The Weirdest Poker Players of All Time

Many people describe poker as a sport. Their reasoning goes something like this: it’s competitive, it’s played at tournaments, skilled players win millions of dollars, and it is broadcast live on ESPN. There’s only one problem with this picture – poker players.

Poker players just don’t look like sportsmen. Sportsmen are toned, athletic, powerful and glamorous. Pro poker players are flabby, lazy, non-descript and even need heavy things to hold down their cards. What’s more, women routinely compete against, and beat, men. You can also win a tournament when you’re 80.

Sportiness aside, poker still makes a pretty engaging spectator sport, as is proved by its high ratings on cable television. However, it’s not always the prowess of the top poker players that impresses, its their downright weirdness. It’s watching Matusow on a meltdown or Phil Hellmuth on a tilt that keeps us coming back for more.

Here is a selection of the wackiest poker weirdos:

♠ Mike Matusow

Mike ‘the mouth’ Matusow missed his true calling in life: playing the mouth organ for the Boston Philharmonic. While Mike’s verbosity could have lead him down any number of career paths from auctioneer to horserace commentator, he ended up in poker and has put his motor-mouth to good use destroying the concentration of his opponents.

Mike is one of the few pros to have cried on live television after suffering a bad beat, and is famed for the meltdowns that see him squander chip leads after a bad beat. Mike’s also a bit of a poker freak, having won some of the biggest tournaments in poker despite giving every indication that he’d struggle to count his own toes.

♠ Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth isn’t weird so much as embarrassingly arrogant and over the top. Hellmuth rates himself the coolest poker player in the world. He has performed mind blowing feats like laying an AK down against pocket rockets and crashing his sponsor’s car.

Hellmuth is sometimes described as the ‘poker brat’, due to his frequent tilts and tendency to verbally attack other players after a bad beat. Despite being in need of an attitude adjustment, there’s no arguing that Hellmuth is a good player, having won 12 World Series of Poker bracelets.

♠ Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott

Dave Ulliott is the most successful poker player from the United Kingdom. Known as the ‘Devilfish’, Ulliott is a former small time gangster and card sharp with all the style and dress sense of a heroin-pushing pimp.

Ulliott is recognised as one of the most fearsome players in the world, and his brooding presence at a table is frequently enough to put his opponents off their game. The topping on Ulliott’s sleazy image is a pair of self-made gold knuckledusters and a haircut apparently sculpted from used motor-oil.

♠ Stu Ungar (September 1953 – November 1998)

Stu Ungar at the World Series of Poker 1980 - with permission from lasvegasvegas.com

Besides having undoubtedly been the greatest tournament player who has ever lived, Stu Ungar was also without doubt one of the wackiest poker players ever to have graced Las Vegas. Ungar’s skill with cards was matched only by an expensive appetite for recreational pharmaceuticals that eventually killed him.

Ungar is famous for winning the World Series of Poker main event three times during his career. This virtually unmatchable feat was made all the more remarkable by the fact that his final victory was achieved when he was broke, and was only facilitated because friends took pity on him and paid his buy-in to the main event.

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