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Top-10 poker player interviews

10 Feb 2014

By Aaron Todd
Last week, the poker world was buzzing about an interview that Joe Hachem did with Bluff Magazine at the Aussie Millions. I'll have more on that later, but it got me thinking about some of the great interviews I've seen poker players do over the years, so I decided to put together a top-10 list of some of my favorites.

10. Freddy Deeb 2002 WPT Five Diamond Classic
This interview actually came during the first poker tournament I ever watched on television. I'll never forget watching how frustrated Deeb was by Gus Hansen's "any two cards" play, and his post-tournament interview taught me a lot about poker. At the time, I thought Deeb was so frustrated that he'd never want to play Hansen again. Instead, his reaction was "I would like to play this game against him every day if he plays like that. He could never beat me in the long run."

I love the honesty of the statement, and I doubt you'd see many players be so blunt in a post-tournament interview now, more than 10 years later. See Deeb's final hand and the post-tournament interview at about the 1:18:00 mark.

9. Phil Ivey with All In Magazine
Phil Ivey doesn't do many interviews, so when he does talk, it's news. Last summer, Ivey did a sit-down interview with All In Magazine where he discussed a wide range of topics. The folks at All In split the interview up into several segments, but the most interesting one, where he reflects on the impact of Chris Moneymaker's win in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, is embedded below. There are also good segments on his greatest weakness and some of the crazy prop bets he's been involved in.

8. Phil Hellmuth's white magic
This interview was an instant classic as soon as it aired on ESPN during the inaugural $1 million One Drop event at the WSOP in 2012. In addition to being full of Hellmuth's braggadocio, it also has the benefit of being, for the most part, true. Hellmuth really does play a style that's atypical of most of the top pros, and he does generally read people well, at least in tournaments.

7. Vanessa Selbst on The Mental Game of Poker
If you're not listening to Jared Tendler's The Mental Game of Poker Podcast, start. His recent interview series has been outstanding, with none better, in my opinion, than Vanessa Selbst's. Her thoughts on deciding whether or not to play her mental "A" game offered a great insight into the mind of a professional player. And while I'm still not a fan of late-entry in tournaments, her explanation of why she's been registering late made me understand why the pros avail themselves of that option so often.

6. Scotty Nguyen with PokerStrategy
Scotty Nguyen has had his share of memorable moments. Of course there was the 1998 WSOP Main Event title. More recently, there was his touching Hall of Fame induction ceremony. But there have also been plenty of memorable moments that Scotty would like to forget, and this is likely one of them. If you're looking for extra comedy, turn the closed captions on. It's like watching Herman Cain on an episode of Bad Lip Reading.

5. Mike Matusow with Wayne Allen Root
There are dozens of interviews with "The Mouth" that would fit the bill here, but this little-known gem is the best one I could find. I'm pretty sure this interview took place in 2005 or maybe 2006, in the midst of the poker boom. It's a great insight into the mood of the famous pro at the time, but perhaps more interesting is the discussion of sports betting between the two long-time Vegas residents.

Of course Root went on to run for vice president on the 2008 Libertarian ticket, so he's a pretty interesting character himself.

4. Joe Hachem with Bluff Magazine
In the interview that inspired this column, the 2005 Main Event champion says Jamie Gold and Jerry Yang "destroyed the legacy of the world champion." He goes on to say that the more recent Main Event champs have all been so young that it's tough to expect them to wear the mantle with the honor and grace that he, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer did.

While this sounds like the height of hubris, I think it's a fair point. I remember watching Hachem make the rounds during the 2006 WSOP, going from table to table and greeting perfect strangers with a handshake, a smile and listening to their stories. He even did this in events he wasn't playing. He made time for just about everyone who wanted his time – and this was at the height of the poker boom.

Hachem was – and continues to be – a great ambassador for poker. I can't think of many people who would argue that Gold is a great ambassador for the game, and Yang, despite his charity work after his Main Event win, has largely disappeared from the poker universe.

3. Antonio Esfandiari on Howard Stern
I love this interview for so many reasons. First of all, it's unusual to hear a professional poker player give an interview longer than 30 minutes with a mainstream media mogul. And Howard is pretty knowledgeable on the topic. I love that he presses Esfandiari on backing and just how much he won (even though he didn't get any real answers).

2. Howard Lederer on PokerNews
With nearly three hours of interview footage, this is by far the longest interview in the group. The post-Black Friday interview with the founder and board member of Full Tilt Poker provided poker players waiting for their Full Tilt balances with plenty of ammunition and very few answers. You can watch all three hours if you like, or you can take everything out of context and have fun with it, like Thomas Keeling (aka SrslySirius) did.

1. Chris Moneymaker on All In - The Poker Movie
I learned more about Moneymaker watching this film than I did in the 10 years I'd known his story prior to watching it. If you haven't seen this film yet, do it today. It provides a great insight into the poker boom and moments that put the brakes on its momentum, but the most interesting moments are the ones where Moneymaker opens up about his life before and after his Main Event win.
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