Tony Sandstrom was revealed to be hilarious online amateur ‘tuff_fish’ so we sent our own ‘fish’ to get the full story

Steve Hill goes in search of tuff_fish, online poker’s angriest man…

‘F**k me to goddamn tears.’

Not my words, but those of an internet poker player at the end of his tether. We’ve all been there, spitting venom when some mug hits his two-outer on the river to relieve us of our hard-earned chips. It’s part and parcel of the game, and indeed anger management is arguably as crucial a skill as bankroll management. Everybody hurts. However, everybody doesn’t choose to air their pain via a series of self-recorded videos, commentating over the action as it happens, replete with industrial language and, on occasion, guttural noises of despair. Remarkably, there is a player who chose that course – therapy you might call it – and the videos, almost exclusively captured on PartyPoker, started to appear a couple of years ago, spreading round the internet like a virus, and providing an often hilarious insight into one man’s private hell.

Rapidly gaining a cult following, the man behind the madness was revealed to be Tony Sandstrom, a 60-year-old aerospace engineer from San Diego, and the genius behind such phrases as ‘There we go, the first set since the Spanish American war,’ and ‘I can hardly wait to see how I get beat this time,’ all delivered in his distinctive gruff tones. The videos are numerous, and while he sometimes manages to maintain his sense of humour in the face of adversity, when he blows, he really blows, delivering some award-winning swearing in response to seemingly interminable bad beats.

‘I been shit on by the damn poker gods’ he screams after one particularly bad hand. ‘God bless America, son of a goddamn bitch,’ he barks following another. ‘I’m just spewing chips. Unbelievable, un-fÚ:king-believable…’

Not for the fainthearted, there are also some inadvertent moments of genuine humour, such as when he takes an age to realise he has a straight flush. Mainly though it’s about revelling in one man’s misfortune, as he crosses the line from irritability – ‘I am not pleased’ – to anger – ‘I cannot get a friggin’ hand’ – to downright feral rage: ‘Why the c??k-f??king-sucking hell does this happen every f??king time!?’


Meat and drink to internet warriors everywhere, the original videos were rapidly customised to include remixes, musical accompaniments, and even a lengthy fake video of tuff_fish allegedly playing Super Mario Bros, essentially a compendium of his most foul-mouthed moments to the incongruous backdrop of Nintendo’s twee platform game. As for the man himself, he mildly revelled in the fame, even selling bespoke T-shirts, as modelled on his personal website by the presumably long-suffering Daughter Fish.

However, after a while the videos dried up, and while those that were made are still viewed on a daily basis, tuff_fish seemed to have vanished from the public eye. Attempting to track him down proved fruitless; an email to the T-shirt site bounced back, searching for ‘tuff fish’ in various poker lobbies drew a blank, and an attempt to befriend him on Facebook was rebuffed. Archived news stories from late 2007 had him petitioning (unsuccessfully) for a government-controlled online poker room in California, with all profits to go towards repairing potholes in the roads…

The trail had gone cold. Deadlines came and went, rumours of my disappearance began to gather pace, but finally, trawling the poker forums yielded a tuff_fish on the Two Plus Two forum, with a posting from the previous day. An email was hastily sent, but no reply was forthcoming. Then, a few days later, an email pinged in from a t_sandstrom, subject: Hi there from ‘Tuff’.

‘I am sorry I was so elusive. I really wasn’t hiding,’ he explained, and asked me to call him at work at 7am Pacific Time, when nobody would be around. The Fish had finally been landed…

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