There are enough unexpected events at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) that might be better described as the “Wild Series of Poker.”
This year’s no exception, having produced two moments in contention for The Top 10 Weirdest Things to Happen at the WSOP.
The moment pictured below is the No. 1 oddity so far this year. However, it’s not the top weird WSOP occurrence.
There’s still time for something even stranger to happen, though. The Main Event Day Final Table won’t occur until July 19.
To find out what the current No. 1 moment is, read on. But first, let’s explain what’s happening in that picture, in case you missed it.
The term “Nipplegate” has already been coined for Janet Jackson’s controversial 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. However, it’s just as apt for what happened at the WSOP this year.
On June 5, Frank Stepuchin hired licensed massage therapist Cintia Amstalden to give him a “massage” at his WSOP table. He and she say the photo above that went viral on social media was a screenshot pulled from their 10-second massage “prank” video.
Poker player Christina “Chris” Read told Bonus.com on June 13 that she saw the image on Twitter and reposted it on Facebook on June 6, in the group she founded.
In the private Facebook group, Poker Queens, Read wrote:
Oh, the things people see at WSOP!
Wonder how much he had to tip her?
Whatever it was, it’s not enough
Below Read’s comments is a photo of Stepuchin. He’s holding a cup of beer in each hand while Amstalden pinches his nipples.
Despite the series’ weird moments, Read tells Bonus.com she’s a WSOP advocate. She plans to fly from Biloxi, Miss., to Las Vegas on June 26 to compete in the WSOP on June 27.
Meanwhile, Amstalden says she lost her masseuse job because of the incident. Stepuchin tweeted apologies to her and the WSOP. He mentions that he gave Amstalden cash as part of his apology to her. She said she appreciated the $5,000.
Stepuchin also started a Go Fund Me page for her called Compassion for Cintia. As of Monday, it showed $515 in donations.
#1: 2020, or the WSOP That Wasn’t
Everything post-March 2020 feels unique to human history. That’s the month that Earth slammed on its figurative brakes due to the spread of COVID-19.
That’s when Americans developed a new vocabulary: “Oysgezoomt,” or Zoom fatigue; “Blursday,” for any day of the week; and doom-scrolling, which no longer needs a definition.
Any era occurring just a month before US schools and businesses practically shut down due to coronavirus-related restrictions ended up called “the before times.”
That’s why the 2020 WSOP wins the No. 1 spot for “weird” by a surreal mile.
It was such a strange series that its winner wasn’t even crowned until 2021. On Jan. 4, 2021, Damian Salas of Argentina won the event that would ordinarily have taken place over the summer at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Compared to that, it didn’t feel all that strange that the 2021 WSOP took place in the fall rather than its regular timeslot, nor that it was bidding farewell to its long-time home at the Rio.
No. 2: “Moneymaker,” Really?
Accountant Chris Moneymaker was Everyman USA before entering the 2003 WSOP Main Event through a $86 online poker satellite tournament. He became the 2003 champion, forever changing the series that began in 1970 and the history of poker itself.
The 20-something graduate of the University of Tennessee beat the old-school pro from Lebanon, Sam Farha.
ESPN’s Norman Chad said of Moneymaker’s $2.5 million victory:
This is beyond fairy tale. It’s inconceivable!
The first player to qualify in an online poker tournament, he helped others dream that they, too, could become world champions.
The weirdest part of all, though, is his name. What better name could a guy have to headline that story and kick off the poker boom?
No. 3: The Longevity of Doyle’ Texas Dolly’ Brunson
Poker players looking for synonyms for “legend” won’t find enough words to describe Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson. He sat at the very first WSOP table, became immortalized through movies like Rounders, and played in the 2021 WSOP Main Event.
That’s right. The former Texan zipped into the Rio on his scooter, wearing his famous white Stetson.
As Jim Barnes of the Las Vegas Review-Journal put it:
Brunson, an 88-year-old Las Vegan, had not played in the Main Event for several years.
“Well, they asked me to come,” he said. “I hadn’t played in a while, and I thought it could be a relief to get out of the house for a while. I’ve been in the house for a year without hardly coming out. They asked me, and I’m glad I came.”
How many other competitive activities can boast of featuring the same contender in their first year and their 52nd?
