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Heads Up: GP's Top 10 Poker Hats of All Time

There are just three things every Texas Holdem player needs: buy-in money, half a brain and a good hat. Yet, sadly, some folks take that last part a little too seriously. The poker hat, after all, isn’t just good tell cover. It’s an expression of attitude. And, as we here at GP see it, the bigger and goonier the headgear, the more attitude the player wearing it has.

Now, we’re not saying we can’t appreciate Phil Hellmuth’s ball cap or Doyle Brunson’s ten-gallon. It’s just that there’s also something to be said for those with the guts to sport goofier get-ups. Anyone who can do that and still kick some Heine… Well, let’s just say they’ve more than earned their spot on our top 10.

The Top 10 Poker Hats of All Time

No. 10: Yankee Doodle Short-Stack

Poker goddess J.J. Liu has always had a flair for flamboyant headwear, but this colonial-style tricorn tops them all. Ms. Liu was unavailable for comment, so we weren’t able to place the tourney – or the awfully nice blonde giving her a massage. But what we can tell our lady readers is that they can all have their own exorbitantly-priced mini versions of J.J.’s chapeau – and one designed by British milliner Sylvia Fletch, no less – by visiting the website of London hatters Lock & Co.

As for whether Fletch’s slice of millinery delight will keep anyone’s ears warm, we’ve got our doubts. But at £534 per (that’s $774.50 for you Yankee girls), it might stand a chance of making J.J. jealous. And hey, just think: With a piece of apparel that expensive, you could always keep playing by literally throwing your hat in the ring when she gets mad and takes all your chips.


No. 9: “King in the Castle! King in the Castle!”

For anyone who's familiar with Full Tilt's list of professional players, you may be surprised to see Hendon Mob member Ram Vaswani in any less than the chicest dress. But in this case, he deserves a little slack, having just bagged an £11,400 ($16,554.97) first-place prize in the 2003 Luton Christmas Cracker.

According to Ram's fellow Mob member Barry Boatman, this “silly hat” was part of the Vaswani's reward for tearing up the felt. For some reason - presumably as part of a prop bet with the rest of the Mob - Ram "won" the crown after taking Boatman down in the initial tournament and wore it while barreling through the rest of the final table. Ram then went on to win a pot-limit Omaha tourney, but that's about where the details in Barry's blog end - leaving the rest of us to wonder if Ram's cash winnings also came from a Burger King kids meal.


No. 8: G.N.O. – Gnome’s Night Out

Who's this guy? We have absolutely no clue. But he does get our No. 8 spot for coming up with the best darned use of a knit cap we've ever seen. And get this: He was actually wearing this ensemble when Team PokerRoom.com took his snapshot at the ’08 World Series of Poker. Obviously, he didn't make the final table, but from what we hear, Peter Eastgate was found rubbing his beard on day one for good luck.

Incidentally, while we're on the topic of gnomes, the shortest player to take home a bracelet in 2008 was Laotian immigrant Jerry Lang. At 5 feet 3 inches, Yang put to rest the assumption created by skyscraping poker legend Amarillo Slim (and perpetuated by poker brat Phil Hellmuth) that only tall folk can score at the WSOP. Sure, this fact has nothing to do with hats per se, but don't you feel a little smarter knowing it?


No. 7: The Wizard of Odds

In this picture, player Brent Cahail is a very unhappy boy. Why? Because not only did he lose the 2008 WSOP $2,000 No-Limit tournament to his roommate Blair Hinkle, but as a result, he had to wear this off-the-wall Merlin getup, which did nothing for his chances in day one of the Main Event.

On the lighter side of things, Cahail's outfit and flowing hairpiece - which is, sorta-kinda, a type of hat - did score him quite a bit of playtime on several online news sources and, now, a spot on our list. We are, of course, very sorry to hear about his bad luck, but we figure, in giving him one more chance to work his hat’s magic, we're doing our part to keep his dreams of poker stardom alive.


No. 6: The Wearin’ o’ the Green

Some people dress up like Leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day. Some, like German player Jan Viet, do so for Halloween. Whether Viet's intention was to lampoon the Emerald Isle while playing in the '07 European Poker Tour Dublin event or simply to have a bit of innocuous fun, his fashion statement apparently didn't win many brownie points with the native spirits. By the time Viet found himself among the tournament's final 32 players, he was down to $50,000 in chips - less than half the size of the average stack.

