Photos provided by Pokerstars.com
Tony has always been a tough cookie
Three years later, Tony started playing poker more intensely and at a more professional level. Yet all beginnings are hard and not even Tony G became a poker star over night. On the contrary, he first tried, without success, to make a name for himself in the Australian poker scene. Not only was Tony one of the youngest at the table most of the time, he looked even younger than he actually was. The older players made fun of his appearance and lack of experience and he was not taken very seriously at the poker table. So Tony decided to earn his money as a Black Jack dealer in Hong Kong.
When he finally had saved up $ 200,000 he moved to Las Vegas, the city of dreams of every dedicated player. With the aid of a fake ID, he got into some of the city’s most famous casinos. Once again, luck dealt Tony a foul hand: He gambled away all of his savings and had to put up with the constant mockery and ridicule of the other players. Being blessed with the gift of the gab, though, Tony soon became known for his cheeky and defiant manner.
After numerous downfalls in Las Vegas, Tony G returned to Australia to nurse his wounds and earn some more money. Although he often felt frustrated, giving up was never an option for him. He then tried his luck in Europe, where he finally started seeing some results. Tony became a regular at the Victoria Casino in London, where he trained hard and played many a cash-game. It was in Vienna, though, his next stop after London, that he recognized his true calling was to be a professional poker player.
In Vienna he registered for poker games as Tony G, a name that soon was on everybody’s lips. By now, most of the games he played he left as a winner. As a matter of fact, he started having difficulties finding people willing to play against him because he had become such a feared opponent: Everyone was scared of Tony G taking away all their money. In an interview, Tony G described his stay in Vienna as the “first step” of his career, not lastly because there, at last, he was allowed to legally play poker for the first time. Tony trained hard, improved his game and finally felt ready to enter bigger tournaments.
Tony G himself plays at PartyPoker as “TheRealTonyG”. If you sign up via BonusBonusBonus, you will receive a special welcome bonus.
On the road to success
In 2002, he participated in the European World Series of Poker (EWSOP) in Vienna. He made it to the finals where he faced Martin Aigner from Austria. It was only after a bout of bad luck that Tony G lost with Q-Q to a Q-5, a remarkable second place that impressed the poker scene. At the World Heads-Up Omaha Championship he was able to deliver an amazing win and beat poker stars such as Dave “Devilish” Ulliott. Heads-up does seem to be Tony’s specialty. In the World Heads-Up Championships he won thirteen matches in a row, an achievement no one had thought possible.
Not only did Tony G gain a reputation as an excellent poker player, but also for being an arrogant and cheeky loudmouth. At the 2003 World Poker Tour (WPT) in Paris he came in fifth place, but it was not his achievement as a poker player that stayed in the public memory after this tournament: His audacious manner throughout the poker game was too much for his colleague Howard Lederer who refused to shake hands with Tony at the end of the tournament. Even though this might not have been an achievement to be proud of, the incident only made Tony G more popular and his provocative demeanour earned him nicknames such as “The Mouth from Down Under”, “The Australian Windbag”, or “Loudmouth”.
In 2003, Tony G sat at not less than 10 final tables. He won two “White Nights Poker Festival” tournaments where he beat the Russian poker pros Andrei Martsev and O Rodin at pot-limit Omaha and no-limit Texas Hold’em. Not only that, he also finished second at the Austrian Masters at no-limit Texas Hold’em and third place at the 2003 Five Diamond WPT Season 2 at pot-limit Omaha. At the WPT of the Aviation Club de Paris he once more made it to the finals.
Soon, Tony G earned enough money winning tournaments to make a nice living. In 2004 Tony G earned an especially nice sum of money: At the WPT Season 3 “Rendezvous à Paris“, he won his biggest pot yet, almost half a million dollars, for his second place at no-limit Texas Hold’em. In 2005 he won the No-Limit Hold’em European Poker Championships where he also won a decent amount of prize money.
