5) Jennifer Tilly vs Patrik Antonius on “Poker After Dark”
Want to know a secret? Poker is not making babies or shopping, so women are terrible at it. There’s often farcical discussion in which everyone pretends that there’ll be a whole Oprah-load of great female players one day because of “emotional intelligence.” Every time a woman bungles into 58th place at the WSOP main event, she’ll give an interview in which she prattles on about how she has a huge advantage over men because she can manipulate them. But in one hand of poker, Jenifer Tilly not only demonstrates why this is all false, she obliterates a century of feminist thought. Governed completely by emotion and irrational fear, she heaves like a cornered rabbit as she checks down a full house on the hysterical assumption that her opponent has slow played pocket kings from before the flop, all the way to the river as they’ve turned to trips, then runner runner quads. A buoy in a sea of emotions, fear turns to embarrassment as she responds by changing the facts to conform to her feelings, muttering “you had me pre-flop.” According to most poker experts, however, Patrik’s 10-8 is not a bigger preflop hand than Tilly’s pocket jacks. The reactions of the other players, trying to muffle their shock at Tilly’s play are classic, but the normally stoic face of Phil Ivey really captures the moment.
4) Scotty Nguyen at The $50,000 HORSE Event, World Series of Poker
It would be hypocritical of me to condemn someone for alcoholism, but isn’t one of the few benefits of the affliction supposed to be that you can hold your drink? Scotty‘s behavior at the WSOP HORSE event, along with Layne Flack assing it up in the background, plays like a Mormon nightmare. The guy handles his liquor about as well as a high school girl who snuck out to a frat party. I don’t know how his opponent restrains himself from date raping Nguyen right there on the table as Scotty staggers between screeching insults to screeching about the cocktail service to professing universal brotherhood in an Amos & Andy caliber stereotype of drunkenness.
According to WSOP announcer, Lon McEchern, the really vile things that Scotty said wound up on the cutting room floor. But by the end of the tournament he practically wants to make out with his opponent. This clip is also a bit of a meltdown by the tournament director in that Nguyen is openly attempting to collude with an unwilling Eric Lindgren and seemingly faces no punishment, not even being cut off from beer. What if an NBA player was running around the court saying, “I like you Kobe, I’m going to let you score as much as you want tonight?” I’m sure David Stern would be like, “it’s OK, he’s just drunk!”
3) Tony G at The Intercontinental Poker Championship
The most frustrating thing about Tony G is that he’s a worse winner than loser. So we don’t get to see him cry and pout like Hellmouth and Matasow. The closest we come is this blowup after he eliminates a player who has made a marginal call at some sort of international competition. The reason he goes by Tony G is that his last name is some Slavic pile of spilled Alphabits because he’s Lithuanian and apparently, Lithuanians didn’t enjoy the Soviet Utopia, which is somehow the fault of Russian poker player, Ralph Perry. The irony is that Tony G’s meltdown undermines any humiliation the Ruskie might have felt over going out on an iffy play. Tony flies around the room yammering almost hysterically, shitting out the tiny remnants of his dignity with every step. Meanwhile, we see the Hated Russian sitting back and calmly feeling a bit better about whatever misdeeds the Russians committed in Lithuania.
2) Phil Hellmuth at The WSOP Main Event, 2008
Ah, Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth. On the one hand, I think that his detractors tend to underestimate his ability. On the other hand, he’s a man in his 40’s who deliberately promotes himself under a moniker shared with a popular line of dolls for little girls. Maybe this has something to do with the failure of his clothing line. If someone called me a “brat” I would want to punch them in the nose, so I’m probably not going to buy clothing that declares its wearer a “poker brat.” The other reason I wouldn’t buy something from Phil’s poker-themed clothing line is that it is a poker-themed clothing line and I’m not an enormous tool shed. In any case, we have a wealth of meltdowns to chose from with Hellmuth as he bitches, moans and self-promotes. I went with a more recent entry in which some guy from some Eastern Euro backwater outplays him, however clumsily, during the main event of the WSOP and The Poker Brat launches into the usual hysterics. Once again, special treatment is granted to the big name dickhead. Hellmuth was initially penalized for his tirade, but only because the rules call for a penalty. This error is overturned after it is taken into account that he is famous and allegedly makes for good TV. After an empty warning, he would return the next day, engaging in the same behavior, modified only by leaving the table and calling his opponents idiots to the cameras rather than to their faces, which is totally acceptable.
The actual exchange here is pretty funny. The Poker Brat loses it over an unremarkable play: ace king out flopped by two live cards. One noteworthy thing about the play is Hellmuth giving his hand away with an elaborate speech that implies pretty clearly that he has a big hand before the flop, but not pocket aces or kings. The speech and Phil’s subsequent check on a low flop make Dragomir’s decisions easy, especially with position on The Poker Brat. When The Poker Brat melts down, rather than saying “next time, don’t openly announce your hand and you might have better results, Poker Brat,“ Dragomir enters into a trembling foreigner-rage. Some guy, trying to inject a bit of calm says “it’s poker.” The Poker Brat says, “to you it’s just poker. To me, this is my life!” as though that were something to take pride in. Hope his kids were watching.
1)Mike Matusow at The WSOP Main Event, 2004
People like to make excuses for Mike Matusow. You see, he’s just busting balls and there’s no conviction behind any of his boorish insults. And his sudden shift to “loud mouth with a heart of gold” from “run of the mill prick” had nothing whatsoever to do with poker boom PR. Greg Raymer might downplay it publicly, but he clearly didn’t sense any good nature when “The Mouth“ launched into him with a string of personal insults on ESPN. Oh, but he should have just let it slide because that’s just Mike being Mike, right? Hey, who wouldn’t want to be able to sit back with their family and watch themselves being belittled on national television? Suppose Raymer hadn’t won the event. “Fossilman” is an excellent player, but what if he’d gone out on a critical mistake? I bet he would really treasure having his 15 minutes of fame turned into a humiliating ordeal. Mike the Mouth is no Jimmy Heart.
That’s why my favorite moment of any kind on TV poker was watching Mike go bust in that same event and seeing the bully melt away as he sobs like a little girl with two skinned knees and a dead kitten. If only Raymer had the wherewithal or inclination to emulate his contemporary, Eric Cartman, and lick the tears from Matusow’s face, I would actually masturbate to this clip. Yes, it’s hypocritical for me to make fun of Raymer’s weight, but a) nobody will read this and b) now that he won the Main Event he is my better and therefore he is fair game, so to speak.