William Kassouf: “King of Speech Play”
If you thought Mike Matusow had a mouth, please allow me to introduce William Kassouf. Have you ever been at a table where someone just talks and talks and drives you crazy? William “Will” Kassouf—also known as “The King of Speech Play”—is that person.
He’s also been in a bit of trouble recently, but let’s talk about his rise to relative fame.
William Kassouf finds poker
The 35-year-old Londoner and former lawyer turned poker pro got his start at Europe’s prestigious Grosvenor “Victoria” Casino, also known as “The Vic”—primarily with small stakes tournaments and cash games. His first major tournament was in January 2009 at the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour where he finished 21st. Kassouf’s best live cash prize was nearly $556,000, and he has amassed an impressive total live winnings nearing $1.4 million. In England, his poker ranking is a respectable 79th all-time.
Kassouf decided to put his law practice on hold in 2013 and turned poker pro. Thus, Will Kassouf lawyer became Will Kassouf poker player.
Between 2013 and 2015, Kassouf’s poker consistency increased—as did his success—and everyone noticed. Really, how could they not? He uses his natural aptitude to “speech” other players into, essentially, doing what he wants them to do while simultaneously second-guessing themselves.
William Kassouf “Like a boss”
Kassouf admits that speech play is a big part of his game. While it may seem as though he’s doing it for the attention or the cameras, in reality, he does it primarily to glean information from his opponents, more so than “these so-called hooded zombies who just sit there for 12 hours a day and say nothing.”
Kassouf says that people play poker based on their personalities, and if you’ve ever spent any time at a table—or engrossed in video for hours on end—you know this to be true. Oftentimes, the gruff, angry, unsociable person will play a certain way while the outspoken friendly one, another. While Kassouf calls himself sociable, outgoing, and always up for and having a laugh, some people don’t approve of his tactics. Regardless, he insists he does not intend any harm or ill-will.
“The King of Speech Play” at the WSOP
Some people, however, do take it as an insult. In this 2016 WSOP main event clip, opponent Griffin Benger’s much-repeated “Check your privilege” speech was born.
However, William Kassouf’s WSOP notoriety erupted before he busted out versus Benger. In fact, on day five, Kassouf talked Stacy Matuson into folding her pocket queens with his infamous “nine high like a boss” bluff. While attracting the ire and some threats from WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel. Kassouf eventually was given a one-round penalty a ruling that caused much debate.
In the end, while not making the 2016 WSOP final table, William Kassouf finished in a very respectable 17th place.
Controversy at the 2016 European Poker Tour
The deal between Jonathan Serda and Kassouf at the 2016 EPT-Prague elicited much attention. According to Max Silver who had purchased a small piece of Serda, it was Silver himself who brokered the deal between the final two after discussion of a three-way chop was nixed. With a 4:1 chip lead, Serda, understandably, wanted more money than the original negotiations would have given him, and he agreed to give Kassouf the title and trophy in exchange for a larger stake of the cash prize.
Despite much of the blame being levied against him, Kassouf allegedly originally did not want to participate, but, in the end, the deal was done and both players appear to be satisfied with the outcome. According to Serda, what he and Kassouf decided to do with their prize pool is their business.
William Kassouf poker highlights
Google “Will Kassouf YouTube” and you will be inundated with much footage of “the King of Speech Play” in action. Take a look at these 4 highly entertaining glimpses into Kassouf’s confusing, captivating, and oftentimes controversial play.
1. Kassouf’s first final table
This entertaining video is William Kassouf’s first final table at the 2009 Paddy Power Irish Open. Not only did I not recognize him, but this is likely one of the only videos you’ll see where he’s quiet.
2. Kassouf versus The Mouth
In an episode of Live at the Bike, here’s some entertaining mouth-on-mouth action with the old-timer schooling the youngster.
3. Kassouf, The Mouth, and Poker Brat
Just another day at the Bike for the three most verbose players in all of professional poker. Warning: do not watch if you have a headache.
4. Kassouf in Barcelona
This is, by far, my favorite William Kassouf video. Here, at the EPT 12 Barcelona Main Event, not only does the former solicitor engage in his famous speech play, but he does it in both English and French, with some Italian just for fun. And props to the dealer for not erupting in hysterical laughter.
At any rate, William Kassouf is definitely an interesting bloke. So, what do you think of “the king of speech play?” Yay or nay? What about his WSOP penalty? Please weigh in below.
Until next time.
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