No Love Lost Here: Top 5 Who Hates Who in The Poker World

4 years ago
Who Hates Who in The Poker World: Top 5
28 May

Sporting rivalry has often spilled over into dislike and even outright hatred and poker is no exception to the rule. For every Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neill feud, poker has its equivalent – and here we’re going to take a look at the top 5 poker feuds of all time.

Phil Hellmuth vs Sam Grizzle

It’s not hard to imagine other players falling out with the Poker Brat. Most everyone who is anyone has been at loggerheads across the table from Phil at some point in their career, and I could have filled an entire article on ‘Hellmuth fallouts’ alone, but the one Hellmuth feud which took things to a new level was his battle with Sam Grizzle: a name which will be known to older poker buffs but perhaps less so to the newer players.

Grizzle is an old-school hustler, renowned for building and blowing bankrolls quicker than most people can blink. His actual poker skills were good enough to top the $1million mark in career tournament winnings, but keeping that money was a different story for this Las Vegas gambler who can still be found at the tables.

When Grizzle and Hellmuth share a table, it’s a guarantee of trash-talking and needle where behind the smiles for the cameras the mutual dislike is clear to see. If looks could kill, in unguarded moments, both players would be six feet under from the other's stares!

Hellmuth may be unbearable with his table-talk at times, but as described by a commentator once:

Sam Grizzle isn’t the kind of guy who talks you in off a ledge, he talks you out onto one!”

In Hellmuth’s unfortunate case, he was talked out to the car park to settle one of their regular disputes – and Grizzle proved that the street-wise hustler had far more of an edge away from the tables, knocking the Poker Brat on his ass!

I’m sure many of Phil’s opponents down the years wish they had done the same!

Tony G and Negreanu vs Andrew Robl

Just like with ‘big Phil’, it would be impossible to talk about poker fall-outs and not have Tony G in the mix – and like Phil, it’s difficult to choose just one of the many arguments the Lithuanian loud-mouth has been involved in – even including a memorable one between him and the aforementioned Helmuth.

Instead, though, let’s recall a terrible ‘beating’ he gave out to young Andrew Robl a few years back which led to huge discussions over Tony G (and Daniel Negreanu’s) behaviour.

I recently played on the PokerStars big game", wrote Robl. “For those of you who haven’t seen the episode, I was constantly and consistently abused by both Tony G and Daniel Negreanu from the moment I sat down. At the time I did not mind at all to be honest – I was just happy to be in a game with Daniel and Tony G.”

As LiquidPoker described it at the time though, Robl brought much of the abuse on himself:

Robl came onto the show, basically nitted it up, refused to straddle, folding big hands against guys playing like maniacs at the time, and was awful for television. Tony G pulled his typical antics of screaming at him for being such a nit, calling the clock on him in huge pots after only around 15 seconds, and all around berating the guy for being such a wiener,” with Negreanu piping in, "You know if you don't give action, you won't be allowed to come back onto televised poker shows."

As Carthac pointed out in the forum:

People that go on televised poker shows know that the audience is looking for fun and entertaining hands. No one wants to sit around and wait for you to pick up a monster just to watch everyone fold to you. They want to see you in tough spots, make big bluffs, and win huge pots. It is as simple as that.”

Both Tony G and Negreanu wrote about Robl’s appearance on the show afterwards, and for a while the whole stramash was quite unseemly, although Robl was far more inclined to pull up Negreanu than Tony G for the abuse he received.

When the cameras come up he (Tony G) hams it up big time,” said Robl of Guoga “I don’t mind as it makes for some entertaining TV and most of the time it’s in good fun.”

Of Negreanu, however, he said:

I personally feel Daniel has a personal vendetta against me and is trying to justify his attacks on me with half true facts and I feel I need to defend myself before launching into a little attack of his own. The moment he sits down in a game online – at any stakes – the game instantly fills with a 20 person waitlist, while pros constantly lick their chops when he is at their table in both tournaments and cash games (I hear the talk). …if I was as rich and famous as him (he is probably the most famous poker pro), I wouldn’t spend much time working on my poker game either…but I also wouldn’t belittle and berate the people who have to “grind it out” for a living. Remember your roots bro?”

