Poker’s a game where you’re supposed to leave your ego behind and let the cards do the talking. However, it doesn’t always work out that way, as you’ll see in ten of the most spectacular and hilarious poker bust-ups of all time
10. Mike Matusow v Shawn Sheikhan 2005 WSOP Main Event
If you’re not in the hand you can’t talk about the hand. It’s a maxim that even the most inexperienced poker players are aware of. But, at the 2005 WSOP, when Sheikhan realises he’d have hit a flop hard after folding preflop, he can’t help himself, slamming the table and causing the combustible Mike Matusow to explode.
Mike Matusow: You know we’re in a hand. You need to shut the f♦♣k up.
Shawn Sheikhan: What did you say Mike? Did you say something? [To the floor] Did you hear what he said?
MM: We’re in the middle of a hand and he’s talking about what he had in his hand to everybody.
SS: You’re an idiot.
MM: You cannot talk about a hand. We’re playing for a lot of money. You jumped out of your chair like you threw away part of the flop.
Both players were given a ten-minute penalty after the hand but Matusow got the last word, busting Sheiky with A-Q against A-7.
9. Phil Hellmuth v Tom ‘durrrr’ Dawn, NBC Heads-Up Championship 2008 & 2009
It was Hellmuth who started the trash talk, challenging Dwan to a live heads-up game that never materialised. However, they then found themselves drawn against each other at the 2008 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship where Hellmuth tried to do things the old-school way, getting it in with Aces preflop. Dwan’s Tens were crushed until another on the turn delivered an uppercut to Hellmuth.
Phil Hellmuth: Son, I’ll tell you this much son, I’d never put more than 3k in with two Tens before the flop.
Tom Dwan: I was going to say good game, sorry for the suckout, but… that’s why you lose money online.
PH: You played the hand bad and that’s the truth, you put 20,000 in with Tens.
TD: Pick your stakes heads-up, I’ve said it a million times…
PH: Son, you’re the sucker… terrible play. Is that all you want to do? Challenge me to heads-up? We’re going to play heads-up, I told you… You admit it was terrible, right?
TD: No, it’s standard. Learn to play heads-up no-limit.
PH: We’ll see if you’re even around in five years’ time. [To the crowd and the other players] You know how I got him to stick in 20? The quick reraise, made myself look weak. It was pretty beautiful I thought. He raised, I did a quick reraise and, he doesn’t play much live poker, so he read it as weak, which is what I wanted him to do, and he moved in… Makes me sick.
There was a sequel the next year when Hellmuth and Dwan met in the third round, and Hellmuth exacted his revenge…
8. Mike Matusow v Shaun Deeb, Poker Night in America, 2013
Nothing gets poker players more twitchy than a slow-roll. In the wrong context, they can lead to a punch in the mouth as this video clip almost proves. Shaun Deeb horribly misjudges the situation when he flops quads against Mike Matusow’s Jacks. When Deeb ‘reluctantly’ calls the shove and flips quads, the only player not laughing at the table is Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow.
Mike Matusow: I’ve never slow-rolled anyone in my life, I never will. It’s the most f♥♠king disgusting thing you can ever do. It’s bullshit… Take the f♣♦king pot… It’s the only thing in life I don’t f♠♦king deal with.
Sean Deeb: I didn’t know you were going to take it seriously…
MM: You can do anything to me. You can call me any name under the sun, but if you ever f♥♣king slow-roll me I’ll punch you in the f♦♣king mouth. You think I’m joking? I’m not.
7. Prahlad Friedman v Jeffrey Lisandro, 2006 WSOP Main Event
Make it through to Day 6 of the WSOP Main Event and you’d expect everyone to be all smiles. Especially ‘vegan rapper and beat maker’ Prahlad Friedman, a devout follower of Vishnu, Hindu’s gentle God. Instead, Friedman decides to lay into burly Aussie legend Jeff Lisandro over a missing ante.
Prahlad Friedman: I saw him throw it in. He says he did, you know, I don’t necessarily believe him.
Jeff Lisandro: Are you 1000%?
PF: I’m not 1000%, I say I saw him throw it in.
JL: If you think I knew for sure, you think I’d rob him for 5,000? You’re acting like an idiot.
PF: I’m acting like an idiot right? Well, I don’t trust you, sir. Okay? I don’t trust you.
JL: I don’t like your conversation, man. Jeez man, that’s unbelievable.
Dealer: Guys, will you please do me a favour and let it go?
JL: I’ll let it go, it’s done, but I don’t like robbing. I don’t like that word. It’s a terrible thing to say.
PF: I’ve been in poker long enough man, I know how it is…
JL: Are you going to stop? Are you going to stop? Is he going to stop?
[Friedman goes to talk to the floor]
JL: You called me a thief three times you piece of shit. I’ll take your head off buddy.
Luckily he stopped short of calling Lisandro a thief again or this one would have been settled by a real-life knockout. As it happens, video evidence proved that Lisandro was the innocent party.
6. Phil Gordon v Erick Lindgren, Poker After Dark, 2007
Poker After Dark, Full Tilt’s TV show, was a pretty cosy affair, all panelled wood, hushed conversations and drinks at the bar. It also played host to a simmering feud between Phil Gordon and Erick Lindgren that surfaced in front of the TV cameras with hilarious consequences.
By way of backdrop, Gordon had criticized Lindgren’s play in a column, leading Daniel Negreanu to reply on his friend’s behalf: ‘Did Phil Gordon just matter of factly say that Erick Lindgren has two big weaknesses in his game? Phil, are you serious? Erick would absolutely trounce you at the poker table. He’d slap you up silly, seriously.’
