The Mouth that Roared

Will Kassouf was the bad boy of the WSOP Main Event. His incessant jabbering garnered him a lot of air time on ESPN, but it was his slow play that really infuriated his table mates. (Source:

Suffice to say that Will Kassouf made a name for himself with his 17th-place finish at the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. In fact, he made a lot of names for himself – clown (Cliff Josephy), unprofessional (WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel), jerk (Norman Chad), abusive (Griffin Benger).

Kassouf’s self-styled “speech play” got a lot of attention – and a lot of air-time on ESPN – but in the end, what really engendered vitriol from his tablemates was his slow play. He took an inordinate amount of time on practically every decision, which he exacerbated by running his mouth incessantly.

To his tablemates, it seemed he was more interested in talking about his hand than he was in thinking about his hand, which is why the clock was continually called when it was his turn.

Kassouf’s entire act was based on the premise of getting information. Yet he never got any kind of useful information at all from anybody. The only thing he managed to get was the ire of each one of his tablemates.

What’s Good for Kassouf is Good for the Benger

The grand irony is that Kassouf may have wound up a victim of Benger’s “speech-play” on his final hand. As soon as the clock was called on Kassouf, Benger launched into a diatribe. He called Kassouf abusive, rude and not a nice person. I think Kassouf was caught a little off guard by the attack. He started defending himself against Benger without his usual “speech-play” routine. With the clock winding down, Kassouf shoved all-in, while Benger happily called and threw his aces face-up on the table.

Granted, I don’t think there is any way Kassouf was folding his pocket kings, even with Benger’s 4-bet to 5.6 million. Kassouf’s plan was to goad his opponents into making a bad decision when Kassouf had a monster hand, so when Benger re-raised, it was only a matter of time for Kassouf to call. And that’s the issue. Kassouf knew immediately what he was going to do, yet he dragged the decision out for so long that the clock was again called.

Each year it seems the hue and cry for a clock in poker gets incrementally louder. Kassouf’s antics drew more attention to the issue, but the stalling continued after he was eliminated. At one point, Effel announced that tanking was so bad that players would no longer be able to call the clock. Instead, the decision would be left up to the discretion of tournament staff.

I don’t think we’re anywhere near seeing a standardized clock for tournaments, but we have probably moved closer to some sort of resolution. This is one of those issues the players will likely have to police for now. At least this year the players were up to the task.

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