The 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event created one of the best characters in poker history. Shawn Sheikhan emerged from obscurity as a “tattoo artist” to become the perfect sparring partner for Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow. Their battles raged during the final days of the tournament and created a shelf life for Sheikhan as a foil for televised poker in the 2000s.
A villain for the ages, Sheikhan left the Main Event with no additional fans. Sheikhan first appeared on the ESPN cameras with about eight tables left. During a hand against Tiffany Williamson, Sheikhan used coarse language in telling Williamson to speed up her decision in a hand and turned the viewing audience against him right away. His aggressive tone combined with rude tactics confirmed his place among the bullies.
Sheikhan’s half-ass smirk did little to endear himself to an audience predisposed to disliking brash characters. Loud poker players are not new from the era but those who went of their way to put down opponents at every turn was new. Mike Matusow needled with a smile, Sheikhan made sure to slice.
The $600,000 won by Sheikhan for finishing 11th is secondary to the fame gained by his verbal outbursts. In an era of William Kassouf’s “speech play,” Sheikhan was one step ahead and antagonized an entire field for the ESPN cameras to see.
Sheikhan’s target heading into the final table was Matusow, who all but ‘declared war’ on his noisy opponent. Their head-to-head peaked when Matusow told Sheikhan to “shut the fuck up” in the middle of a hand.
The Kassouf-Griffin Benger clash is the most visceral moment of the Main Event from the last few years but their slap-fight pales in comparison to Sheikhan versus Matusow. The tension between the pair could cut a knife. When else will we see another encounter with 27 players remaining when one calls the other’s all-in with seven-deuce out of spite?
Sheikhan created that level of hatred from Matusow, who wanted Sheikhan gone almost as bad as he wanted the $7.5 million first-place prize.
Post-2005, Sheikhan was on every poker television show. Sheikhan ignited an epic rant from Phil Hellmuth on the first episode of Poker After Dark.
Black Friday came along and Sheikhan’s place in the game faded away. Poker television no longer needed a player better known for being a jerk without any actual skills to back up his petulance.
Years later, Sheikhan’s place in the poker world has quieted down. He makes the occasional appearance in WSOP events but never repeated the noise made in 2005. This summer, he final tabled the $10,000 2-7 Single Draw event for his 13th career WSOP cash.
The last time Sheikhan cashed in the event that made him famous was in 2013. There, Sheikhan played with Doyle Brunson on one of the feature tables.
Brunson summed up Sheikhan’s career as only the Texan can. After exceeding the allotted amount yatter from Sheikhan, Brunson said, “You talk too much.” That is Shawn Sheikhan.