Poker stars are on the rise with the increased popularity of this exciting game. Since every competitive sport, every form of entertainment, has its stars, those forerunners who set the bar for success, it should be no surprise that poker is no exception.
There are several paths to garnering the sort of attention that makes people poker stars, and each path has its archetype. There is the brass bull, like Gus Hansen, a fearless, unbridled bluffer who'll raise with a 2-7 unsuited as brazenly as he would Big Slick (A-K).
There is the bully and the brat, personified by Phil Hellmuth, Jr, though he must be dong something right; he is a world champion. There is the meticulous intellectual, like Howard "the Professor" Lederer, who looks just like Rodin's "The Thinker", holding up his heavy head with his palm. Neither he nor fellow poker star Dan Harrington would know an impulsive play if it bit them.
Speaking of the Professor, in one's quest for poker celebrity, it doesn't hurt to have a catchy nickname. Among the poker stars with the most interesting are Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Phil "Unabomber" Laak, Dave "Devilfish" Ulliot, to name just a few. And I dare not leave out Men "the Master" Nguyen. (You don't want to make him angry. You won't like him when he's angry.)
And let's not forget the Professor's protégé and sister, Annie Duke, who outlasted her brother to become the first woman to win the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions (2004). She is a rising star who happens to be tutoring an altogether different kind of star on his poker game: Ben Affleck.
Yes, another way to achieve fame in poker is to already be famous. Celebrities as poker stars are becoming more and more common. Such crossover celebrities include actors Affleck, James Woods, Mimi Rogers, and Lou Diamond Phillips. The BRAVO network is fast-expanding this list of entertainment celebrities achieving dual acclaim with their smash-hit Celebrity Poker Showdown (though for celebrity poker, I prefer The World Poker Tour Hollywood Home Game).
Arguably the pinnacle of poker acclaim is to be featured in the Poker Hall of Fame at Binion's Horseshoe Casino and Hotel. Started in 1979, only 22 poker stars have been so honored, many of them posthumously. Two Hall of Fame poker stars deserve special mention here. Edmond Hoyle (d. 1769) wrote the rulebook on most card games (his books are to cards like the dictionary is to Scrabble). James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickock (d. 1876) was shot dead while playing poker holding aces and eights, the famed "Dead Man's Hand". Both men were enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979 as charter members. The qualifications for enshrinement are to have played 1) against recognized top competitors, 2) for high stakes, 3) consistently well, earning the respect of one's peers, 4) and withstanding the test of time.
But fear not. All it takes is a big win in one critical game, the World Series of Poker, to instantly skyrocket to poker stardom by induction into the Gallery of Champions, also at Binion's. But it won't be easy. The 2005 World Series of Poker is expected to draw 5,000 competitors from around the world, each pitting $10,000 of their hard-earned, hard-won, or hard-borrowed money against ridiculous odds. Johnny Moss, after winning the legendary precursor to the WSOP in 1949, reprised his success in both the first and second official WSOPss in 1970 and 1971 (coming back for another win in '74). Only 3 names since have won consecutive year's tournaments; Doyle Brunson ('76 & '77), Stu Unger ('80 & '81, winning again in '97), and Johnny Chan ('87 & '88).
Which brings us back to basics: when you boil it down, there's really only one sure-fire method to becoming the next poker star - winning!
So get to it, and maybe one day you too can join the ranks of poker stars…