When the two met on Poker After Dark, Gordon obviously saw it as a chance to prove himself once and for all. After Lindgren tried a failed bluff on Antonius, Gordon stepped in.
Phil Gordon: Good call.
Patrik Antonius: Thanks.
PG: What do you think he had?
PA: Flush draw.
PG: Yeah, me too.
Erick Lindgren [laughing]: You’re an idiot Phil. You’re a complete idiot.
PG: I don’t know if I enjoy being called an idiot. That’s a little harsh.
EL: It was an idiotic comment to make when, you know, no one cares what you think. I understand you’re used to looking at the hole card camera.
PG: That’s the only way I can do analysis.
EL: Well, now you can do it without the cameras, just wait for the cards to be flipped up.
PG: It’s a lot easier when you know what the hole cards are.
EL: Apparently, you always know.
Phil Ivey: [smiling] I might need some cocktails.
PG: Order me whatever you get.
EL: You probably already know what he wants.
5. Scott Seiver v Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates, Premier League Poker, 2013
When you’re used to playing online, having to actually make bets and interact with real people can prove tough – even to the biggest and most successful pros. In this hand from Premier League Poker, Jungleman acts out of turn again, causing Scott Seiver to go off at the deep end.
Antonio Esfandiari: I’m first.
Jungleman: Oh, I’m sorry.
Scott Seiver: Literally every hand… It’s like actual cheating at this point. Seriously, we’ll have to call penalties on you every hand. I’m dead serious.
J: You think I’m trying to angle with this?
J: F♠♥k you.
SS: Every hand out of turn. It’s killing my action. It’s unbelievably bad. Maybe thinking clearly isn’t your strong suit. I mean this is outrageous… I turn the set of Eights, it goes check, check, check every time. It’s just a f♣♥king joke. [To Jungleman] It’s actual cheating. Don’t say a word because it’s actual cheating. It’s impossible for you to be as dumb as you’re acting.
J: You really think I’m trying to angle you?
J: Then you’re an idiot. OK?
4. Freddy Deeb v Tony G, $50k H.O.R.S.E., 2009 WSOP
It’s fair to say that Tony G doesn’t care who he winds up at the table, but as far as we know, only one man has stood up to him. At the 2009 WSOP H.O.R.S.E. tournament, Tony G was needling Freddy Deeb when the Deebster suddenly snapped in a tirade made even scarier by his scarily calm demeanour.
Freddy Deeb: Tony, you want to f♣♦k with me I’ll f♣♦k with you. You wanna be nice I’ll be nice. I’m just telling you so you know… I’ll f♥♠k you up you piece of shit motherf♦♣ker, I’ll f♦♠k you up. You understand that? You understand that? I will f♦♣king spit on you…’
Deeb was given a penalty after the hand and Tony G looked like someone had pulled a gun on him.
3. Chino Rheem v Harley Sorka, Aria Poker Room, 2011
Chino Rheem is known for two things. Firstly, a number of high profile wins, including a seventh place finish in the 2008 Main Event, quickly followed by a WPT title. Secondly, that he’s a degenerate gambler who owes a lot of people money. The latter came back to haunt him one night at the Aria poker room in Vegas, when Harley Sorka snapped at having Rheem on the same cash table as him.
Harley Sorka: You’re a f♣♦king punk motherf♦♥ker, you owe everybody f♠♥king money, I don’t want you at the f♣♥king table, get the f♣♦k out of here. Get the f♥♣k out of here.
Chino Rheem: Say one more word.
HS: Get the f♦♥k out of here.
CR: What are you going to do?
HS: Get the f♣♦k out of here.
CR: You’ve got a big mouth Harley. Because you got some chips in front of you?
HS: You ain’t got shit in front of you, f♦♣king bitch, you owe the whole of Vegas money.
2. Lex Veldhuis v ElkY, 2011
Okay, strictly speaking, this wasn’t a bust-up, but an agreed kickboxing bout, but the combatants certainly took it seriously enough. Veldhuis put in a lot of time training before the fight and it paid off as he schooled ElkY before delivering two pretty brutal kicks early on in the second round to KO the French pro.
1. Daniel Negreanu v Annie Duke, 1996-present
This is the grudge match to end all grudge matches. It started back in 1996, when Negreanu perceived Duke to be making fun of him when he was new at the tables. After plenty of personal sniping, Duke’s brother Howard Lederer jumped to her defence. You can read the full transcript here (it’s well worth it!) but here are some highlights.
Howard Lederer: I could almost stomach the attacks on her play if that was all you had been doing. But you have gotten really nasty and personal. You have been heard at tournaments, where Annie is not present, referring to her as ‘Annie Puke’.
Daniel Negreanu: Yes, and FOR THE RECORD, that name was originated by the MIRAGE dealers years ago… The Mirage dealers hated her so much that they would routinely refer to her as ‘Annie Puke’.
HL: You have also complained that she doesn’t have any nice clothes and she looks disgusting.
DN: No, I complained that she wears the SAME dirty clothes, day in and day out. That she wears no shoes and walks around the poker room, and then sits on her dirty, sweaty feet in the Bellagio poker room.
HL: I am sure your wardrobe would be just amazing after going through four pregnancies in six years.
DN: Well, I certainly wouldn’t start picking the toe-jam from my feet and handling the cards, even if I had 15 kids.
At the 2010 WSOP, in an interview with this magazine, Negreanu upped the ante again. Asked for his response to Duke’s stance against female-only tournaments he pointed to the declaration on her website (‘The best female poker player in the world’) and said, ‘So I’m like, “How offensive are you, you f♣♦king c♦♠t? You say you’re speaking for women, yet you claim superiority over all of them.”’