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Do You Have to Be Eccentric to Be a Pro?



 

The obvious answer to the title question is no, but sometimes it might seem like all professional poker players are at least a little eccentric. After all, every time you tune into the major tournaments, the tables are surrounded by players in sunglasses, holding unlit cigarettes, twitching, sighing, making wisecracks, or even kicking off their shoes. While poker itself is an exciting game that has stood the test of time, there is no doubt that the strange characters it seems to attract add to the fun of watching it live or on TV. Here are some of our favorite professional player quirks.


The Nicknames
Some nicknames are obscure while the meaning of others is pretty obvious, and you can rest assured that there’s a good story behind each one. For example, living legend Doyle Brunson is also referred to as “Texas Dolly." The Texas part is self-explanatory; Doyle is a native of the Lonestar state. But most people scratch their heads at Dolly. Doyle picked up this nickname early in his career when famous commentator Jimmy Snyder mispronounced Doyle's last name, introducing him instead as “Texas Dolly.” The flub stuck and Doyle has fondly been referred to as Texas Dolly ever since. In fact, his friends and fellow pros often refer to him simply as Dolly.


Or how about The Fossilman? If you’re not familiar with Greg Raymer, he’s the middle aged white guy in holographic glasses. He earned his nickname for the way he chose to protect his cards during the 2004 World Series of Poker: with a varnished fossil. The fossils must have been lucky too, because Raymer went on to win the WSOP championship that year. While it’s a fun story it’s a good tip too; always bring something to protect your cards! You don’t want to lose your investment in a pot because the dealer mistakenly takes your hand.

 

The Catch Phrases
Sometimes poker players create their own buzz like Fossilman created his own nickname. They might wear a trademark piece of clothing or have a particularly memorable poker face. Or—if they’re like Scotty Nguyen or Joe Hachem—they might burst out with charismatic phrases that even their opponents can’t help but repeat.


Scotty Nguyen is well-liked by fans and pros alike. He’s a congenial little guy that is known to mutter, “Yeah baby” whenever the right cards come his way. But Nguyen’s most famous expression is not one any player wants to hear. After taking a huge pot or giving another player a bad beat, Nguyen is known to crack a wry smile and announce, "That’s poker baby.”


Joe Hachem is a relative newcomer compared to Nguyen, and yet his catchphrase ranks right up there with the best. This popular saying first caught on while Hachem was competing at the 2005 WSOP. Whenever Hachem was dealt a monster hand or won a large pot, and in this case when he took the 2005 WSOP championship, he has taken to shouting, “Pass the sugar!”


There are many more stories of poker strangeness. Virtually every player earns a nickname at some point, and many have trademark tics they perform to avoid giving other tells. Still other players are known not for their playing style but for their personality or in some cases how their personality clashes with others’. The world of professional poker is full of oddities, rivalries, and legends. It takes great skill to get to the top, but it takes character to get on camera.

 

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