Why Poker Needs People Like William Kassouf

TAGs: Lee Davy, William Kassouf

After William Kassouf’s exit hand at the World Series of Poker goes viral, Lee Davy explains why the game is crying out for more players willing to make more of a buzz.

Hands up if you tuned into the opening episode of The Walking Dead this weekend to find out who’s head Negan was going to dismantle with Lucille?

I have watched some TV during my time on this planet, but I can’t remember watching an episode quite like that. My heart was beating like a bluff. I had a headache. I felt strange like there had been a death in the family. And I find myself daydreaming about eyeballs resting on cheek sockets as I type.

Why Poker Needs People Like William KassoufIt was 45-minutes of hair raising, heart thumping, brain-addling emotion.

There goes that eyeball again.

One thing that I haven’t been watching is the World Series of Poker (WSOP) highlights.

Watching poker on TV is like watching Little House on the Prairie.

But this morning, as I trawled through the Interwebs praying that there would be something of interest to write about I stumbled across a hand that had gone viral and I was one of the many that it infected.

It had a little bit of Lucille about it.

Croquet or WWE Wrestling?

Poker bores me because it’s slow, the same situations arise time and time again, and the cast members always forget their lines because I never hear them speak.

The difference between poker and The Walking Dead is the script. The Walking Dead scriptwriters can inject emotion into the scenes allowing the cast to bring it to life. There are no scriptwriters in poker. It’s up to the cast to bring the show alive, and therein lies the problem.

Do we want poker to be more like croquet or WWE Wrestling?

Do we want our fans politely clapping after a hand, muttering, “bravo young chap,” underneath their breath? Or do we want them jumping up and down in their seat fist pumping and drinking shoe-bombs?

I imagine there are purists out there who prefer the former.

I prefer the latter.

I don’t want poker to be all croquet and cricket. I want it to be more like WWE Wrestling and UFC Fighting.

The Hand

Watch this and tell me how it made you feel?

At the end of the hand, Gordon Vayo gestured to the fans that the hand should have been over quickly. I agree. It was Kings versus Aces for peat’s sake, and I was just complaining about poker being too slow. But this wasn’t a hand where two people tanked for 10-minutes each and then got it in. It was the climax of the Will Kassouf story. It was storytelling 101. It was the time for the villain to meet his demise, and Griffin Benger turned out to be the perfect hero.

Many people around the world may think that Kassouf is a bit of a dick. I get that. He even has an evil monkey look. However, without him in this hand, we would have had your run of the mill AA v KK cooler. Instead, we witnessed a magical moment that will stand the test of time because of the intensity of the emotion, and nobody at the final table could have generated that feeling but Kassouf.

The video has gone viral. All the major sporting news sites are running with it. Heck, even the UK tabloids have gotten hold of the story. Everyone likes to see a jumped up, arrogant, bully getting kicked in the balls, and this is why it works so well. Kassouf’s on stage character (I am told he is all Adam Ant in real life) embodies the perfect bad guy. Benger is the perfect good guy. What we witnessed was the perfect climax where good overcomes evil. The only remaining question is whether our hero will go on to find the treasure – all $8m squid of it.

As I saw Kassouf go to work, the Devilfish came to mind. He was so annoying to play with, but class to watch. And poker needs people like this. We need more villains because without them we have no story, and without story, we have no emotion, and without emotion, we have no reason to watch. The fewer people that watch, the less fresh fish flock to our game.

And Benger was a class act by the way.

I know the pair would have gotten it in regardless, but Benger wasn’t to know that. He turned Kassouf’s speech play into Lucille and pounded him with it. After the hand, Benger accepted Kassouf’s offer of a handshake. It was a class act.

15-Minutes of Fame

Is this it?

Will we see our new favourite bad guy have his 15-minutes of fame and then vanish?

I don’t think so.

Kassouf exited in 17th place. When there were 80 players left I asked over 70 pros who they thought would win the event. I can’t reveal the results, but I can inform you that Kassouf was right up there. His peers respect his game, if not his running mouth.

And please don’t blame him for milking the moment.

Poker players are flocking to Twitch in their droves because they see an opportunity to get sponsored, make some extra cash or inflate their ego. I doubt anyone is streaming on Twitch with the sole purpose of entertainment for entertainment’s sake. There will be another motive, and that’s cool. We all need to get on in life.

Kassouf is no different.

He has fashioned an excellent opportunity to fill a gap that has been missing since Luke Schwartz became a Dad and the Devilfish passed. We need villains. 888Poker must be laughing all the way to the bank because as I watched the action play out all I could see was their online poker room slapped on his chest.

Would the fans like to see Kassouf in Season 2 of the Global Poker League (GPL)?

Count me in.

Kassouf v The Jungleman in The Cube?

I would pay to see that.

And Kassouf has manufactured that possibility. He has gone from being a poker player to a world famous poker player all because he has a mouth that can be as dangerous as Lucille, and instead of bashing him over it, we should be lauding him over it.


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