Elizabeth Houston, the amateur ‘Loose Cannon’ on the show that night, added this to the melee:

Tony G only goes after people who either attack him or those who have a big ego. Robl knows who Tony is and he knows his reputation so what did young Robl expect to happen when he sat down at the table and declared his intentions to bluff Tony and “make him fold like a little girl?" Sounds like a throw down to me. Unfortunately for Robl, he bit off more than he could chew when he decided to take on the lion that is Tony G. This is an obvious instance of you mess with the lion and you’re going to get bitten. You DON’T mess with the lion, get bitten, and then run home crying that the lion was mean to you.”


Cates v Peat

Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates is never far from controversy – almost every thread or YouTube post wit his name contains games where he pisses people off by not paying attention, string betting, betting out of turn, etc.

The feud with David ‘Viffer’ Peat actually arose from Cates’ match-up with Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan – another story worth reading about – where Viffer and Jungleman had a side bet on the outcome of the match.

Cates stated:

I booked a 20% crossbook with Viffer for the durrrr Challenge. I also did a side bet of $50k to his $62k.”

The only problem here was ‘durrrr’ Dwan has never found the time to complete the 50k hands challenge which was disrupted by Black Friday, nor has he kept up payments on his ‘default’ scheme with Cates apparently.

Because of this, Viffer reckons his bet with Cates should be considered ‘null and void, equating it to an “act of god,” similar to a “rain delay in baseball.”

Naturally Cates disagrees, claiming Viffer has simply refused to honor the bet, having been told face-to-face by Peat:

I’m not paying you for the durrrr Challenge… I’m f***ing you. No rational person acts like this,” said Cates. “I think he’s trying to angle me and I don’t think anybody should ever do business with him, he added, calling Viffer “a total scumbag.”

To add insult to injury, it was reported that the refusal to pay came “when Cates was playing a $2k/$4k cash game in Vegas. Viffer had a piece of Jungleman’s action, due to business he’d done with other guys that Cates knew".

After the session was over, Jungleman paid Viffer his $160k stake, and the latter said, “By the way, I’m not paying you for the durrrr Challenge.”

Of course poker is rife with unpaid debts, but for once Cates can honestly feel aggrieved about things!

Doyle Brunson vs. Layne Flack

It’s actually very hard to imagine Doyle ‘Texas Dolly’ Brunson falling out seriously with anyone, but the game of poker has that uncanny ability ‘to start an argument in an ‘empty room’.

Particularly when the empty room has a character like Layne ‘Back-to-back’ Flack in it; a man connected closely to Russ Hamilton of Ultimate Bet infamy and well-known for his excesses of drink and women, the opposite of the Brunson we all know.

In a CardPlayer interview some years back, Flack was asked his opinion on re-buys in WSOP events, and whether it was the equivalent of ‘buying’ a bracelet. His response was a shocking one, as he stated:

That’s bullshit!....You want to talk about buying a bracelet? Let’s talk about Doyle’s bracelet when there were eight people in the tournament. The critics should look back in history and see where a bracelet has been bought.”

Quite a claim, and not one which Doyle was happy about, naturally.

As a rule, I don’t say anything about things people say in interviews,” wrote Doyle on his blog, “but I can’t help being deeply offended by the article. I thought this man was a friend of mine,” he added, saying that, “Back in the early days of the World Series of Poker, I certainly didn’t even consider that a bracelet would have any value. I only played in two or three events a year because (World Series of Poker founder) Jack Binion expected me to. I actually didn’t pick up two bracelets in the 1970s and 1980s because I already had a couple."

Of the specific claims he stated:

I never won a tournament that had eight people in it. There were only 14 entries in a mixed doubles tournament that Starla Brodie and I won. If I could find that bracelet, I would send it to Layne and tell him to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

And I’m pretty sure that would hurt, the ever-popular Brunson having plenty of friends from the old days likely only too willing to help.

Flack, of course, backed down (or sobered up, or both) responding to a Facebook question about his Brunson falling out with the simple “What feud?”

A good move on Flack’s part, but as no stranger to controversy, ‘back-to-back’ Flack likely had bigger things to worry about – drug addiction, going broke, and DUI’s among them.

