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Annoying Players Good or Bad for Poker?

September 30th, 2016 by Todd McGee
English poker pro Will Kassouf's incessant table chatter annoyed a lot of poker fans and probably all of his tablemates during the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. (Source:

English poker pro Will Kassouf’s incessant table chatter annoyed a lot of poker fans and probably all of his tablemates during the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. (Source:

The November Nine has been set for 2016 and it won’t contain the most polarizing player at this year’s tournament, Will Kassouf. I didn’t think it would be possible to surpass last year’s designated jerk, Justin Schwartz, so quickly, but Kassouf proved me wrong. Here is a look at some of the biggest jerks in recent Main Event history.

No. 1 – Kassouf. He has been a fixture on the recent ESPN broadcasts because of his constant dialogue. He drew a penalty when he ignored a directive to stop talking and even had a floor director seemingly make up a rule on the spot – let’s call it the Will Kassouf rule – that ordered him to shut up when his opponent was deciding whether or not to call his bet. Maybe this is a real rule, but I’d never seen it enforced before. Massouf’s incessant chatter makes Mike “The Mouth” Matusow look like a Benedictine Monk who’s taken a vow of silence.

No. 2 – Justin Schwartz. Schwartz burst onto the scene with a 14th-place finish in last year’s Main Event. He gained almost as much notoriety for his unkempt appearance and boorish behavior than his otherwise stellar play. He provoked the ire of his tablemates on numerous occasions. He called the clock, prematurely according to several tablemates, on Federico Butteroni. He should have drawn an admonishment when he said he would shove all-in on a pot he wasn’t involved in, implying that the player (Daniel Negreanu) who had just bet was bluffing. He talked incessantly when he wasn’t involved in a hand, and on several occasions slammed his cards on the table when he had won a hand. He even asked the floor announcer not to call out the cards “when he was in position.”

And, of course, who can forget his expletive-filled tirade when he was knocked out by eventual champion Joe McKeehen, which concluded with him announcing, “I don’t do handshakes people.” I’m pretty sure none of his tablemates minded. He became the typical love him or hate him player, and most chose to hate him.

No. 3 – Curtis Rystadt. This loudmouth from Portland, Ore., became a focal point of the 2014 Main Event with a series of hands against another player, Kyle Keranen. Rystadt taunted Keranen so badly that the two nearly came to blows at one point. Keranen exacted his revenge when he busted Rystadt in 100th place with a nut flush. Keranen went on to finish 24th.

Good or bad for the game?

Some poker analysts believe the antics of these players is good for poker because they bring attention to the game. The TV execs at ESPN obviously do because they wind up devoting a lot of air time to them during the broadcasts. However, I think that kind of attention is not necessarily a good thing.

Poker is, at its core, a social game. It’s a group of people sitting around a table playing cards. If you held a home game and one of the regulars invited a player who behaved like either of the players on this list, chances are good you would tell your friend not to bring him back – regardless of how big a fish he is.

Many recreational players who are thinking of stepping up to play an event on the WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour or even their local casino might reconsider if they form the incorrect impression that most players behave that way. Those kinds of obnoxious players can suck the joy out of the game for others at their table. Poker pros need recreational players in these events.

Jerks like Kassouf, Rystadt and Schwartz may be good for TV ratings, but I don’t think they’re good for the game.

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