The July issue of Texas Monthly quotes Brunson as swearing off the WSOP gaming table once and for all. However, that may be another one of Brunson’s signature bluffs.
No. 4: Legionnaires’ Disease
As of Monday, Yelp users rate the Rio 2.5 stars out of five. Tripadvisor users are more generous, rating it a 3.5.
Perhaps now, the Caesars Entertainment-owned, Hyatt Regency-renovated hotel is in better shape than it was in 2017.
Because during the 2017 WSOP, the Rio’s water system contained Legionella bacteria. That earned it a 1-star review on Tripadvisor from wwwweedy of Michigan.
Wwwweedy wrote on June 22, 2017:
AVOID THIS PLACE LIKE THE PLAGUE or LEGIONNAIRES DISEASE.
In the end, seven Rio guests came down with confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, and the Southern Nevada Health District suspected 29 more unconfirmed cases, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
No. 5: Power Failure
As if Legionnaires’ disease fears the year before weren’t enough, 2018 WSOP players found themselves in the dark during the Main Event.
A July rainstorm caused a power failure at 11:20 p.m. on Day 5 of the Main Event.
After playing out the remaining hands via cellphone and camera light, players went on break as the staff waited to see whether the lights would come back on.
Play resumed the next day.
No. 6: Shoe-Throwing Incident
In 2019, poker player Ken Strauss had a bizarre meltdown mid-tournament, which culminated in him exposing his genitalia to a roomful of Main Event players, then throwing a shoe at a croupier. We won’t dwell on the story too long, as these were clearly the actions of a troubled man. Strauss was disqualified from the series.
In July 2020, a court sentenced Strauss to two years of probation and banned him from Las Vegas casinos for the same period. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, his sentence related to his social media threats to destroy The Venetian.
No. 7: Russ Hamilton Wins His Weight In Silver
Russ Hamilton may now be best known – and despised – for his cheating and role in Black Friday. Before that infamy, however, his legacy included winning an unusual prize at the 1994 WSOP. Binion’s Horseshoe, still the venue for the WSOP at the time, promised to provide the world champion with the player’s weight in silver bars.
Hamilton clocked in at 330 pounds. So his winnings included a hefty 43 silver bars and the $1 million in cash and WSOP gold bracelet.
Later, Hamilton was involved in an online poker cheating scandal with Ultimate Bet. The company that bought the site refunded more than $22 million to online poker players who were cheated out of their money, according to a 2009 account from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
Hamilton may not be the only unpopular poker figure to have won a bracelet, but his later disgrace, combined with the gimmicky prize, make this an inclusion on our list.
No. 8: Everything To Do With Phil Hellmuth
The only difficulty with Phil Hellmuth is deciding which of his WSOP years is the weirdest.
His first WSOP win came in 1989 at age 24. Since then, he’s been one of poker’s most colorful and controversial figures, with too many dramatic entrances and equally dramatic meltdowns to count.
At the 2021 WSOP Final Table, his expletive-filled rant upon losing reached 40 profanities bleeped by PokerGO.
However, Hellmuth crashing a race car into a light pole in the Rio parking lot during the 2007 WSOP wins. The “Poker Brat” got whiplash.
My own adventure began when I was inducted into the “Poker Hall of Fame.” That same weekend, while filming a commercial, I wrecked a NASCAR vehicle in the Rio Hotel’s parking lot. … It wasn’t a very auspicious start to the main event, which I was knocked out of right before the dinner break.
No. 9: 2022 NippleGate
Janet Jackson no longer reigns as the Queen of NippleGate. Stepuchin partly usurped her power this year with his prank massage. Those who witnessed it may lament that he wasn’t wearing a sunburst-patterned nipple shield like Jackson’s.
No. 10: What Does ‘Color Up’ Mean, Anyway?
2022 slips onto our list again for the final moment. This one took place on June 2.
During a tournament break, a WSOP floor manager called for dealers to “color up” poker chips. A dealer who was supposed to collect everyone’s 25s and replace them with the correct number of 100s instead put all the chips away.
Naturally, that meant officials had to pause the tournament to try to fix the problem. They reviewed camera footage and allocated players’ chips accordingly.