Daniel Negreanu v Annie Duke

Top of the list of poker feuds, however, has to go to the Negreanu-Annie Duke affair, a mostly online exchange which was actually a tag-team battle of sorts, Negreanu apparently with Jennifer Harman at his back, while Howard ‘The Professor’ Lederer championed his sister Annie’s cause.

Now, it’s not every day you’ll see the usually mild-mannered Negreanu calling someone a “fucking cunt”, so Annie Duke must have seriously pissed him off, and it apparently goes back to when Daniel was a newbie in town, trying to make his way among the poker world’s big names.

The first public shot came from Lederer in a Google group posting where he wrote an ‘open letter’ top Negreanu.

I thought you had the kind of engaging personality and charisma that the game of poker needs. Sadly, however, you have allowed your desperate need for public recognition, both for you and your close friends, to turn you into a mean and vindictive person. You try your best to keep this from you adoring fans, but tourney regulars know better.”

Negreanu responded with:

You already knew how I felt about your sister. I already told you that I didn't dislike you, but couldn't possibly deal with the behaviour of your sister. You were in my backyard after a party when I explained that to you. Your response was simply, "That's Annie". A reasonable response coming from her brother, that I understand, and don't blame you for. You have virtually no choice but to love her, I, on the other hand, have every right and reason to think of her differently.”

And with that, the boys were off on a wild and woolly online slanging match heads-up!

Negreanu’s friend and mentor in his early days, Jennifer Harman – quickly popped up in the conversation, Lederer stating:

First, you simply feel that the only female poker player who deserves any media attention is Jennifer Harman.”

Daniel responded with the burn:

Not true in the least! A reporter asked me for names of SUCCESSFUL female poker players…if I included Annie's name, I would have been lying.”


Negreanu then describes exactly why he has no love for Annie Duke, stating:

From the day I met her, when I was 22 years of age playing at the 4 Queens, she went OUT OF HER WAY to ridicule me and embarrass me, despite the fact that she had no idea who I was. Calling me 'cupboy', criticizing my play, and overall making me, and all others not in the 'clique,' feel unwelcome. Of course when I'd won some tournaments, her attitude changed towards me... BZZZZT, too late.”

Lederer accuses Negreanu that he has

… gotten really nasty and personal. You have been heard at tournaments, where Annie is not present, referring to her as ‘Annie Puke’.”

Negreanu, in what has by this time descended into school playground bickering replied:

Yes, and FOR THE RECORD, that name was originated by the MIRAGE dealers years ago… the Mirage dealers hated her so much that they would routinely refer to her as ‘Annie Puke’.”

Negreanu then went on to describe how filthy Duke would be when playing poker, saying:

…she wears the SAME dirty clothes, day in and day out… she wears no shoes and walks around the poker room, and then sits on her dirty, sweaty feet in the Bellagio poker room.”

Naturally, Lederer found it difficult to defend his sister – not only Negreanu finding her behavior and approach highly distasteful – but Negreanu himself didn’t come out of it unscathed, several times having to admit faults in his own demeanor and interactions with the poker world.

At the end of the lengthy exchange the men agreed to disagree, Lederer stating that:

I am not trying to change you with this post, as I will never again have anything to do with you. I will, from now on, ignore you entire existence, unless, of course I am trying to bust you at the poker table. You have crossed the line, and I don't really care if you ever come back.”

Negreanu responded with:

Ok, and I don't blame you. Blood is clearly thicker than water. If this means we will no longer speak, I'll have to respect, and accept that.”

It wasn’t the end of the nastiness, though, as was reported in an interview with Bluff magazine. When asked for his response to Duke’s stance against female-only tournaments he pointed to the declaration on her website ( ‘The best female poker player in the world’) and said:

So I’m like, “How offensive are you, you f♣♦king c♦♠t? You say you’re speaking for women, yet you claim superiority over all of them.”

Of course, Lederer was never likely to rally too many defenders of his sister’s faith, since his 2011 FTP debacle made him the target of so much public anger.

This week’s apology will likely do little to change any views – and with Duke having left the poker scene almost completely, it means Daniel wins the playground argument, doesn’t it?

So, a healthy dose of hate in the poker world! Who’d have thought it? If you know of any other rivalries which have over-stepped the mark, feel free to add them in the comments section below!

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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