William Kassouf

The 35-year old Englishman from Rickmansworth has become a love-hate figure in the game recently, with his table antics.

The 35-year old Englishman from Rickmansworth has become a love-hate figure in the game recently, with his table antics – notably his ‘speechplay and excessive tanking’ on the negative side – causing the division in both fans and players during the 2016 WSOP.

His deep run, eventually finishing 17th for a life-changing $338,288, came to an abrupt end when ran his kings in to Griffin Benger’s aces, in a hand which was to make the headlines well outside of poker.

Before hitting the bright lights of Vegas, however, former lawyer Kassouf was happily playing more modest live events – $200-300 equivalent buy-ins at local casinos and tours in his native England, although his first big cash came as far back as 2009 when he walked off with €100,800 for his 6th spot finish in the Paddy Power Irish Open.

For fans of the game, putting Vanessa Selbst in tilt with his incessant and what many consider obnoxious table-talk was the main hit for Kassouf on YouTube, but along came the WSOP last year and he rose to global prominence, masses of column inches and airtime in and out of poker focusing on the brash pro.

His first real TV time found him in a well-publicized hand with Stacy Matuson, which eventually saw tournament director Jack Effel pulling the Englishman aside and giving him a serious warning for his talking, his approach bringing him into dispute with fellow players as well as officialdom several times.

Watching his final hand from the event and the subsequent furore surrounding it and other hands Kassouf was involved in, it was difficult to see where the love element of the love-hate relationship was, but Kassouf himself explained afterwards "People have said I'm an inspiration - for me, that's massive," talking about players learning their poker in pub leagues, who have been getting in touch with him and saying that they want to emulate his achievements, according to Howard Swains on the PokerStars blog.

Following the Vegas adventure, most expected Kassouf to retreat into anonymity in the poker world, but instead he took down the Prague EPT €10k High Roller for a cool €532,500 ($555,619) which pretty much confirmed that he had game to go with his motormouth.

A quiet 2017 ensued, with Kassouf going back to the relatively small buy-ins he favoured previously, but with the WSOP just around the corner again it’s almost a certainty that Kassouf will be up to his old tricks again in Vegas, and the cameras will be there to capture it all again.

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