10 Poker Players you Love to Hate

In this column I will present my list of the 10 most hated people in poker. Now, when I say hated this is an all-encompassing term that could mean anything from being a liar or cheat to simply having an abrasive attitude. Some of the players who made the list are roundly hated by virtually everyone in the poker world, while others are more polarizing figures in the game with a slew of advocates and detractors.

Keep in mind that this list does not represent the players I loathe, but more of the general consensus in the poker world –although some of the people on this list I do in fact despise!

Tony G

Antanas “Tony G” Gouga has one of the most polarizing personalities in poker. The brash, outspoken, poker mogul has a fair share of detractors but at the same time has many supporters who feel Tony’s antics are simply for promotional purposes (I count myself among the latter group). However people feel about Tony G, it’s hard to argue his ratings appeal for televised poker shows, or his contributions to the game through his vast poker empire.

With Tony G it’s very hard to tell how much of his behavior is real, and how much is for the cameras, but with the “G” it is always interesting! Now get on your bike!

Phil Hellmuth

Like Tony G, Phil Hellmuth has many fans and many critics. Another area where Tony G and Phil Hellmuth overlap is their television appeal (which often stems from the two heated rivals appearing together) since people either tune it to cheer them on, or tune in to watch them go busto!

Hellmuth is the definition of the word polarizing, and everything from his personality to his skill level has been called into question by his detractors and defended to the death by his fans. A typical Hellmuthian argument between two people who have never even met him usually goes like this:

Detractor: “He loses millions in cash games!”

Defender: “11 WSOP Bracelets!”

Detractor: “He won all most of those when tournaments had a hundred players in them!”

Defender: “11 WSOP bracelets!”

Detractor: “But he has played virtually every WSOP tournament for over 20 years! Of course he is going to win some!”

Defender: “Yeah, 11 of them; THE MOST EVER!”

Mike Matusow

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow is typically spoken of in a good light by most poker players, but his behavior over the course of the poker boom has caused many poker fans to despise his conduct. Matusow’s away from the table behavior, which includes a prison sentence stemming from drug charges, hasn’t won him any fans either.

Scotty Nguyen

Scotty has always been known to get a little “out of control” when he has been drinking, but up until 2008 this was seen simply as “Scotty being Scotty” and never really rankled any feathers. However, after his abysmal behavior in the 2008 Players Champion (the year the tournament trophy was memorialized for the late Chip Reese) Scotty’s antics went from borderline to over-the-line, and have likely cost him a spot in the Poker Hall of Fame at this point in his career.

While the damage done in that one televised tournament will eventually be forgiven, it seems that the poker world has not come to an agreement on precisely when that day will be.

Annie Duke

If you ask one of her many critics what it is that Annie Duke has done to deserve her reputation in the poker world you won’t hear very many damning incidents brought up, but over the course of her long poker career, Duke has built-up a laundry list of enemies, and is often portrayed in a very negative light.

It seems like Annie Duke is simply one of those people that rub people the wrong way, whether intentional or not; something you can see in her portrayal in Positively Fifth Street by James McManus, or in the many tirades Daniel Negreanu has directed at her.

Ray Bitar

Bitar’s role with Full Tilt Poker, and there current struggles after Black Friday have made him about as welcome in the poker world as Michael Moore at the Republican Convention.

Barely known before Black Friday, Bitar, the CEO of Full Tilt poker, has been one of the handful of people who are taking the blame for Full Tilt’s problems, and with a few poker players coming out and defending Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, as well as that little bit of nostalgia that makes us not want to believe Lederer and Ferguson were totally complicit, Bitar has received the most venom from the poker community.

Howard Lederer/Chris Ferguson

It would have been inconceivable to list Howard Lederer on a most-hated list just a year ago, but in the aftermath of Black Friday, and with all of the struggles and revelations Full Tilt Poker has undergone in the last year, the once prominent member of the poker community is now a persona non grata in the poker world.

The mild mannered Ferguson is even more of a surprise to land on this list, but like Lederer, his involvement with Full Tilt Poker and the revelations of just how much money the two players made from the site while leaving a massive shortfall has tarnished what should have been one of the most important legacies in poker.

Mason Malmuth/David Sklansky

Malmuth runs the massive TwoPlusTwo Empire, and his iron-fisted ways of handling the poker forum, as well as his often flippant posts directed at many users, have made him one of the most hated people in poker. The highly censored forum (when it comes to links on the site or even arguing with the stable of 2+2 authors) has seen many of the game’s top players and leading voices banned from the site.

Malmuth’s 2+2 counterpart, David Sklansky, has long been the face of the company, while Mason remains more behind the scenes. So even though Sklansky has his own list of detractors he also gets some of the flak that would otherwise land at Malmuth’s feet.

Jamie Gold

Gold’s antics, and self-aggrandizing comments, during and after his improbable run to the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event title left a bad taste in virtually every poker player and poker fan’s mouth. Since his win Gold has been embroiled in lawsuits over his winnings and has tried unsuccessfully to remain relevant in the poker world; bouncing from online poker site to online poker site, and now hocking the Tropicana Poker Room.

Russ Hamilton

What list of hated poker players would be complete with the inclusion of the 1994 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, and alleged Super-User mastermind, Russ Hamilton. Even though his reputation was never stellar among some of his peers, without the Super-User scandal that took place at Ultimate Bet Poker, Hamilton would simply be one of the non-descript WSOP Main Event Champions to the vast poker playing population, and a shrewd businessman to the more closed circle of professional poker players.


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