Poker has attracted its share of eccentrics and odd personalities over the years, especially with the recent rise of popularity of poker in general as well as a growing number televised poker shows. It takes a special type of personality to excel at poker at the highest levels (where the single turn of a card can cost players hundreds of thousands of dollars) and in some cases the bright lights and television cameras just magnify the crazy.
There’s no better example of that than the self-styled “Poker Brat”, Phil Hellmuth. While Hellmuth was arguably one of the game’s best players in the 1990s and early 2000s, he’s become better known in recent years for his antics around the poker tables than his play at them. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to argue with his success at building a brand out of being one of poker’s bad boys, keeping himself firmly in the public eye and cashing in on endorsements.
Sponsored by Ultimate Bet, Hellmuth has created an annual tradition at the World Series of Poker Main Event by making a grand entrance on his starting day, dressing up in various costumes and themes. He’s arrived as Julius Caesar, General Patton, behind the wheel of a face car, and as a MMA fighter, just to name a few. For a taste of the typical Hellmuthian spectacle, check out the video below:
If that’s not odd enough for you, Hellmuth was also the first poker pro to make the cross-over to hip hop, appearing in Ludacris’ “Sex Room” video. No, seriously, that’s true. See below video for proof:
Granted, he’s only there in an obvious paid product placement deal arranged by the online poker site that sponsors him, but it’s not every day that you a poker player turn up in a Ludacris video. Even after watching it we’re not exactly sure what the connection there is supposed to be, but when Phil Hellmuth is involved logic and making sense often flies out the window.
As far as other notable odd poker players, most tend to the Rain Main side of the odd spectrum, making it a bit painful to make too much fun of them. Phil Laak (aka the Unabomber) is probably Hellmuth’s closest competition for the title of World’s Oddest Poker Player, as Laak is known for putting on a show at the tables from time to time and has undertaken such stunts as playing poker for 115 consecutive hours without sleeping.
Laak’s near-fatal ATV crash in 2010 (which resulted in a broken wrist, dislocated elbow, and shattered orbital socked) was at first written off as a hoax and/or publicity stunt, as he was almost immediately Tweeting and posting photos of himself in the emergency room, but it turned out to unfortunately be all-too-legit, with Laak returning to the tables shortly after sporting a cast on his arm and plenty of stitches as proof.