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Nov 22, 2016

5 Interesting Points from William Kassouf’s Reddit Session

By RTR Dennis

665x200 nov16 william kassouf

Looking at results from the 2016 WSOP Main Event, nothing stands out about William Kassouf’s 17th-place finish and $338,288 cash. But based on his controversial antics that resulted in a penalty, and many players rooting against him down the stretch, Kassouf became a poker star/villain through the Main Event.

It’s little surprise that Kassouf drew a crowd when he did an Ask-Me-Anything session on Reddit. And Kassouf was sometimes just as controversial during this session as he was during the Main Event.

That said, let’s look at 5 interesting topics that arose during his AMA session.

1. Gordon Vayo’s Heads-up Play Was “Shameful” and “Embarrassing

When asked whether Qui Nguyen winning came down to his aggression or runner-up Gordon Vayo being too passive, Kassouf delivered the most-entertaining part of the session.

He started by praising Nguyen has a “fearless” competitor who was “unpredictable” and “unconventional.” But he also took this opportunity to rip Vayo by writing:

“And Vayo heads up really disappointing, shameful, embarrassing on his part. Really to be heads up and play so passively like that, it's the total opposite of Nguyen, the total opposite of what you need to do to become world champion, he was too passive, too nitty if you like. So yeah, he had a huge vagina compared to Nguyen's balls.”

There’s some animosity between the two because Kassouf also bashed Vayo for lying about how he “berated a woman to tears.” Even if Vayo is a big liar and terrible heads-up player, he can still boast about his $4.7 million runner-up prize.

2. Kassouf’s “Speech Play” Was Solely Used to Gain Information from Opponents

What made Kassouf such a controversial WSOP figure is how he frequently talked to opponents during important hands. After being asked whether this “speech play” was merely used to tilt opponents or gain information, Kassouf said that it was the latter. But as described below, he noticed that it also had a tilting effect:

“I think what you saw on ESPN WSOP coverage, especially on Day 7, is a lot of people letting me get under their skin, taking it personally...there's no malice to what I say or do, I play within the rules, but it's standard speech play and a lot of Americans weren't used to it, and it got the best of them and they got quite frustrated and basically the whole table tried to gang up on me, because they found it frustrating and they weren't used to it."

The problem for Kassouf is that he sometimes went too far in trying to influence players’ decisions. This drew him a penalty at one point where he had to sit out an orbit. But judging from his high finish and ability to tilt others, speech play looks pretty effective.

3. Speech Play Isn’t for Everybody

Continuing on the point above, Kassouf was asked if everybody using speech play would ruin poker. In his mind, this isn’t a strategy that everybody can use because they might end up giving away information themselves:

“I think everyone should have their own style and way of playing if they are comfortable with it and opening up and potentially giving away tells and possibly giving away the strength of their hand in order to get information from their opponents as to the strength of their holding, then so be it. But if you are uncomfortable doing that and are just doing it as a way to get TV time or showboating or whatever, just so you can get your voice heard, don't do it if it's not a part of your game or your strategy because you'll leave yourself vulnerable to better players or the top pros exploiting what you have to say and the words that come out of your mouth."

4. Poker Needs More Characters

Poker had a boom period throughout the mid-2000s, but growth has been slow ever since. And this prompted a question from Kassouf about whether or not poker needs to evolve to keep attracting new players.

“Like I said, it goes on to my previous point, as to whether we get more characters and personalities into the game, which is a game the desperately needs. If we've got more characters like myself who turn up to the game, make it fun, having a bit of banter at the table, conversing with your opponents, even if it's not speaking to your opponents ABOUT a specific hand, even if it's just having conversation, cracking a joke across the table, having a laugh, you know, enjoying yourself."

5. Kassouf Names WSOP Director Jack Effel as His Biggest Obstacle

When asked about what his biggest WSOP obstacle was, Kassouf was quick to name tournament director Jack Effel as the roadblock to using his speech play strategy:

"Nothing really, I think it's mainly Jack Effel, with the rulings and I had to stand my ground, and he knew I was a lawyer so I'm going to argue my case, I wasn't just going to back down. I think I was right in every ruling that came up, I think Daniel Negreanu in his podcast said that every time there was an altercation between William and Jack, William was right and Jack was wrong, so it's as simple as that."

Given how entertaining Kassouf was this summer, we can only hope to see more verbal battles between him and Effel at the 2017 WSOP. And if this happens, we should get to see his speech play strategy on display again.