As the final days of 2017 slowly tick by, it’s time to take a look back at the year in poker. Over the last 10 days of the year, PocketFives is taking readers on a trip back in time to recap the last 12 months in a fun and unique way.
To date we’ve gone over the top five off-the-felt news stories of 2017, the top heaters of the year, covered the game’s newest characters, breakout stars and grudges. Now it’s time to get weird with the top WTF Moments of 2017.
#5 Leon Tsoukernik ‘plays his own money’
It wouldn’t be a year full of WTF Moments without an iconic quote thrown in. When Super High Roller Bowl live streamed on PokerGO in May, Leon Tsoukernik was the talk of the event for his playing style and table talk. The chat peaked when Tsoukernik took the verbal warfare to the chest of Jason Koon.
The two exchanged verbal blows during a crucial part of the tournament with Tsoukernik boasting about his own wealth and the perceived lack of poker pros keeping their own action in a high buy-in event.
“I play my own money” catapulted Tsoukernik to a polarizing status of antihero among the poker community. The moment lit up social media and became a catch-phrase for the entire summer.
You either loved or hated Tsoukernik’s brash attitude as he gambled his way to a fourth-place finish. His legal troubles aside, Tsoukernik livens up the action when he plays and it will be interesting to see how many appearances he makes in 2018.
#4 Salomon Ponte Tries to Sell his Watch
Speaking of insane live stream moments, Salomon Ponte put a high bar in place with his antics on Poker Night in America this April. Already a villain in the poker world, Ponte took this live streamed cash game to an unparalleled low when PNIA visited Choctaw.
Ponte’s dismal financial status became apparent during the show when, in an effort to accumulate $2,000, he tried with to no avail to pawn off his watches and passport to the rest of the table. The ‘Hashtag King’ quickly turned into a pauper in front of a viewing audience of thousands and the jig on his bit was finally up.
Adding to a great year in quotes, Ponte’s “waiting on a wire” line is recycled to this day on Twitter, long after its originator managed to get banned from the site on numerous occasions.
#3 Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer enter Tag Team event
Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer made their return to the World Series of Poker in 2016 but added a new level of infamy to their second act of poker this year. The two faces of the Full Tilt Poker scandal made their formal entrance to this summer’s WSOP by joining together in the Tag Team event. Joining them was former FTP Red Pro and friend, Andy Bloch.
The pair have been mostly quiet regarding their past, particularly Ferguson, and showed no qualms in being among the public who primarily despises them. Multiple social media reports of the two playing together were met with scorn and some laughter at the troll.
— T.J. Jurkiewicz (Randal_Graves) (@tjurk44) June 6, 2017
#2 Quan Zhou Bubbles the 2017 WSOP Main Event
There’s bubbling the WSOP Main Event and then there’s what Quan Zhou’s story. The biggest bubble in poker has seen it all. Bad beats, coolers, multiple players being eliminated on the same hand. What Zhou did is a category all of its own.
Zhou started his final hand of the tournament with 80 big blinds and by the river, had zero. Davidi Kitai is not the player you want to be bluffing under any circumstance but the lack of fear (along with apparent regard for the equity of his situation) drove Zhou to fire off with ace-high and be cut down by Kitai’s full house.
Another player managed to be eliminated alongside Zhou and it was Zhou who won the free seat in the 2018 Main Event. Zhou made over 1,000 new friends late on Day 3 last year and will return for Day 1 in July looking for redemption.
#1 Taleb Kweli vs. Stealthmunk
Race, rap music, #pokertwitter. The beef of 2017 featured all of that and more when Talib Kweli squared off against Justin ‘Stealthmunk’ Schwartz, among others, in a battle that struck a chord with all poker players.
A few innocent replies back and forth soon erupted into a fiery debate between Kweli and Schwartz. Other poker players soon joined the fray to defend Schwartz against the claims thrown against him by the Brooklyn rapper. Before long, fellow pros Matt Glantz, Dan O’Brien, and Justin Bonomo jumped in and the never-ending thread failed to cease.
So today racist poker players joined the list of groups that harass me. Right along w racist anime stans, new atheists & failed rappers
— Talib Kweli Greene (@TalibKweli) November 18, 2017
Seemingly everyone got their say in on this matter and the poker community rallied around Schwartz as Kweli continued to levy allegations of racism.
Schwartz is one of the best tweeters in the whole poker world and Kweli met his match in what was the WTF Moment of the year.