5 Over-Appreciated People in Poker
Last week's article highlighted five under-appreciated people in poker, this week, let's look at the other side of the coin. Here are five figures in the poker world that get way more appreciation than they probably deserve:
If you've ever watched ESPN's World Series of Poker telecasts, you've probably heard of Adam Schoenfeld. For some reason, Schoenfeld's name and face pops up on the ESPN airwaves fairly often. Why? I have no idea! Despite having playing at the WSOP for five years as well as participating in several WPT events over that span, Schoenfeld has just $380,000 in lifetime winnings. His largest cash is $170,000. If that's all it takes to be a regular on ESPN telecasts, I'd like to throw my very own name into the hat to be considered for some TV time. My live tournament record is nearly identical to Schoenfeld's only it didn't take me five years to amass those numbers. What do you say ESPN? How about a little Ozone on your telecasts? What's that? Do I have any close relationships with the ESPN producers? Well no... but I thought... wait a minute... ohhhhhhh... I get it...
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Evelyn Ng has to be the luckiest person in the whole world. Be a tall, thin, attractive Asian girl. Check. Meet and date a very young, then-unknown Daniel Negreanu. Check. Hang around Negreanu as he becomes one of the best players in the world. Check. Get subsequent TV time and sponsorship deals from online poker rooms as a result of this exposure without ever having to demonstrate any prowess of your own. Check. Start dating a young, fairly-unknown Lex Veldhuis. Check. Be in Veldhuis's cheering section as he absolutely embarrasses people at the feature table in the 2009 ESPN WSOP broadcasts. Check. Receive more legs on your sponsorship career as a result of this new found exposure. Check.
Must be nice! To Evelyn's credit, she is an incredibly nice girl, but in several years on the tournament circuit, she has done very little to justify all of the exposure she has gotten other than being pretty and hanging around the right guys!
The "Prince of Poker" certainly has made some incredible accomplishments in the poker world. Since winning the 1998 World Championship, Nguyen has been one of the most consistent players in the game having won a WPT event, and a handful of bracelets, including one in last year's $50k buy-in HORSE event. But it was in that very event that Nguyen made a lot of people in the poker world question why he gets this type of following from poker fans. If you've never seen it, check out this 10-minute montage of a drunk Scotty Nguyen behaving like a buffoon at one of poker's most prestigious final tables. Clearly, Scotty has a certain charm and mystique to him, but that doesn't give him a free pass to be an embarrassment to the game when he feels like throwing back a few too many beers.
I've seen people behave around Scotty in a manner that borders on worship. It seems people like to forget he's just an alcoholic with a loud mouth and a knack for cards.
By all appearances, Jean-Robert Bellande is well-meaning guy, but he sure has squeezed a lot of attention out of very little output. In 2005, back when ESPN was stupid enough to air telecasts of WSOP Circuit events, Bellande finished 3rd in one of these events for $210,000. He wore this stupid beanie on his head that for some reason helped him stick in people's memory. Fast forward a couple years later, and the producers of the hugely popular reality TV show Survivor are looking for a poker player to participate in the show. Unfortunately for them, most players aren't interested since the filming of the show overlaps with the WSOP. But there is one player who says he'll be on the show... Jean-Robert Bellande. Next thing you know, this beanie-wearing one-hit wonder is on every television set in America. And because of that legacy, we have to put up with seeing him on ESPN's WSOP telecasts each year. Well played, Bellande. Well played.
I'm a little reluctant to mention Tiffany on this list because when Michael Carroll hit a three-outter on me at the WSOP and proceeded to talk trash about how good he is for the following 20 minutes, Tiffany was the only player at the table with enough courage to tell him to shut-up. However, Tiffany's well-deserved place on this list trumps my personal affection for her.
At that same WSOP table, Tiffany got pocket Aces all-in against the pocket Fives of Alex Outhred on a Nine-Eight-Five flop for an enormous pot. The turn card was life-changing for Michelle: she hit her Ace. Rather than being knocked out around 170th place, she went on to finish 17th while enjoying an enormous amount of TV exposure. That exposure has allowed to her follow in Jean-Robert's footsteps and appear in a hit reality TV show. Episodes of the Amazing Race featuring Michelle and poker "pro" Maria Ho are airing this fall. There's no doubt we haven't seen the last of Tiffany Michelle.