Stranger Things WSOP Edition: The Weird Series of Poker

Fans of the Netflix hit “Stranger Things” might be busy running up that hill behind Kate Bush, but poker’s finest are running in altogether different directions. With the WSOP in full swing and temperatures soaring in Las Vegas, things are taking a strange turn at Bally’s and Paris.

stranger things

“Stranger Things” might be topping the charts on Netflix, but there have been enough weird happenings at this year’s WSOP to capture our attention. (Image: Netflix/WSOP)

Maybe it’s the new venues. Maybe it’s because this is the first summer WSOP in Vegas since 2019. Whatever it is, the WSOP is quickly becoming the Weird Series of Poker. Don’t believe us? Well, here’s a quick recap of the weird and wonderful things we’ve seen so far this year:

Lisa Vanderpump plays poker?

Plenty of celebrities have been drafted in to kick off the WSOP in recent years, but this choice was a strange one, to say the least. Businesswoman and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Vanderpump was this year’s “shuffle up and deal” announcer.

Vanderpump

Vanderpump and her novel card protector. (Image: Chris Wallace/CardsChat)

Why? Well, that’s the question many poker players were asking. Reality TV personalities, such as Kim Kardashian, have played at the WSOP before (usually when they need some publicity), so Vanderpump isn’t a complete wild card. However, the fact she’s never been around the game before and used her dog as a card proctor makes it a weird choice.

Nipplegate

The Frank Stepuchin stunt that backfired spectacularly and led to a masseuse losing her job has got to be right up there on the all-time list of WSOP blunders. Known prankster Stepuchin asked Cintia Amstalden to massage his nipples while someone recorded it.

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A prank orchestrated by poker pro Frank Stepuchin caused WSOP masseuse Cintia Amstalden to lose her job. (Image: Reddit/pocketfullofquads)

Joke or not, Amstalden was promptly fired after images of the incident appeared online. Stepuchin has since apologized and started a GoFundMe for the now jobless masseuse. Even so, this is an early contender to be one of the year’s weirdest and worst thought-out stunts.

Phil Hellmuth can’t dodge COVID

Phil Hellmuth can dodge bullets, but he can’t avoid COVID-19. While this, in and of itself isn’t too strange (COVID is still a thing, after all), not seeing Hellmuth at the early days of this year’s WSOP has definitely changed the vibe. Whether that’s good or bad is for you to decide.

What is good, however, is that Hellmuth says he doesn’t feel too sick after being sidelined by the virus on June 8.

Sadly for the WSOP’s all-time bracelet winner, he missed the $10K Omaha 8 or Better event, which, in his words, was his “best chance” at a bracelet this year.

Phil Ivey returns to tournaments

Many believe that Phil Ivey is the best to ever play the game, but much of his legendary reputation comes from his cash game prowess. Indeed, even though he has more than $35 million in tournament earnings and 10 bracelets to his name, he’s often skipped WSOP events in favor of the juicy summer cash games to be found in Vegas all summer long.

But this year, in the spirit of all things strange, Ivey has been more active in WSOP tournaments than he has in recent years. He even final-tabled the $100K high roller and cashed in a $25K event in Week 1. Is this a new look Ivey?

Stranger things have certainly happened so far this year.

Dealer drama: chip chaos and sleeping on the job

We should all tip our hats to dealers at the WSOP. They work grueling hours, have to listen to bad beat stories, and are constantly on the firing line when things go wrong. This type of pressure can lead to mistakes, but the list of faux pas this year is getting stranger by the day.

First up, one dealer was told to color up and, instead of swapping out all the small denomination chips, they scooped up everyone’s stack. It took an hour just to rectify the situation. Another tale from the tournament floor involved a dealer falling asleep in the middle of a hand. To make matters worse, it was during the bubble of an event.

Christoph Vogelsang channels Phil Laak

Christoph Vogelsang is an experienced pro who’s won more than $27 million and who’s gone deep in a number of WSOP events, including the 2014 Big One for One Drop. But, despite having more skill and experience than most players at Bally’s/Paris this year, Vogelsang pulled a Phil Laak during the heads-up championship.

What’s a “Phil Laak?” It’s the old hoodie over the head trick.

Vogelsang thought his best route to the final was hiding away at every opportunity. That strategy, which is OK for a novice, but unusual for a pro, worked until he came up against Dan Smith, as you can see from the video above.

Norman Chad Bowls Over His Opponents

Did you know that WSOP announcer Norman Chad is big on bowling? If you’ve ever read his Twitter bio, you might. If not, his choice of footwear at the WSOP is a huge giveaway. The man who’s never short of a cheesy quip was forced to wear bowling shoes after leaving his own at Red Rock Casino’s alley.

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Chad showing off his lucky bowling shoes. (Image: Twitter/NormanChad)

A crime against fashion or not, the shoes stopped Chad from striking out in the $1,500 Dealer’s Choice event. Although he didn’t throw a perfect game, he did finish 13th to win more than enough to buy a new pair of shoes ($5,993).

Daniel Negreanu’s creepy call

One of the more ominous stranger things from this year’s WSOP is an attempt to blackmail Daniel Negreanu. The Canadian pro received an anonymous phone call from a man who wanted an undisclosed sum of money.

Why would Negreanu entertain the idea of paying this mystery man? Well, as the story goes, the caller claims to know about Negreanu’s secret past. The claim is that Negreanu used to live in Havasu Lake, Arizona, where he abandoned a secret family to live in Vegas. Um, OK.

Negreanu denies it and we believe him. But, this is the Weird Series of Poker, so we wouldn’t be shocked if the potential blackmailer’s claim turns out to be true (even though we know it’s definitely not true).

Dr. Alex Livingston, we presume

OK, so the spelling of his surname is slightly different from that of Dr. David Livingstone, but Alex Livingston performed a disappearing act the famous doctor would have been proud of.

Unlike the doctor, who went missing on one of his explorations, Livingston made his WSOP bracelet disappear, and quite quickly, at that.

The Canadian won the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud event on June 6. He received his bracelet two days later and, within 20 minutes, he’d lost it.

Fortunately, the offer of a $200 reward saw him reunited with his first bracelet a few hours later. So, even though there have been some weird and tragic occurrences at the 2022 WSOP so far, this story has a happy ending.


Have you seen or heard of any strange things that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.

Written by
Daniel Smyth
Dan Smyth is a poker media journeyman who politely reminds CardsChat readers that poker is played all around the world, not just America.

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