In 2006 he won the Lithuanian Open Summer Festival and the Betfair Asian Poker Tour at no-limit Texas Hold’em. In that same year he eliminated Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen, Bobby Bellande, Men Nguyen and Mike Matusow in the WPT Bad Boys of Poker II and was crowned the new “Bad Boy of Poker”, a title that fits him perfectly.
In 2007 he played his way up to third place at the NPL Global Poker Circuit- UK Open, as he did at the WSOP Europe that year.
Aggressive playing style and a big mouth
His assertive playing manner makes Tony G one of the most aggressive poker players on the scene. Not only is he willing to take great risks, he also tends to be extremely short-tempered and provocative towards his fellow players. At the poker table he often lets his heated and unabashed emotions get the better of him and even cracks jokes at his competitors’ expense. Although this has made him very unpopular among his opponents, it seems to have had quite a good effect on his wins quota: Due to his incessant inappropriate comments, quite a few players not only lost their concentration but also their money – to Tony G.
His big mouth also is an advantage when it comes to public relations. At tournaments with media presence, the cameras point his way most of the time in the hope of capturing one of his infamous tantrums or one of his funny (and mostly derogatory) comments on camera. As a result, Tony G is a celebrated star on video websites like YouTube, where clips of him head the top rated lists and his fans hang on his every word.
A lot of the time it seems that just winning is not enough for Tony G, what makes a victory complete is finishing off his opponent verbally.
“Look at how I played! It’s not even possible to play worse than you! Your career is over, you’re out man! It’s over, over, over…” sings Tony G as he performs a dance of victory, emphasizing his insults with vivid gestures.
He especially enjoys poking fun at Russian players: his phrase “send them back to Russia” has become legendary. The reason for this – at least partly – are his Lithuanian roots. In an interview Tony explains that there have always been some tensions between Lithuanians and their Russian neighbours.
There is no doubt that many of Tony G’s opponents strongly dislike him. Those who have had the chance to get to know him a little better, however, know that in private Tony G is a polite and companionable person. His poker colleague Phil Hellmuth describes Tony as a likeable and admirable colleague with a heart of gold when he is not in the midst of things.
Even amongst fans opinions differ. While some feel that Tony brings a little swing into things, others think that it is just that legendary rudeness of his that makes him likeable, still others believe Tony is just downright ignorant and impolite.
Tony himself does not take all this personally:
“I do not concern myself too much about the way I act when I play poker because there are more important things in life than other people’s opinion of me. I have fans and I have opponents; I respect them all and hope that my TV appearances are entertaining in one way or another.”
Long-time friend and poker colleague Jeff Lisandro is one of the people who are very close to Tony G. Jeff was – and still is – like a big brother to Tony, who has learned a lot from him. Jeff’s ferocious method of playing also greatly influenced Tony.
Away from the poker tables
Tony lives in Melbourne, Australia. When he is not busy playing poker, Tony likes to travel, especially to Japan. Tony has already spent a lot of time there and is very interested in the country’s culture. At the Bad Boys of Poker II Tournament he even wore a Samurai kimono which had cost him $ 10,000. In an interview he expressed his enthusiasm by explaining that it was very comfortable to wear and made him feel like a real warrior.
Exercising is another of Tony’s newly discovered hobbies. In the fall of 2007 he decided to take a little time-out from poker tournaments to concentrate on his health and lose a few of his extra pounds to get in shape. He has taken a lot upon himself but if his winner’s mentality does just as well in the gym as it does at the poker table, then this challenge should not pose a great problem for him. To think of the effect Tony’s humour, his big mouth and his poker skills, paired with an exquisitely sculpted body, would have on his environment!
With or without six-packs, Tony G is a genius and his participation in tournaments brings zest to the game and gives many a reason to turn on the TV. We do not want to miss him at the poker table and can only hope we will not lose him to the body building scene, or – who knows – the Chippendales even!
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