William Kassouf: Running Wild and Tilting Pros at the Main Event

2 years ago
Running Wild and Tilting Pros at the Main Event
20 Jul

(Photo: WSOP.com)

There are some poker pros who, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t find a way to like them! That doesn’t mean they are not god people, good players or even good fun – simply that they make you cringe, cover your ears and hope when you open your eyes they simply aren’t there anymore!

For me, the Englishman William Kassouf is one of those – a loud, incessant talker who somehow manages to combine excellent poker play with an amazing ability to tilt his opponents – and for the past week it has looked as though he would be one of the lucky November Nine in the Main Event.

Many poker fans will know or remember Kassouf from his legendary tilting of Vanessa Selbst (another of the poker community’s least-liked players by many accounts) and this is where I first caught wind of his occasionally humorous but often annoying tactics.

Kassouf explained the infamous Selbst match-up in a recent interview.

I think she just went on tilt,” he said. “She’s a fantastic player. Very aggressive. Likes to outplay people but every time she opened in that tournament I peeled and invited everyone to call. She was having trouble outplaying five people every hand.”

The Englishman was also surprised at how well his table-talk worked against Selbst.

A player of her caliber shouldn’t let a bit of speech play or something like that get to her and bust Day 1 of a six-day tournament,” said Kassouf, adding, ”When we were heads-up I was speaking to her all the time and I think it was getting to her,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to needle her specifically or target her. It seemed to get under her skin. It made great TV.“

And this next hand will give everyone an idea of just how ‘hilarious/tilting/annoying’ he can be! If I didn’t go on tilt I would definitely go on holiday afterwards just to escape!

Well, not everyone feels as I do, but when the following tweet appeared I thought, ‘No! Please no!’

WSOP Main Event Day 1C
It's time to get the party started! Weee! Lol 😜💰🎉👍https://t.co/n2HA28vJbk

— William Kassouf (WilliamKassouf) July 11, 2016

But, oh yes, William Kassouf was in the Main Event and he started to play an absolute blinder – rarely being out of the top20 chipstacks from day 3 or 4 onwards.

That’s because, behind all the bluff and bluster and acting, Kassouf is an extremely good player – and he makes the most of his outlandish verbosity.

I do enjoy talking at the table,” he told Pokerlistings.com this week. “There’s more to it than just doing it for the show or the cameras. I really enjoy getting into my opponent’s mind. Really trying to assess each situation as it comes and get a read on them.”

At the end of day 4 Kassouf tweeted an update.

WSOP Main Day 4: Finished on 2.713M in chips. $36.7K locked up. 251 left! Currently 16th in chips! Big Day 5 tomorrow! Time to crush!”

Showing that even his tweets couldn’t be reserved or conservative in any way, shape or form!

There are a lot of people, however, who find the guy fascinating – my own editor included – so I’m willing to accept that its my own dislike of public ‘embarrassment’ or loudness which is coloring my views.

(Photo: WSOP.com)

Still, having never quite gotten over the horrendous antics of Hevad Khan at the final table a decade ago, after which they actually introduced new rules about table behavior, my desire to see the next tweet was less than enthusiastic!

“WSOP Main Day 7 6,737 entered. Only 25 left. $270K locked up. Top 9 gtd $1M. $8M up top! Time to spin! Game on! Come onnn! Weee! Lol #wsop” wrote Kassouf, and the chance of him making the final table ‘November Nine’ (kicking off in October this year in case you thought I didn’t know!) was pretty damn high!

So how does he even manage to mix in his verbal sparring with his game-plan? For most people it’s really difficult, but Kassouf explained it quite clearly.

At the end of the day poker is an information-seeking game and what better way to get information from your opponents than to actually physically speak to them?” he said recently. It’s better than just putting chips in a pot, scratching your head and not knowing where you are. If people don’t like it and donk off their chips to me, then so be it."

His big mouth doesn’t always work in his favour though, as he found out on day 5 this week when he was given a 1-round penalty by tournament director Jack Effel following a complaint from Stacy Matuson, one of several females who cashed in this year’s event.

After shoving on the river, Kassouf started his usual verbal jiving as Matuson tanked.

You don't want to be eliminated in front of the whole camera crew, do you?” asked Kassouf. “Lay it down. Don't go broke this hand.”

Matuson complained and Effel warned Kassouf he’d be penalised if he continued to talk. The Englishman disagreed but managed to keep schtum until Matuson decided to fold. As she showed her queens, a triumphant Kassouf displayed his pure bluff – and was then penalized anyway!

A complaint and a 1-round penalty is one thing, but one opponent actually wanted to beat Kassouf up for his behavior!

There was this German guy at EPT Barcelona,” he explained. “He kicked off…started shouting at me. Told me to shut the F up.”

Although occasionally it’s tough to know whether he is being serious or not, such as when he added:

Told me to hurry up. Called the clock on me. I wasn’t even in the hand!”

Apparently, though, the German player was so pissed at Kassouf that he offered him outside for a fight!

He was being really threatening,” said Kassouf. “That’s the closest I’ve come to a physical altercation. I’ve never been in a fight in my life, on the poker table or off. I’m not that kind of guy. I like to think I’m a friendly guy. Some people take it the wrong way and they seem to go on tilt and blow up like that.”

The German player was eventually given a warning and Kassouf lived to fight (on the felt at least) another day.

That ‘other day’, unfortunately for Kassouf, wasn’t to be in November this year as he busted out of the Main Event in 17th spot – a remarkable performance for the man from Rickmansworth, about 20 miles from London.

It was a classic cooler for the Englishman, running his pocket kings into aces, but he can console himself with the $388,288 which doubled his lifetime earnings and may convince the ex-lawyer to try his hand at more US events.

And as for me, I may have been spared a final table with Kassouf leading the commentary… but I guess I’d still rather have a poker world full of colorful characters like William Kassouf than a robo-pro procession of hoodies, headphones and monosyllabic grunts. Just turn it down a little William! Just a little!

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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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