Poker is a colourful game with many larger-than-life players. The game sets itself apart through of its unique culture and history, and that continues into the modern game. Nicknames are a significant part of poker.

While some poker nicknames may be more or less honorary titles, other players are referred to more often by their nickname then their given name.

With so many intriguing characters and interesting personalities, here is a complete guide of poker player nicknames.

Poker Nickname Styles

Nicknames in poker tend to be pretty creative on the whole. Hours and hours at the table allow for players to banter and joke. Some unusual nicknames have come about through the decades from that chit chat and idle time catching cards.

Most nicknames tend to follow a few trends. Here’s a look at some typical types of poker nicknames and a few players who represent these styles.

Personal Traits and History

This format might be a prominent driver behind nickname creation. Fairly obvious physical and personal traits can quickly become a player’s nickname. From height to intellect to playing style, personality traits can be a natural inspiration for easy player nicknames.

The game’s old days offer several examples of some unique aliases for some of poker’s legendary figures. Bryan “Sailor” Roberts won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1975. Sailor was a travelling companion to Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim Preston. He accompanied them to underground games throughout Texas and the Southwest U.S. He earned his nickname after serving in the Korean War in the U.S. Navy.

Another Texas poker legend has a memorable nickname and is immortalised by one of the best-known sayings in poker. Jack Straus towered over his opponents – and he was pretty good at the table as well. Straus is believed to have stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall, earning him the nickname “Treetop.”

tree sat at a poker table

 

He won the 1982 WSOP Main Event after a big raise that had believed to have been for all his chips. He lost the hand. However, a single 500 chip was discovered under a napkin at the table, and he rallied for the win – inspiring the phrase: “All you need is a chip and a chair.” He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988 and is said to have died at the table that same year.

“He was perhaps the most aggressive player of his era,” says Mike Sexton, former World Poker Tour commentator and a member of the Poker Hall of Fame. “It seemed like he played more hands than Phil Ivey and Tom ‘Durrrr’ Dwan combined! His demeanour at the table was superb. He never moaned about beats, criticised the dealers, or chastised opponents on how they played a hand.”

Another player certainly with a unique nickname is long-time poker pro. Phil “The Unabomber” Laak. He’s been a mainstay in the poker world since the 2000s and was once a roommate of friend and fellow poker player Antonio Esfandiari. Laak earned his nickname because of his resemblance to the famous artist’s rendering of criminal bomber Ted Kaczynski. Laak’s look in a hoodie and sunglasses made him look the part.

While Laak is much more jovial and crime-free than the infamous murderer, he is known to go “bombs away” at the poker table. His former roommate Esfandiari, who has made quite a name for himself at the poker table, also has an unusual nickname. As a former practitioner of card tricks and other sleights of hand, the three-time WSOP and two-time WPT champion has been nicknamed “The Magician” for years. He certainly has some card skills at the poker table as well.

What list of poker names involving player traits could leave out 15-time WSOP Main Event champion Phil Hellmuth? Love him or hate him, Hellmuth’s antics at the table have appropriately earned the title of “Poker Brat.” It’s a nickname he’s embraced through the years despite rubbing many opponents the wrong way – and occasionally getting needled himself for his bratty behaviour.

Signs of Respect

Another nickname style tends to serve as an accolade to players with stellar careers and skills. Perhaps one of the most storied is Texas poker legend Johnny Moss, a three-time WSOP Main Event winner who won the first-ever two events. He became one of the most respected players in poker.

A poker legend who was elected to the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979 (the inaugural year of the institution), Moss went on to win nine WSOP bracelets before his death in 1995 at age 88. For his contributions to the game, Moss earned the moniker of the “Grand Old Man of Poker.” His biography was released in 1981 and was titled “Champion of Champions.” Moss was remembered for his abilities in almost any game available.

“A gambler has to be able to play any game that’s available,” he notes in the book. “In an otherwise even contest, the man with the best concentration will almost always win.”

Mike Caro has been a poker player for many years but may be known best for his strategy lessons to other players. He runs the Mike Caro University of Poker (MCU) offering free tips and advice for players working on their games. Caro wrote the draw poker section for Doyle Brunson’s famous strategy book Super-System.

