Top 10 Most Fascinating Poker Players of 2008

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Dec/31/2008
Tiffany Michelle

Who were the top 10 most fascinating poker players of 2008? (emphasis on the word "fascinating", as this does not necessarily mean "the best").

Rolling Good Times this month compiled a list that included the likes of Tiffany Michelle, Phil Hellmuth and Ivan Demidov.

The later was listed among Gambling911.com's most influential people of online gambling in 2008 and with good reason.

This Russian born poker player didn't win either the World Series of Poker or its sister event in Europe this past year.  He did, however, manage what many would think is close to impossible.  Demidov made the final table of both tournaments.  He also finished a strong second in the 2008 WSOPE.  If you think the folks aren't embracing poker in Russia the same way those in the US did after Chris Moneymaker's remarkable WSOP win, think again.  And much of this translates into the world of online poker.

RGT ranked Demidov as their 4th most fascinating poker players of 2008.

Tiffany Michelle came in at number 8.  She probably deserved a higher position as one of the most talked about people during the 2008 World Series of Poker play where she finished 17th, the highest of any female participants.  But it wasn't the finish that caused her to make such a splash.

"If this were a list of the "10 Most Likable Poker People of 2008," Ms. Michelle would not have even been considered," Gary Trask of Rolling Good Times points out.  "But the fact that she was so "unlikable" during the World Series of Poker Main Event this summer definitely lands her on the "most fascinating" list."

So why all the hate?

"Michelle enjoyed a fast ride to stardom this summer at the Main Event. A year ago at this time she was a TV personality covering poker. This year she threw her collection of goofy hats into the proverbial ring and got involved with the $10,000 Main Event. The deeper she went in the event, the more attention she received. Now keep in mind, if she was just another 20-something male making a run at the Main Event crown, there really wouldn't have been any story here. But since she is an attractive woman who wore outlandish outfits and gawky jewelry, she had the normally sarcastic poker blogs eating out of her hands and the ESPN cameras focused in on her.

"She was even more enticing after she caused a mini-controversy by adding another sponsor logo to her apparel midway through the tournament. In addition, her behavior at the table was deplorable. She didn't make a lot of friends with her antics (example: celebrating every time another woman got knocked out or calling the clock on tablemates during big hands) and snide comments ("Oh, I remember you. You're the guy who takes forever to make a decision."), but I have a sneaking suspicion that all part of her act. When ESPN began airing the WSOP telecasts, Tiffany quickly became the player that everybody "loved to hate." It was good for Tiffany because it gained her attention and it was good for ESPN because it created a villain; a female version of Phil Hellmuth, if you will.

"In fact when we interviewed ESPN Senior Producer Jamie Horowitz before the November Nine, he told us the three things that most people mentioned to him about the WSOP coverage were Phil Hellmuth's deep run into the Main Event, the truck-driving, St. Louis Cardinals hat-wearing chip leader and the disdainful Tiffany Michelle."

That truck-driving, St. Louis Cardinals hat-wearing chip leader and 3rd place finisher at this year's World Series of Poker ranked number 2 on the RGT list. Gambling911.com readers have also embraced Phillips and his charitable efforts during these rough economic times.

Trask feels the same way we do and Phillips deserves much accolades as one of the few WSOP finalists who made themselves readily available to the press, including our own Jenny Woo.

"When the November Nine was decided back in July, WSOP officials sat down each of the final tableists and told them to keep in mind that for the next 117 days they would be "ambassadors of the game." Apparently, Phillips, who was the chipleader, took this to heart. He accepted virtually every interview request (a total of about 200) that came his way. He threw out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game and visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and he made it his mission to use his newfound celebrity to help him raise awareness for a couple of his favorite charities."

Among the others making the list:  Peter Eastgate, this year's winner of the World Series of Poker, came in at number one; John Juanda ranked number 10 after finishing first at this year's World Series of Poker Europe; Phil Hellmuth, Scott Nguyen, Yuval Bronshtein and Erick Lindgren all made the list as well. 

Noticeably absent from the list: Clonie Gowen, who filed a law suit against her former employer, Full Tilt Poker.  She was asking for a whopping $40 million.

Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher 

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