Did you play poker back during the “boom years” of 2003-2006?
If you did, I’d bet my bottom dollar you look back on that time period fondly. If you didn’t, let me paint a picture for you.
It’s 2003. The World Poker Tour came out on television the year before, triggering increased interest in poker (especially No Limit Hold’em). Then, an accountant named Chris Moneymaker wins the World Series of Poker Main Event for $2,500,000.
All of the sudden, everyone and their mother wants to play poker. The size of the online poker player pool more than doubles every year until 2006, with heaps of new/inexperienced players trying their luck on the virtual felt.
Today I want to focus on one infamous player from the boom years, known to me only by his screen name.
I came across tuff_fish on YouTube when I first started playing poker in 2008.
The first thing I noticed was his deep, raspy voice — probably in his 40s or 50s. I also noticed some weird numbers next to each player on his table, which I later learned were player statistics (also known as a HUD). That was cutting-edge software at the time!
As I watched video after video, I was blown away at tuff_fish’s mid-hand pessimism. Unless he was holding exactly the nuts, he always seemed to assume his opponents had him beat, though that didn’t always stop him from clicking call.
But what really stuck out was tuff_fish’s tilt-driven commentary as he dusted stack after stack. The guy cursed like a drunk sailor, or like Daniel Negreanu playing a $600 tournament.
Without further ado, here are 5 of my favorite tuff_fish hands.
*Warning: Not safe for work/children. There is a fair bit of cursing in these videos!*
Hand #1: “I didn’t see that! What an idiot!”
Watch the hand here, I’ll recap it below the video:
The game is $5/$10 No Limit Hold’em on Party Poker (6-handed).
Tuff_fish picks up 6♣ 5♣ UTG and raises to $35. Only the big blind calls.
The flop comes A♣ 9♣ 5♠, prompting an “oh boy” from our boy tuffy. The big blind checks, tuff_fish bets $65 into $74, and the big blind calls.
The turn is the 9♥ and tuff_fish immediately* checks back when checked to. “Okay, I’m gonna take my free card!”
*This may have been the fastest check back in the history of poker.
The river is the 6♠. “He’s got a pile of freaking trouble now” says tuff_fish. He types out a $125 bet into the $202 pot, explaining his reasoning:
“I’m gonna go ahead and make a value bet here. I’ve got 5 and 6, he’ll probably call with an ace.”
His opponent does indeed call with an ace (A♠ T♣), but tuff_fish gets confused when the pot doesn’t go his way. After a couple of seconds…
“Oh, daggum…I didn’t see the board was paired! God, what a freakin’ moron.”
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Hand #2: “The chances of him having [the nuts] is 50/50 at least.”
Tuff_fish’s commentary throughout this hand is an amazing example of his mid-hand pessimism.
The game is $2/$4 No Limit Hold’em on Party Poker (6-handed).
The UTG player limps and tuff_fish raises to $20 from the cutoff with Q♠ J♦. The button and UTG call. “
The flop comes A♦ Q♦ 6♦. “We certainly would like to see a king of diamonds come out here” says tuff_fish as he checks and calls a tiny bet ($11 into $63) made by the button.
“Unfortunately I think I know where the king of diamonds is right now…There is very little reason to continue with this…”
Tuff_fish does eventually call the tiny bet and the turn 8♦ gives him the second nuts. He checks and the button bets $30 into $85. Tuff_fish calls while ranting:
“What else could he have? Would he be doing this with the 10 of diamonds? I’ll stay with this just in case he’s being silly.”
The river 7♣ completes the board. Tuff_fish still holds the second nuts, stating:
“If he bets anywhere near pot, I’ve gotta give this up. He’s not gonna do that if he doesn’t have the king of diamonds.”
The button settles on a bet much smaller than pot, $70 into $145. Then tuff_fish appears to have a change of heart about his previous comment.
“He’s really pulling me along. That is a ‘call me’ bet. I beat every hand except the king of diamonds, but the chances of him having the king of diamonds are better than 50/50 at least.”
(Note that if his opponent did have the king of diamonds 50% or even 66% of the time, this would still be a profitable call. That’s pot odds, folks.)
Tuff_fish finds the tuff_fold and his opponent shows 9♠ 9♣.
“Okay, he got me.”
Hand #3: “Why. The. ****. ****ing. Sucking. Hell. Does. This. Happen. Every. ****ing. Time.”
The adult language gets taken to the next level in this one. You’ve been warned.
This one is just brutal, and the stakes are higher. The game is $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em on Party Poker (6-handed).
Tuff_fish defends his big blind versus a cutoff raise with 3♠ 3♥.
The flop is 8♣ 7♠ 3♣ and tuff_fish opts to slow-play, checking and calling a $120 bet. The turn is the Q♠ and the action checks through.
The river is the A♠ and, despite the innocuous turn action, tuff_fish is already steaming at the mere possibility of a flush. The full quote is too long and too amazing to type. Go listen to it (in headphones and nowhere near children or your grandma).
Tuff_fish checks and his opponent bets $300 into $398. Tuff_fish quickly calls and sees the bad news: T♠ 8♠.
“God mother****ing god damn ****sucker.”
Hand #4 and 5: “Oh, you scum.”
In this clip, tuff_fish takes on poker community legend EmpireMaker2 in two amazing hands.
The game is $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em on Party Poker (6-handed). Stacks are around $2,700 effective.
Tuff_fish starts the recording on the flop with K♠ T♥ on a T♦ 7♣ 4♣ flop. His opponent is EmpireMaker2 on the button.
There’s a $151 bet in front of tuffy with $151 in the pot. (I’d guess tuff_fish called a preflop raise and then led out for a pot-sized bet on the flop.)
EmpireMaker2 raises to $399. “I think he think I’m just fooling around…so I’m going to give him about a $950 re-raise here.”
EmpireMaker2 responds to the $950 re-raise with an all-in. Tuff_fish calls, saying “if he’s Ace-Ten he’s got it, what can I say?” The board runs out with the hole cards still face down…
Turn 3♥…River 2♣ (completing the flush draw)…
Tuff_fish after the river, before the cards are revealed: “oh if he got the club, I am gonna be so pissed.”
Tuff_fish when EmpireMaker2 reveals Q♣ J♣: “oh, you scum.”
Our man reloads and is sitting on $1,800 when he picks up 9♠ 9♦ in the cutoff. EmpireMaker2 makes it $72 UTG, tuff_fish 3-bets to $190, and EmpireMaker2 makes the call.
The flop Q♦ 4♥ 2♣ checks through. But tuff_fish perks up at the 9♥ turn. “Oh, Empire, you have just screwed yourself up if you get in here.”
EmpireMaker2 fires a $345 bet into the $407 pot. Tuff_fish raises to $775 and then calls a shove for $1,600 total.
Q♠ Q♥. Ouch.
“He was probably a better than average player at the time.”
Believe it or not, tuff_fish was actually relatively good by mid-2000s standards.
He recorded these videos to post on CardRunners (the Upswing Poker of its day) so he could get feedback and improve his game. CardRunners founder Taylor Caby went so far as to say that “he was probably a better than average player at that time.”
These videos really encapsulate what online poker was like during the boom years, which is why I was eager to share them with you…
…plus, they’re so ****sucking entertaining.