Will Kassouf’s Table Talk And Tanking: How Much Is Too Much?
Ask a random player on Bet365 Poker why they love online poker and they could well tell you that it’s because they don’t have to deal with interacting with other people.
Ask a random player at a casino why they love poker and they could tell you that it’s because they enjoy the social element. Clearly, there are different strokes for different folks when it comes to table talk and live poker.
Will Kassouf at the WSOP Main Event
Will Kassouf has been the star of the WSOP Main Event despite (spoiler alert) not making it to the final table. He’s had the most TV time and been part of the most exciting hands, thanks in part to his motormouth persona.
However, people either love him or hate him, and the most recent episodes of the Main Event showed that a lot of people are in the latter camp.
On table talk
Will Kassouf essentially never stopped talking before, after and during hands. His patter was consistent, repetitive and designed to get under the skin of his opponents without breaking the rules or directly attacking other players. It’s obviously a big, well-refined part of his game and one that works very well for him.
Is there a limit to table talk?
Many players were complaining that Kassouf should not talk because players weren’t replying. I totally disagree.
Just because someone isn’t replying doesn’t mean they’re not giving away information. When Kassouf is faced with a genuine decision (which, in his defence, he very often was) then it’s totally within his right to think out loud, ask questions (rhetorical or otherwise) and generally just say whatever the hell he wants.
The WSOP staff’s assertion that Kassouf can’t say whatever he wants in a heads-up pot when an opponent has moved all-in and no further action can be influenced is frankly ridiculous.
Now, table talk aside, Kassouf also got a huge amount of stick for the time he took to make his decisions before and after the flop. It’s known as “tanking” and can often be a problem in live poker when players take too long to make simple, no-brainer decisions.
When is it OK to tank?
Obviously, whenever you have a genuinely tough decision, you should be able to take as much time as you need. If you act in a reasonable amount of time for nine out of ten hands, then no one will begrudge you an extra five minutes for a big river call.
Also, it’s sometimes OK to tank when you know you are going to fold!
Many would disagree, but if you make a river bluff and your opponent raises you all-in, why would you snap fold? If you do, he can be pretty sure you were bluffing and potentially pick up timing tells, body language information or a bet sizing tell that can be used against you.
I’m not saying you need to take five minutes to fold a busted seven-high flush draw facing a river raise, but you are allowed to take some time to fold your bluffs just as you’d take some time to fold your thin value hands.
Taking tanking too far
Despite my defence of Will Kassouf above, it can’t be denied that he took his decision-making time way too far.
In the final stages of the Main Event, he actually had several close decisions that required a moment’s thought, but because he took so long with trivial decisions, he was not granted the same courtesy another player might have been whenever he did have to take his time.
He would frequently take over 10 to 15 seconds to make easy folds before the flop when there was no raise to him. Sometimes, he would wait before even looking at his cards. There’s no reason to do this and it slows down the game for everyone.
Will Kassouf: hero or villain?
This polarising figure is getting a lot of hate and a lot of love in the poker community.
Personally, I think he’s great television and I’d much rather have a table full of Will Kassoufs than shades-and-hoody online grinders who never say a word, or indeed grumpy old men like Cliff Josephy – poker legend though he is, he came across very poorly in recent episodes.
Is he good for poker? Well, let’s put it this way: does any other player who made it deep in the Main Event have a ton of articles, podcasts and social media discussions about them?
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