American Idol Icon William Hung Brings Game to Battle of Malta

Hung at the Bike (Photo: Bicycle Casino)

It’s not a stretch to say at one point in 2004, at least for a while, William Hung was the most famous person in America.

Or one of them at least.

To millions of Americans Hung is still instantly recognizable as "the 'She Bangs' guy" from the third season of American Idol. The endearing, off-key performer and unintentional star of one of the United States' first truly 'viral' videos.

What followed Hung's mocking at the hands of the judges (and onslaught of negative stereotyping in the media to follow), however, is a story that continues to inspire people around the world to "live a life without regrets."

A student of the game for over 10 years Hung has taken poker a bit more seriously over the past couple of years and has some results to show for it.

He has over $30k in cashes since 2014 including a win in a Nightly Aria $100 tournament this summer and a third in a Rio Deepstacks event for over $17k.

He'll be one of our special VIP guests at the 2015 Battle of Malta and graciously answered a few questions for us about his past, present and poker future.

PokerListings: It’s pretty fair to say at one moment in time you were the most famous person in America. American Idol was still a relatively new thing, as was “going viral.” How do you explain/put into context just what happened to someone who might not have seen it?

william hung
She Bangs forever.

William Hung: I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. This goes to show you can’t always predict what comes next in your life.

PL: Over a decade later what’s the one thing that stands out about the experience for you? The greatest opportunity it’s given? Your favorite moment?

WH: The one thing that stands out is how most people still recognize me as a celebrity 11 years later, since people saw my audition back in 2004. I thought the entire experience was the greatest opportunity, being able to travel and make new friends around the world.

PL: When you went out for that first audition what were your expectations? Did you have any idea people would be so drawn to it, both positively and negatively?

WH: I did not expect very much from my audition at all. I thought just the experience of going through the audition was already good. I know for many people who auditioned for American Idol, they hope to win and make a name for themselves. I did not expect to win at all. I was just trying to have fun.

PL: After your appearance you eventually got to record three albums. That’s more than most people who make it to the late stages of American Idol  - even some winners – get. Has that satisfied all of your musical aspirations? Do you still hope to sing/make more music?

Wouldn't trade experience at all.

WH: I still enjoy singing as a hobby, but I don’t see that as my focus moving forward. I am definitely satisfied with my musical aspirations. I tried something different and got a lot out of it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else.

PL: One of the things we love most about poker is the range of people who are drawn to the game. How did you get into it? Did you play online, around Los Angeles, etc?

WH: I started playing poker about 10 years ago. I still remember the first time I played poker, it was $2/$4 Limit Hold’em at the Reno Hilton. I won a few hundred dollars and I got hooked into the game afterwards.

I also played quite a bit online when it was still legal in the U.S. Unfortunately, after Black Friday, I couldn’t play as much in live games and I only played when I have time.

PL: Since 2014 it looks like you’ve taken the game a bit more seriously. You’ve even taken down a couple of $100 buy-in events and scored $17k in a Rio Deepstack this summer. Do you consider yourself a semi-pro of sorts or still just a hobbyist? Cash games or tournaments?

Hung at the felt. (Photo: Bicycle Casino)

WH: I play both cash games and tournaments. I still treat poker as a hobby. I realize how people have improved so much the last 4-5 years from studying poker online, so I am doing the same thing.

PL: What’s your favorite poker moment so far? And your poker aspirations?

WH: My favorite poker moment was when my KK held up against my opponent’s TT at the final table at the Rio Deepstack tournament. It just felt like a huge relief. As for my poker aspirations, I am planning to play at the World Series of Poker Main Event next year. That is my goal.

PL: Your background is a bit varied from engineering to statistical analysis to now pursuing an MBA. How does it help/hurt you in poker?

WH: I feel it helps me in poker, as I can learn the basics very quickly.

PL: You’ve spoken a lot about not giving up in the face of negativity/living a life of no regrets since your American Idol experience. Has that attitude helped you in poker?

WH: In poker, being able to handle adversity is very important. Especially when playing tournaments, because it is easy to get short-stacked and it is natural to just feel like giving up.

But that is not a good attitude to have, because anything can happen in poker. If you play bad when your luck is bad, then you may not have a chance to turn things around when your luck is good.

Maria Ho 3
Naturally, a Maria Ho fan.

PL: You must get recognized at the poker tables. Does your image from American Idol help your game? Do people expect you to be a bit of an amateur/easy mark? What can people expect if they draw the same table as you?

WH: It’s a mixed bag. Sometimes people want to play more straightforward against me because they think I am an amateur. Other times, people are trying harder than usual to bluff me off a hand, because they think I am easy to push over.

With this in mind, I don’t have any default strategy I stick to very long. It all depends on how they decide to play against me.

PL: Any poker players in particular you admire? Have you made many friends in poker or do you have a professional group of players you talk hands with, etc?

WH: My favorite poker players are Jonathan Little, Bart Hanson, David Tuchman and Maria Ho. I typically post my hands online for discussion after my sessions using an online nickname.

PL: Do you know much about Malta? Have you been there before?

WH: No, I’ve never been there before. I found out that it’s a nice beautiful island south of Italy.

PL: We’re running a Karaoke contest this year for one of our readers to win a Battle of Malta package. Any suggestions for what to do/how to make it memorable? Do you have a go-to Karaoke number of your own?

WH: For singing, the hardest thing to do is to sing from your heart. This means making the words you sing match the emotions you are trying to portray. As for my favorite Karaoke song, I don’t have a particular favorite. I just pick songs that I enjoy singing.

PL: Last question: Is there anything you wish you had said to Randy or Simon during your audition? Especially when it became clear they were not taking you seriously?

WH: Well, I said 'I already gave my best, I have no regrets at all.' I don’t think I would have said something different.

Very often in life, things don’t work out the way you want it to and that’s okay. As long as you gave your best, you can move on and try again next time.

William Hung Recaptures American Idol Magic at Malta Karaoke Bar

William Hung was a viral sensation in North America thanks to his 2004 American Idol audition. But in Europe? Not so much.

Earlier this month Hung was our special guest on the Mediterranean island of Malta to play the PokerListings Battle of Malta and it was his first trip to Europe.

The night before Day 1 of the tournament Hung joined Maria Ho, a bunch of poker players and the PokerListings crew to sing karaoke.

Hung showed everyone that he's still got the chops that made his one of the most memorable American Idol auditions in the show's history.

William Hung 1687

The fact that few people recognized William when he sung Achy Breaky Heart at a rowdy karaoke club in Paceville, Malta's party epicenter, made it even more awesome.

Luckily for you, the cameras were rolling.

Hung Shows True Spirit of Battle of Malta

Hung was a welcome addition to this year's Battle of Malta for precisely the same reason we so enjoyed watching him sing karaoke: his attitude.

Hung plays poker because he loves the game and he sings because he loves expressing himself through music.

Hung doesn't care if he's the best singer and he doesn't care what other people think.

He's not trying to be ironic. He's not trying to make a joke. He's just having fun because he loves it and that's what the Battle of Malta is all about.

At the end of the day we'd all be happier if we were a little more like William Hung.

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