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During the original poker boom, there was nothing quite like the Bad Boys of Poker when it comes to sheer entertainment. There were players that made more money in their careers and players who won more tournaments, but when it came to entertainment value – there was no group of players like these guys.
The Bad Boys of Poker were Phil “Unabomber” Laak, “The Magician” Antonio Esfandiari, Paul “The Truth” Darden, David “Devilfish” Ulliott, and “The Great Dane” Gus Hansen. These five were put together, along with an amateur, by the World Poker Tour in order for maximum entertainment on their Travel Channel series. The idea was a smart one: put together five of the most brash, arrogant, and colorful players on the World Poker Tour and see what happens and what happened was magic.
One great moment featured Phil Laak calling an all-in by Gus Hansen and finding himself behind in the hand, with only a flush draw to possibly save his hand. With four to a flush at the turn, Laak went behind the dealer and said “I’ll wash your car” if they delivered the flush. From funny moments like this to excited celebrations over pots won to digs at the other players, the Bad Boys of Poker absolutely delivered on this event. Despite airing over fifteen years ago, this is an episode of the show that people still remember.
The event was so successful that WPT brought it back for season four with a whole new cast of characters. The episode was good with Tony G, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, the “poker brat” Phil Hellmuth, Men Nguyen, and Jean-Robert Bellande, and Gus Hansen defending his title. It was another good episode, but nothing couldn’t match the original.
It has now been nearly seventeen years since the original Bad Boys of Poker aired on Travel Channel so it seems like a great time to look back at the case of the show to see where are they now. These were some of the greatest poker players in the game at the time, Beasts of Poker if you will, and their careers were on the uptick. Let’s take a look at how they’ve fared in the years since.
Gus Hansen: Of all the Bad Boys on the event, Hansen was the least “bad” as he mostly kept quiet and raked in the pots. He ended up winning this event and became one of the most successful players in World Poker Tour history. Hansen was the first player ever to win a three events, a record that has since been tied and then beaten by Darren Elias. He also made seven final tables in his WPT career and came in second at the Season 6 WPT Championship, earning $1,714,800.
Hansen made nine money finishes at the World Series of Poker with his highest Main Event finish coming in 2007 when he finished 61st. In 2010, he finally won his first WSOP bracelet when he won the £10,350 No Limit Hold’em High Roller Heads-Up event at the WSOPE. Gus has career live tournament winnings over ten million dollars, but has struggled with money problems in his life on account of losses in live cash games.
Antonio Esfandiari: Despite missing out on the win at the Bad Boys of Poker event, Esfandiari would go on to win two WPT championships as well as three World Series of Poker bracelets. The first in 2004 in $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em and then two in 2021: the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop No Limit Hold’em and in WSOPE €1,100 No Limit Hold’em.
That One for One Drop win netted him the second largest single payout in tournament poker history at $18,346,673. Thanks to that event and his other success, he has won nearly thirty million dollars in his career.
Paul Darden: The runner-up at the Bad Boys of Poker had the best year of his career the following year with $771,618 won in 2005, but that was the peak. He was never that successful in tournaments again and got into other business adventures, including opening a night club and promoting rap music.
Darden had health issues later in life as he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was seen using a scooter to get around the casino. He remains at no. 1 on the all-time money list in his home state of Connecticut.
Dave Ulliott: Around the time of the show, Ulliott was known for his slicked-back hair and sunglasses. That look became very popular on the poker circuit to the point where he decided to change his look after attended a party in Las Vegas where many people were sporting the same look.
Unfortunately, Ulliott passed away in 2015 after a battle with colon cancer. He had a total of $6,235,521 in live earnings at the time of his death and is currently ranked 9th all-time on England’s money list. Devilfish was elected to the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017.
Phil Laak: The year after Bad Boys of Poker, Laak finished second to Johnny Chan in the $2,500 pot limit hold ’em event, but he wouldn’t get his first bracelet until 2010 when he won the WSOPE £2,650 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em tournament for £170,802. He has won $3.8 million dollars in his career. However, the biggest win of his life may be meeting Jennifer Tilly. The two have been dating since 2004.
Laak holds the world record for the longest time spent playing poker in a single session at 115 hours. He was allowed to take 30-minute breaks in order to nap, but has said that he didn’t use any stimulants. He completed the feat in order to raise money for Camp Sunshine, a charity that helps sick children enjoy summer camp.