I am not a good poker player but I am addicted to watching the World Series of Poker, High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. I look forward to the antics as well as the serious, intelligent tactics employed by card players who have become television idols over the past decade.
I have to say that Daniel Negreanu is my favorite player. “Kid Poker” is always happy when he is playing and likes to joke around. He is not afraid to stay in the game when he is dealt a 5-2 off suit. He has an uncanny ability to discern which cards another player holds. He can often be seen eating his favorite Bok Choy at the table. Daniel has won four World Series Of Poker bracelets and has been able to make a comfortable living playing poker. He was named Player of the Year in 2004. Daniel is originally from Toronto, Ontario and is married to an Asian girl. They live in Las Vegas where Daniel has taken up golf and is as enthusiastic about his golf game as he is about his poker playing. Daniel is fun to watch and a great favorite of many poker fans.
Jennifer Harman is highly respected in the poker world and is the only woman to hold two World Series of Poker bracelets. Jennifer has suffered from kidney disease for many years and has had two kidney transplants, the last one being in 2004. Since that time, she has been healthy and without further incidents. Jennifer is married to Marco Traniello, who is a professional poker player as well. They have twin boys. She and Daniel Negreanu are very close friends even though they compete against each other in high stakes games. Some players may judge that Jennifer is an inferior player just because she is a woman, but her winning record proves them wrong.
I like Phil Ivey because he is the player with the proverbial poker face. You never know what Phil is thinking. He is an extremely aggressive player and he instills fear in the other players at his table. He is highly focused on the game when he plays. He likes to play the cash games but is also very successful in the tournaments. He has at least seven World Series of Poker bracelets and his poker winnings have exceeded 13 million dollars. Phil resides in Las Vegas with his wife, Luciaetta. Phil is very well liked by other players who respect his ability and his quiet, likeable personality. I like watching Phil make the right decision after reflecting on whether to stay or to fold. He is an intelligent player.
I include Phil Helmuth in this group because it is so much fun to watch him lose. He is the player we love to hate. He is insulting to the other players, brags about his accomplishments, whines when he loses and is generally the “Poker Brat” that he has been dubbed. He is unkind to lesser known players but is somewhat inhibited by star players. He will seldom compliment another player. He is married to a psychiatrist who, people say, probably gets a lot of practice analyzing her husband. Having said that, Phil has earned eleven bracelets, more than any other player. He won his first Texas Hold ‘Em Championship when he was 24 years old, the youngest player ever to win up to that time.
Mike “The Mouth” Matusow is another player who is fun to watch. It is not possible for me to dislike Mike. He takes a great deal of ribbing from other players but can give it back as well. He is accused of being self-destructive, not very bright, and of having meltdowns and causing disturbances although a lot of this behavior is not captured on television. Although he seems to be his own worst enemy, he has managed to win three World Series of Poker bracelets and is a favorite of poker fans, including myself.
Annie Duke manages to have a prosperous career in poker while caring for her four children which is an accomplishment in itself. Her brother Howard Lederer is also a successful poker player and taught Annie how to play. Annie won her first World Series of Poker bracelet in 2004. She also won the first prize of two million dollars at the ESPN World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions Invitational in 2004. Annie tutored actor Ben Affleck in poker, after which he won a $365,000 first prize at the California State Poker Championship tournament at the Commerce Casino. Even Phil Helmuth was heard to say that Annie is the best female poker player in the world today. High praise! You may be familiar with Annie through her appearance on the 2009 edition of Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice where she came in second to winner Joan Rivers.
Barry Greenstein has earned the nickname of “the Robin Hood of Poker” because for a long time he donated his entire poker winnngs to the charity “Children, Incorporated.” His total winnings have exceeded seven million dollars. I have seen Barry chiefly on High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark, but he also enters the buy-in tournament games. He holds three World Series of Poker bracelets. Barry has a Ph.D. in Mathematics which he recently completed by defending his dissertation. Barry retired at the age of 36 from developing software for Symantec’s Norton Anti-Virus Program. He is now a full-time professional poker player. His first break in poker came in 2003 when he won one million dollars for finishing first in Larry Flynt’s 7 Card Stud Event at the Hustler Casino. Barry has published a book on poker entitled “Ace on the River” which he autographs and gives to any opponent who knocks him out of a poker game. I admire Barry’s intelligence, his philanthropy and his demeanor at the poker table.
I never cease to be entertained by watching the players following a course which undoubtedly has held them up to ridicule from the conservative sector of humanity. They have managed to give Poker a good name instead of the derisive scorn attached to the game at a time when it was illegal and subject to back-room raids by the police. I applaud them for their efforts.