzerian
Probably the most talked about player of the moment, Bilzerian is known as the Playboy of the poker circuit and is found regularly posting images and videos of his distinctly lavish lifestyle. Many of these include half-naked women, flash new cars, brand new houses, and shrouds of dollar bills. Oh and he also does pretty well playing poker, too!
9. Antonio Esfandiari
Well known for his elaborate chip tricks, Esfandiari is a spirited character and has won two World Poker Tour championships and three World Series of Poker bracelets. Nicknamed “The Magician” because of his previous profession, he shows off his sleight of hand tricks with the chips and cards during poker games – but not enough to distract him from securing some of the biggest poker wins ever!
10. David Benyamine
An ex-professional tennis player, Benyamine took up poker at 26 years of age after learning he was very good at the game of rummy. Of French descent, Benyamine was arrested in 2004 when police in San Diego thought he was a man on their terrorist watch list. Although mistaken, the police deported him as he only held a tourist visa and needed a work visa to play professional poker in the US. Upon deportation, he was banned from the US for a year but returned after his suspension was up and continued to play poker. Now known as one of the highest stakes players in the world, Benyamine has lifetime earnings of around $2.9million.
Photo credits – By Photos by flipchip / LasVegasVegas.com, Wikipedia
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