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William Kassouf Interview


Q: What is your takeaway from the ESPN coverage? It seemed like you were ganged up with some mob mentality?

WK: They used it as an excuse. They thought, ‘This guy, who the hell does he think he is? We’re the pro’s here. We’re all on the same team,’ to use Cliff Josephy’s words. I thought that was border line collusion, like they’re on one team and I’m on the other.

I felt like I was being victimized, singled out at every chance, and they were ganging up on me. I didn’t let it get to me. I stayed strong mentally, psychologically, and just focussed on my game. I was doing whatever I could to give myself the biggest edge, the maximum potential and equity, to go deep in the tournament. I realized the players were going on tilt. I realized they were getting frustrated. I realized that doing what I was doing, going from the shortest stack to the lead on the table, was tilting them. They were frustrated. They couldn’t let go of hands. They were calling me light when I had the best hand. They were paying me off in situations where normally they’d fold against any other player. Everything was going right for me. I was chipping up and chipping up and they were getting frustrated. This is why they called the floor on me, called the clock on me in every hand, I mean it was just ridiculous. There were several other players who were tanking a lot longer than I was and no one called the clock on them. Why? Because it was me, the fact they didn’t like my antics, they didn’t like my talking, and I was ganged up on. Cliff Josephy was the ring leader. He’d pipe up, make noise and wave his stick around, while the likes of Gordon Vayo and others would jump on the bandwagon. I think the floor handled it badly and succumbed to the pressure of the likes of Josephy and others. There was one rule for them and a different rule for me. I’ve seen a number of videos where Phil Hellmuth would call someone an idiot from northern Europe and nothing happened to him because of who he is. This year, Cliff Josephy called me a clown five times and nothing. To lower himself to that level and start calling names across the table was shameful. For him not to get a warning, not to get a penalty? I thought that was shocking. If I called Cliff Josephy a clown, or anyone else at that table, I would have received a one round penalty instantly. Without question. On day 5, in the hand against Stacy Matuson, I got a one round penalty for taunting, which I thought was absolutely ridiculous. All I said with the hand gestures was, ‘If you fold and show, I’ll show.’ I wasn’t goading her. I wasn’t taunting her. I wasn’t telling her to fold, I just did the hand gestures, signalling that if she folds and shows I would fold and show. I was told I couldn’t say another word so I had to improvise. It may have been seen as cheeky but I had to find a way to convince her to fold because it was a 1.2 million chip pot on Day 5. It was one of the biggest pots of the tournaments and I was bluffing with nine high like a boss. I had to convince her to fold. People ask me if it was worth it? Hell yes it was worth it. I wasn’t trying to get a penalty but I felt as if I was going to get one anyway. Why not push the boundaries and do whatever I had to? It was a massive pot at the time. If I had to mime to her then so be it. I had to win that hand. I was there to play my game, my way, and I wasn’t breaking any of the WSOP rules. A lot of people sides with me, even ESPN’s Norman Chad, that the penalties dished out to me were a bit harsh.

Q: Does poker need a shot clock?

WK: I think so, I mean to say there was controversy at this year’s WSOP would be an understatement. There was massive controversy and I think the majority of the world was on my side. I think people are calling for a rule change. When you have a situation like that, when the floor has got it completely wrong, when the tournament director Jack Effel got it wrong, I think here has to be a rule change. The issue has to be addressed and something needs to be done. We can not have the same thing repeating next year because the tournament will be in shambles. It would be a disgrace if that happened again. They’ll probably call it the 'William Kassouf' rule and I’d take that as a massive compliment. If it’s a shot clock? Fine. I think people have been jumping on the bandwagon in terms of my speech play being fine but my tanking being the problem. The whole tanking issue? You have to balance it, both when you’re raising light and when you’ve got a strong hand. If I’m snap folding every time I have a junk hand I’m giving off tells to my opponent. I’m essentially saying, ‘Please exploit me, please take advantage of me next time I raise.’ So you have to balance your tanking range. There’s definitely a lot of thought that goes into my game. I don’t think people give me enough credit for the way I played and the way I chipped up. I was the shortest stack most of the way from 27 players on down.

Q: What kind of reaction have you had since the ESPN broadcasts. They wouldn’t even shake your hand, some of them, at the end when you busted. I thought it was a bit disgraceful and I think there are plenty others around the world who feel the same way?

WK: Cliff Josephy and Gordon Vayo, they were the two guys teaming up and ganging up against me. Again, 'Johnny Bax' was the ring leader of the gang, the shepherd of the flock, and he's the one who started all the controversy. Because of who he is, he had Jack Effel on his side. Anything he said, regardless of the situation, Jack Effel would side with him and I thought that was ridiculous. When Josephy was name calling me a clown, Jack should have stepped in, warned Josephy, and maybe given him a penalty. Jack should have showed his impartiality there as the tournament director. Why didn’t he say anything? It just proves the inconsistency in the WSOP rules and that has to change. I think Gorodn Vayo was just as bad, if not worse than Cliff Josephy, in what he was doing. He was ‘shit-stirring’ if you like. When I would go to my rail he was telling people that I made a woman cry. He was referring to the Stacy Matuson hand. Stacy even took to twitter afterward to say that nobody has ever made her cry in poker. He was lying. Many people realize that now and are calling him a liar and a scumbag for doing what he did. I think Gordon’s lie was a big reason why the likes of Griffin Benger and Jerry Wong acted the way they did. In terms of Benger? I think it was premeditated what he did, the outburst, the overreaction, and I think he regrets it now. He even admitted in an interview that I was nowhere near as bad as he first thought. He viewed me as this vile individual who berates women to tears and he brought it upon himself, that if he got into a pot with me, he would go after me. That's exactly what he did even though it was the first hand I ever played against him in my life. It was the first time I had ever seen him. For him to have an outburst like that was completely out of line. There was no reason for it and it was uncalled for. All I was doing, as you can in the coverage, was trying to get information there. I had kings. It’s the same reason why Jerry Wong refused to shake my hand at the end. He’s friends with Gordon Vayo and was being told that I made women cry. Josephy and Vayo were the worst in how they acted and they went unpunished. Let’s just say I was happy to see Qui Nguyen go on to win the championship. He’s a great guy. I think his game is kind of similar to mine. He showed a lot of heart, gut instinct and just blew the final table out of the water. Even Antonio Esfandiari, Lon McEachern and Norman Chad were saying in the booth, ‘You just don’t know what this guy has.’ He was playing the player and that’s what I loved. He showed a lot of heart. I think it was fantastic the way he played and very refreshing.

William Kassouf Thank-you!

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Full audio of this Q&A HERE

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