TheTonz's video leads to poker show spot

Phil Hellmuth
His video was good, but will TheTonz have the poker skills to catch Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke's attention?

When you've got a recipe for success in television, the golden rule is repeat, repeat, repeat. It's a rule not lost on Tony Wind.

"TheTonz," as his screen name goes on UltimateBet poker, will join regulars from Fox's Best Damn Sports Show Period when they film Season 2 of the Best Damn Poker Show later this month in California.

Wind won his way onto the show by creating a video titled "The Neverland Ranch Poker Invitational." You can see it here.

It's an idea similar to the one employed by Keith Woernle, who won his way on to the first season of the Best Damn Poker Show with a video filled with shoddy impersonations of famous poker pros such as Scotty Nguyen and Eli Elezra. You can see that video here.

The only ingredients Wind needed were a couple of old Halloween costumes, a dollop of imagination and some free time.

"With the exception of Macaulay Culkin, those were my last Halloween costumes," says Wind. "I figured why not go ahead and put them to use?"

Pretty good use all right. It's safe to say hanging out with Phil Hellmuth, John Salley, Chris Rose and Annie Duke on an all-expenses-paid trip to California is going to be a coveted way for a college kid living in Wisconsin to spend a week.

But what do the professors at his college think about him missing a week of classes to start his senior year?

"They've been really good about it and don't seem to mind at all," says Wind.

Hey, if you can help pay their salaries because of it, why would they mind?

"It's not a bad way to pay for school. I am not paying off school by any means yet, but poker is pretty much my part-time job."

The Best Damn Poker Show's format is unique in that winners are determined by how pro judges Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth rate their play. Last season saw guys like Keith and Tony mixed in with celebrity and pro players such as Hollywood Dave, Sully Erna of Godsmack, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Jennifer Tilly, Patrick Warburton and Serinda Swan.

Wind says he's been playing poker "absolutely as long as he can remember" in family games and still plays plenty at the local casino, as well as online at UltimateBet.

He started taking it a little more seriously about five years ago and says WSOP Main Event winner Dan Harrington's book Harrington on Hold 'em was a big help to his game.

Still, Wind refers to himself as a pretty small-time guy, mostly playing $20/$30 sit-and-gos. But he did pay off his fiancée's wedding ring in just two months with the money he's won playing poker. And you never know what can happen from a trip to TV land.

"A lot of stuff could happen," says Wind, who is also a regular contributor on the forums.

"There's already some pretty cool things happening. I've never done interviews with big poker sites before. If I win I can get a seat in the World Series of Poker Main Event and at the Aruba Classic. Big things could come out of that. Another thing is possible sponsorship."

Last season's winner Woernle, who claims that in order to make a really good audition video, "You must 1) be an idiot 2) have a lot of free time," is now sponsored by UltimateBet.

He won $3k in the first tournament that he played in after the show, and played in this year's L.A. Poker Classic. He's now also nobbing with the hobs at private parties such as Phil Hellmuth's Christmas party.

"Believe me … the average online players are probably exactly like me. I mean, not exactly like me, I'm probably taller and hairier, but you get the idea. The fact is that anyone can achieve the same thrills that I have thus far," Woernle said.

"I wasn't playing in the Big Game when I went on this show; I was playing low-limit like many other online players. I never would have thought I'd be playing in $1,000 tournaments. But here we are."

As for why Wind chose to dis on Jacko and the Neverland Ranch in his audition video, he says he wasn't dissing him at all.

"Hey, imitation is the best form of flattery, right?"

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