The Muck: Is Personality Lacking from Today's High Roller Poker Players?

Will Jaffe caused a heated debate on Twitter when he criticized modern high-stakes poker pros for, in his opinion, their lack of emotion during televised games.

In this edition of The Muck, we share your two cents and give our thoughts on this controversial issue. To be clear, Jaffe is entitled to his opinion. If he doesn’t enjoy watching Chris Brewer and other high roller crushers compete, that’s his right. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer to the following question: should the high-stakes pros do more to show off their personalities on a live-stream or televised show?

High Rollers Respond

Dan Smith poker
Dan Smith

That tweet was met with some heavy criticism from some of the game’s biggest stars. Dan Smith responded: “No s**t, people have to try hard to win in super tough games. Everyone will act differently in a less competitive environment. Put me in a juicy game and I’ll show up high as Zamani*

*not actually id have a panic attack”

“Great take. Never been made before. Hope you get lots of likes,” a sarcastic Sam Greenwood responded to Jaffe’s post.

Brewer tweeted at Jaffe: “Actually quite tilted about this post. All I said is it would be fun to see Addamo in the game. I understand I’m not the target audience and the current formula has been a big success for Hustler.”

No one had a better response than Justin Bonomo, however. Poker’s all-time winningest live tournament player gave respect to Jaffe’s comedic skills, but also showed off some personality of his own in an epic “tough conversation” video.

Poker Fans Chime In

What does the poker community and those who tune in but don’t play the high roller events think about this issue? Unsurprisingly, we saw a solid mix of those in line with Jaffe’s opinion and some who sided more with the high-stakes pros.

“Don’t worry bro some people have aspirations to make it to the top and some are cool playing the same game and skill level for 20 years while trying to suck off Phil helmuth for some extra clout because they hate the game so much,” Jason Mo (@cuntycakes123) said in response to Brewer’s tweet. Mo and Jaffe had already been feuding on Twitter the past couple of weeks.

“The value from these streams don’t go to the players. They aren’t adding a % of stream revenues or sponsorships to the SHR prize pools. Why should these players sacrifice EV to make the broadcast product better in the short term?” retired Magic pro Tom Martell asked.

“For fwiw, I fell in love with poker watching streams of final tables with the game’s greats and I don’t find the loud streams of bad poker by obnoxious personalities for ridiculous money in the least entertaining,” @VictoriaL_64 argued.

“I think for the longevity of the game being televised entertaining is better, but these high rollers are trying to win so they need to concentrate more. Even Dnegs is quiet in them,” @jeffephoto opined.

“The same people who don’t understand this concept cry about not being invited to those juicy stream games. Gotta play ball to get onto the court. Enjoy the shit reg euros in the meantime,” @QuashHs wrote, siding with Jaffe.

“i’ve been playing poker for 22 years. I’m not gonna pretend to know anything about playing the stakes you’re playing. However I find it hard to believe that people as experienced as all of you can’t be jovial and have a good time without giving up edge. Maybe i’m wrong,” @LuxAeternaPoker tweeted at Dan Smith.

What’s the Real Issue?

There’s no doubt the high roller scene has changed over the past decade. Loudmouth trash-talker Tony G doesn’t often appear on TV to send players on their bikes anymore. Gus Hansen isn’t around to splash pots and throw money around like it’s going out of style these days. And Phil Laak, aka the “Unabomber,” isn’t the lovable high-profile poker celebrity he once was because he’s no longer in the spotlight.

Sure, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth are putting on a show for the poker masses, and Mike “The Mouth” Matusow graces us with his presence every summer at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). But the modern era of poker at the toughest and most competitive level, the tournaments and cash games we all watch on PokerGO, is often criticized by some who want the players to show off more personality and emotion.

Poker isn’t the only game with a fan base that criticizes its superstars for, as some perceive it, lacking personality. Many of the top Major League Baseball athletes are viewed in the same way. Take Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout for example. We’re talking about a generational talent here — the Ken Griffey Jr. of his era. Trout’s only 31, but he’d be a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame if he were to retire today, which of course he wouldn’t because he’s still mashing.

The problem with Trout in the eyes of many baseball fans is that he’s seen as someone with a dull personality, which makes him difficult to market to certain types of casual fans and perhaps even some die-hards. When the greatest player in the sport the past decade doesn’t have a marketable personality, some have argued that isn’t good for baseball, but that’s objectively a faulty argument.

Before the public address announcer at Angel Stadium can even finish announcing, “now batting, number 27, Mike Trout,” the crowd erupts into a frenzy like the Beatles just arrived. So, apparently that “dull” personality isn’t hurting his stardom. That’s because he does his talking with his bat and his glove, not his mouth. Angels fans show up in droves to watch Trout hit a ball to the moon or leap the centerfield fence to rob a home run, not for him to talk smack to opposing pitchers and start fights with teammates.

Trout’s too focused on becoming an elite ballplayer to worry about his marketability. The same can be said about poker pros like Bonomo, Brewer, Stephen Chidwick, and all the other high rollers who are sometimes criticized for their perceived “dull” personalities. They do their talking with their chips. As Bonomo explained in his hilarious Twitter video, if he worried about entertaining the audience in ways that don’t involve stacking chips, he might lose some edge over the tough competition.

Stephen Chidwick
Stephen Chidwick

These elite level poker stars play for houses, sometimes Beverly Hills mansions, on a regular basis. That doesn’t change when the cameras are rolling. So, why would they give up edge just to make a segment of the poker fan base happy?

That said, Jaffe and those who agree with his point of view also aren’t wrong in their line of thinking. Everyone has a right to choose if they want to watch poker played at the highest level or poker played by a cast of colorful characters. In the modern era of poker, it’s rare to get both, but is that even a bad thing?

If you want the best of the best, watch the U.S. Poker Open. If you enjoy table talk and wild pots, tune in to Hustler Casino Live. Poker offers a little something for everyone.

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