Tony G is a trash talking poker hero, but who is the man behind the mouth?: “I’m going to crush you and it’s going to hurt so bad, baby”

Brash, outspoken and a table tyrant. The king of trash talk Tony G is the player everyone loves to watch

If one player has become synonymous with aggressive table talk and poker antics in recent years, then it’s the notorious Antanas ‘Tony’ Guoga. The Australian – who was born in Lithuania – is now so wellknown that his name is simply shortened to Tony G. From telling opponents that he would crush them to getting literally in their faces, his approach to the game has cultivated many detractors. But his results have remained impressive. And behind the façade of the bad boy of poker, there is surely some method to the madness.

Nobody outside of the poker world knew much about Guoga before the final table of the WPT Grand Prix de Paris at the Aviation Club in July 2004. He certainly had the makings of a good player with a solid track record; he finished second in the 2002 European World Series of Poker (EWSOP) in Vienna and had registered a fifth-place at the Grand Prix de Paris in 2003. Indeed, it was here where his abrasive table manner came to the fore, when Howard Lederer famously refused to shake his hand in response to what he considered unsportsmanlike conduct. But it was the following year’s event that really caught the eye, when Guoga was among the chip leaders at a star-packed final table including Surinder Sunar, Peter Roche, Ben Roberts and Dave Colclough. Everything was set for an explosive conclusion as temperatures under the TV lights caused sweat to drip from the players’ faces in a cramped salon.

Biting back!

Guoga’s plan to upset the table from the outset was clear. However, the mixture of hardiness and good humour from his opponents prevented any major confrontations, despite his regular cries of ‘I am the captain’ when holding the chip lead and ‘I’m going to crush you and it’s going to hurt so bad, baby,’ whenever he managed to win a pot.

The mild-mannered Colclough and Roberts exited first, but Irishman Peter Roche wasn’t going to be messed about and promptly set about reraising Guoga with suited connectors, finally forcing a confrontation where the Australian crippled Roche, calling with an under-pair to the board versus an open-ended straight draw and overcards. ‘That’s how quickly I call with the best hand,’ Guoga declared. Soon after, he was heads-up with the staunch and determined Sunar, and with 340,000 at stake was not about to relent.

Going into sledging overdrive, at one point Guoga crouched down next to Sunar and screamed abuse into his victim’s face – who sat impassively behind tinted sunglasses. Later, the Aussie’s talking and delaying tactics forced Sunar to pace the length of the TV area in an act of utter frustration. For all his tricks though, it was Sunar who emerged victorious. Guoga later explained to the media that he considered it all just a bit of fun, and that what happens at the table should stay at the table. It was undoubtedly a case study in the effects of table talk on a game, and posed some interesting questions about how far such a performance should be allowed to go.

Table tone

What then, can the average player learn from Tony G? Obviously, given the amount of talk surrounding his banter compared to analysing his play, aspiring heavyweights should learn that table talk both live – and to a lesser extent online – is capable of impacting your opponents’ play dramatically. It should be used as much as possible to gain information, mislead or otherwise disrupt your opponents’ ability to play against you. Guoga is particularly adept at this tactic and often manages to persuade opponents to lay down a hand or make a call where they otherwise wouldn’t, even though his actual play is in itself aggressive – but fairly solid and unspectacular.

But it’s important to remember that trash talking has its limits and can backfire under the wrong circumstances, especially in a situation where players are sufficiently antagonised to want to eliminate the table’s loud mouth. Over time, as opponents get wise to Guoga’s table antics, the image may have to change with a re-focus in mind. And, perhaps in acknowledgement of some of the negatives associated with his brand of table talk, the sledging performances have certainly mellowed and it’s a point not lost on the man himself. ‘I’m trying to tone it down and have done recently,’ he says. ‘I have my record on the board and it will always be hard to reproduce what has been done. It’s all over Youtube now anyway. It may come up again – you never know really.’

Guoga is certainly right to talk up his record, after hitting the headlines more recently for the positives in his persona rather than the negatives. His biggest win to date came at the televised final of the London Victoria’s £5,000 European Poker Championships in August 2005. And last November, at the Betfair Asian Poker Tour main event, his will to become a totally reformed character was evident when declaring from the start – with his customary bluster – that not only was he going to win the event, but that he was going to give half of the winnings to charity. He duly did both, as well as presenting the trophy to runner-up, Ang Pang Leng. Although his reasoning since is somewhat simple: ‘I don’t like trophies.’

So what’s the moral of the table talking story? Ultimately it’s better to let the results themselves do the talking.

Tony G is just one of the great players we interview regularly in PokerPlayer magazine. Read more like this HERE

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