Tantrum Kicks Off ‘Poker After Dark’
“Poker After Dark” features six great poker players, playing in a $20,000 buy-in, winner-take-all poker tournament, which is broken down into five days of play (Monday through Friday at 2 a.m. Saturday, recap and preview episode). I’m compelled to say that I’m embarrassed by my “Poker Brat”-like conduct in the first-ever episode, which featured a classic, seven-minute-long “Phil Hellmuth tirade,” but it did make for some pretty darn good television!
My tablemates for my explosion were World Champion of Poker Huck Seed, three-time World Poker Tour winner Gus Hansen, Annie Duke, Shawn “The Sheik” Sheikhan, and Steve Zolotow. Why did I lose my cool? Simply because I asked my tablemates to “Please be quiet for a moment” — during a key hand — and they continued to talk. If my tablemates did in fact go on talking after I asked for silence, then by TDA (Tournament Directors Association) rules they would be assessed a 20-minute penalty, and be forced to hold their tongues and/or leave the room.
Did they really talk out of turn after I requested silence? At the time I felt like they had, and I wanted a ruling from show producer, and longtime poker player, Morey Eskandani. I asked Eskandani what penalties were in place to prevent blatant violations of the rules and etiquette of poker tournaments. He stated that they had no penalties in place as of yet, but that they would put some in place soon. This answer didn’t sit well with me. My blood was boiling and I wanted justice for the actions of Sheikhan, in particular. So I threatened to give up playing on future shows, and I got into it a bit verbally with Sheikhan. Finally, not feeling like justice had been served; I stormed off the set — only to return 20 minutes later.
At the time I felt like my tantrum was, at least in part, justified. Upon further review (when I saw the show), I saw a lot of innocent stuff going on. First Zolotow asked the players at the table to let me think, well before things went sideways. Duke, who was involved in the hand, never said a single word. Seed and Hansen were laughing and joking in a totally innocent matter, not fully realizing that I was in fact looking for complete silence. And even Sheikhan was as innocent as he is capable of being in that situation (although he did eventually open his mouth). It seems that I was the one who crossed the line here, and I apologize to everyone involved and to all of the television viewers for my conduct.
With the blinds at $300-$600, I raised it up with A-10 (on the button) and, making up my mind that Duke (in the big blind) was likely to reraise me with many different hands that I could beat or match up well against; especially if she had an ace in her hand. Because I only had $7,000 in chips to her $23,000, I knew that Duke could afford to take a chance against me — she could only lose 30 percent of her chips.
Sheikhan folded in the small blind, and Duke reraised it $4,000 more. Now I was trying to decide on the best course of action. Should I follow up on my first line of thinking and call Duke? No, of course not; I decided that I should at least give myself a chance to read her first. If I felt extreme strength, then I would fold my hand. If I felt that she was weak, then I would call with my hand (effectively moving all-in). This is when I asked for silence, and asked Duke, “Do you have anything?” Then Seed innocently joked, “You asked for us to be quiet so that you could talk!” Then Hansen then made an innocent joke, and finally Sheikhan said something as well.
Now, as I began to lose my cool (again, I felt like proper poker etiquette was not being observed), I also began to lose my reading abilities to a degree. However, I did eventually make the right move when I folded — Duke had pocket kings. Thus, after much unneeded drama, I made a good fold (A-10 is a 2-1/2-to-1 underdog to K-K).
Poker etiquette and rules state:
A) You have the right to silence when you are making a key decision
B) You cannot carry on after a request for silence
C) You cannot let you hole cards hit the floor
D) All of the above