The little people would go on to score their ultimate revenge, pulling the luck rug out from under Viet and leaving him in 21st place. The German left Dublin with a pitiable $14,294 consolation prize - far less than the pot of gold we're sure he'd been dreaming of - and all we can figure is, if Viet ever makes a return visit to Lady Erin, he might want to consider kissing her Blarney Stone a bit more.


No. 5: Tutti Fruity

Tom "Durrr" Dwan gets much love from the GP crew for both laying on the beats and doing so while wearing the most absurd hats imaginable. In fact, Tom's ear-warmer escapades at the 2008 World Poker Tour Championship were so off-the-wall that they've earned him three whole spots on our top 10.

Coming in at No. 5, then, is the "Chiquita Banana lady" head-wrap Tom wore on day one. According to legend, Tom was forced to wear the hat after losing a prop bet to Alan Sass in which he either had to show up on time to meet Sass or suffer his friend's excruciatingly bad taste in fashion. According to photographer Justin Shronk, the hat itself featured a collection of plastic fruits and fake feathers and looked like what would happen "if J.J. Liu poured glue on one of her normal hats and dove into a farmers market" - which is all fair enough. But what about the poor Bellagio showgirl who woke up missing part of her work uniform?


No. 4: Pin Head

Ringing in at No. 4 is another of Jersey boy Tom's offerings to poker couture. Lord knows where Sass found this gem, but sure enough, Tom was spotted on day three of the '08 WPT Championship sporting it. Apparently, he began the day bareheaded, and only came out with this number during the second level. Meanwhile, despite the implications of wearing a bowling pin on his head, Dwan continued to hold steady in stack rankings and found himself headed into the final table by the end of the day.

As a side note, Dwan actually autographed several hats from his WPTC ensemble and auctioned them off on eBay. The proceeds went to help the One Drop Foundation, which sponsors water purification in developing countries. The only piece that remained unsigned was the "Chiquita" hat because it was reportedly stolen – meaning that whoever took it was literally stealing clean water from suffering children. We suggest a thorough thrashing if the idiot's ever caught.


No. 3: Master Chef

Another of the few amateurs to make our list, this guy is identifiable - and for no other reason than his goofy hat. Arizonan Randy Kaas stormed the poker blogosphere in 2006 when he wore an extremely tall toque (i.e., a "chef's hat") to the WSOP Main Event. The hat itself was stamped with the insignia of chef Randy's cooking-utensil company, Pourfect, and apparently drove plenty of hungry players to the company's site, which offers the "world's first spill-proof bowl."

So, yeah, the hat is great. But Randy's poker skills, not so much: He did manage to qualify for a spot in the tourney with Team Bodog, but once he got to the table, his goose got cooked in the face of so much competition. Still, to be fair, Kaas wasn't a complete pushover. He finished 262nd out of over 8,500 registrants - which, when you think about it, ain't too shabby for a player who garnered ESPN airtime on the strength of his headwear.


No. 2: Bird For Brains

Tom Dwan's final offering on our list is the lawn ornament he wore on day four of the '08 WPTC. The infamous flamingo was the last in a fantabulous, four-day display of Durrr's eccentric taste in poker hats, and for what it's worth, it’s our hands-down favorite.

We won't, however, say that we'd be too keen on wearing it as the flamingo seems a little cursed. Dwan, you see, began the day in third place with some $2.8 million in chips but quickly dropped in rank, getting beat out on several re-raises. By hand 40, then, Durrr's chips were ripe for the taking when he went for broke on pocket poppas against Cory Carroll's A, Jo. Long story short, Dwan's kings got cracked when Carroll's ace paired on the turn. And while Durrr's ninth-place finish might have had more to do with simply making a bad call pre-flop, we're far more comfortable blaming his bad luck on the bird.


No. 1: Chicken Head

Here's to you, Mr. Anonymous Chicken-Hat Man. You’ve made the No. 1 spot in GP's poker-hats list not only for wearing a this bizarre piece of fake poultry to the WSOP, but for mussing your hair in complete harmony with it. We're not sure where you came from, or where you went after a few photographers gave you your fifteen minutes. But we are proud to round out our list with your punny audacity.

OK, so enough with the poetics. But what we would like to say is that we're giving "chicken head" here our top spot because there's no info to be had on him. We love his hat, and we love the implicit joke. And the very fact that nobody in the poker press stopped to ask him his name in '06 - back when GP was a mere baby site - is kind of troubling. So yes, we are giving "chicken head" what probably amounts to his one and only first place in the poker community and asking, should he ever end up reading this, “Would the man in the chicken hat please stand up?”


- Phill Provance



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