The 20 Worst Moments in Poker in 2014: #15-11

WSOP Main Event villain Curtis Rystadt.

You know what they say: Into every poker year a little grand jury indictment, prop-bet stiffing and gross media exaggeration must fall.

OK; no one really says that. But still.

In a lot of respects, 2014 was another banner year for poker. Attendance was up at major events around the globe. Dan Colman won $22(!) million in tournaments, large and small. The Battle of Malta went off like a rocket.

This is not that. This is the other side of the coin where we delve into the dark side of poker in 2014.

We're not trying to bum you out or anything so if you prefer the rosier side look for our "Best Poker Moments in 2014" series every other day.

15. The Rise of Dan Bilzerian, "Poker Player"

Not a great flagbearer.

For a guy that’s never been on the poker circuit -- or even really played in a "visible" cash game -- Dan Bilzerian carried the torch for poker players in the mainstream media a lot last year.

At first it was even a little bit funny. The beard-stroking GIF. The child-like fascination with fast cars and blowing things up. A general disdain for authority and convention.

Dubbed the "Poker Playboy/King of Instagram" (he has 5.8m followers) Bilzerian built a rabid following on social media and, despite the inanity of most of it, didn't seem to be doing much harm.

Fast forward to the end of 2014 and it all seems, well, a bit more sinister now.

He threw a porn star off his roof. His objectification of women has grown a little nastier. And he’s just been arrested for either building explosives or kicking a woman in the face in a Miami nightclub - or both.

The truth might be that Dan Bilzerian is a "harmless" philanthropist with a broken heart - as Miss Finland thinks. But if we’re serious about bringing more women into the game the tolerance level for any sort of misogyny, real or perceived, from poker players, real or perceived, needs to be zero.

We’ve played a role in the selling of Dan Bilzerian in 2014 but it’s time we drive that particular Hummer off a cliff for good.

14. Colman Skips Interview; Media Overreacts

Dan Colman
As close as Colman got to the pile of money.

It's still a bit hard to figure out exactly what happened after Dan Colman won the $1m Big One for One Drop this summer.

Equally uncomfortable with promoting the game of poker and aggrandizing individual accomplishments Colman refused to ham it up with a pile of money for the cameras or do a traditional winner's interview.

While runner-up Daniel Negreanu managed it all with aplomb, as always, Colman had a few sullen shots taken near the money and quickly fled the scene.

He did, however, sit for a brief interview with ESPN and a short stand-up with Kara Scott where he insisted the discussion be centred on the charity and not himself.

He didn't express himself particulalrly well about his apprenhensions but what followed in several media outlets, both inside poker and out, was certainly a knee-jerk castigation of a thoughtful kid trying to sort out some conflicted feelings.

As we found out later in the year Colman is, in fact, trying to reconcile his feelings about the game and the world around him and was certainly judged far too harshly for not playing the happy winner.

Would he do it the same way again? Probably not. But there was - and is - nothing wrong with him choosing to abstain from the process.

13. Colman Blasts Hellmuth, Calls Him "Cancer" and "Whore"

Phil Hellmuth
Hellmuth clearly touched Colman's nerve.

While the media/poker world was hasty to bring out the flaming torches for Colman after his One Drop performance he returned the favor, so to speak, later.

After Phil Hellmuth made a particularly Hellmuthian appearance on Brian Koppelman's The Moment podcast, where he did very Hellmuthian things like name drop, self-aggrandize and pat himself on the back for not cheating on his wife (despite ample opportunity), Colman lost it on the 2+2 forum:

"Its embarrassing that we have to share our profession with whores like this guy. After I win one drop, he immediately comes on stage to shake my hand in front of a camera and congratulate me. As if he's the gatekeeper to the poker world and welcoming me inside.


"It is truly pathetic that a 40 year old would behave the way he does at the table, not to mention how spineless he is, just willing to take any sponsorship regardless of the company's integrity. Hey, anything for a payday!


"Really makes me sad to think there's a chance some people may look up to this charlatan. People of his attitude and character are a cancer to this world."

He later backed off slightly and said he was too harsh, but he did maintain his distaste for Hellmuth's general air of self-importance.

Whether you agree with Colman or not - and many do - he didn't do himself any favors with his own knee-jerk reaction.

12. Curtis Rystadt and Aaron Kaiser Bum Out the Main Event

We love the EPT Live broadcasts and live/streaming poker in all of its forms, really. But make no mistake: There's no better or more exciting TV poker spectacle than the ESPN WSOP Main Event.

Norm and Lon. Kara and Antonio. The Nuts.

We're also firmly on board with a balance of back story/character development and high-end strategic analysis. The mix is what really makes poker so great on so many levels and universally appealing on air to players/fans of all calibers.

This year, though ... we got a whole lot of the grating Curtis Rystadt and the tanking Aaron Kaiser. Neither one a real "shining" moment for poker by any stretch.

While they did in the end get their just rewards, getting bounced from the tournament and roasted by the viewing audience, it was still hard to watch. And we should never say that about poker's grandest event.

11. Still No European in the Hall of Fame

Daniel Negreanu and Jack McClelland? Undeniably great and worthy additions to the Poker Hall of Fame. But it's 2014 there's still no European in the Hall of Fame?

Time to get the HOF admission process under the microscope and fast track a few must-have candidates asap.

We have at least one suggestion. Bruno Fitoussi, Carlos Mortenson, Marcel Luske, John Duthie ... all easy picks too.

If nothing changes in 2015 it might be time to create a splinter HOF with Euros only. Thoughts, Alex Dreyfus?

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