He was also a long-time columnist and has become known as the “Mad Genius of Poker” for his knowledge of the game. His wild hair adds a bit to that nickname as well.

Many players know Barry Greenstein not just for his success on the poker felt, but also his efforts in charitable giving. With three WSOP bracelets, two WPT titles, and almost $8.4 million in live tournament winnings, Greenstein has quite an impressive poker resumé. After growing up in the Chicago area, he earned a doctorate degree in mathematics and went on to work for the Symantec software corporation.

After leaving his job in 1991 at age 36, Greenstein went on to an illustrious poker career but gives much of his winnings away to charitable causes, many benefitting children. After winning $770,000 in a Seven-Card Stud event in 2003, he donated $440,000 of that to charity and for years has been known as the “Robin Hood of Poker.” He became a member of the Poker Hall of Fame in 2011 and offered a glimpse into the philanthropic side of the game.

Robin Hood holding 2 sacks of poker chips

 

Scotty Nguyen has become well known for his unique personality and skills mixed with an occasional beer at the tables. Bringing a big character with plenty of smiles and laughs, the winner of the 1998 Main Event also brings a big game. Nguyen is known as the “Prince of Poker” for his skills at the table. A five-time WSOP bracelet winner, Nguyen is the only player to have won the Main Event and $50,000 Poker Players Championship. He’s also made eight WPT final tables in his career and won a tour title in 2006.

Geographic Locations, Nationality, and Heritage

While these may be natural nickname creations, those implying or reflecting on a player’s country, hometown, state, or region are some of the monikers that stick. Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson is a fitting nickname. He grew up in the Lone Star State and earned the nickname from Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, who referred to him as Texas Doyle in his column in the Las Vegas Sun during the early 1970s.

“At the time I was trying to avoid publicity because of the stigma attached to gambling back in Texas,” Brunson wrote in his autobiography The Godfather of Poker. “Jimmy and I became pretty good friends, and I asked him not to use my last name. He agreed, saying Texas Doyle would work fine.”

Snyder often referred to his friend as “Doylee,” which was overheard by another reporter at the time – who misheard it as “Dolly.” The name Texas Dolly stuck and was even used in a report by the Associated Press shortly after.

Doyle Brunson

 

Numerous geography and location related names for poker players exist. Thomas Preston won the 1972 WSOP Main Event and was forever known as “Amarillo Slim” for his thin build and hometown.  Danish poker star Gus Hansen is known as the “Great Dane.” The name seems fitting after he scored millions of dollars in cash game winnings, three WPT titles, and one WSOP bracelet. Hansen was one of the biggest names in the game during the poker boom.

“Cowboy” is a nickname given to a couple southerners who donned Cowboys hats at the table: Byron Wolford and Hoyt Corkins. The name fit both players for their attire but also where they grew up: Alabama (Corkins) and Texas (Wolford). Two-time Main Event champion Johnny Chan won back-to-back Main Event titles in 1987 and 1988. He fled China as a young man before going on to poker glory and became known as “The Orient Express.”

Phil Ivey was once known as “No Home Jerome,” a nickname Ivey earned as a youngster on the Atlantic City poker scene. He regularly mixed it up in games at the Taj Mahal and Tropicana with a fake ID showing his name as Jerome. The nickname came together because he was always at the poker room and never seemed to leave.

“Downtown” Chad Brown featured a cool geographic nickname from an apparent rhyme. Spanish poker icon Carlos Mortensen has an interesting nickname reflecting his heritage and his skills at the table – “The Matador.” A few others include: “Minneapolis Jim” Meehan; Marcel “The Flying Dutchman” Luske; Patrick “The Finn” Antonius; and “Grand Rapids” Tom McEvoy.

Online Poker Aliases and Other Unique Names 

While historically poker nicknames have followed the trends already listed above, the poker boom brought about another type of nickname – the online poker alias. Several players dominating the scene online became more recognised for their online usernames than their real name.

One of those is Canadian Mike “Timex “ McDonald. A dominating online player since age 18, Timex has $13.3 million in live tournament winnings but has much more with online winnings considered. He grew up in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and excelled at maths from an early age.

After discovering poker as a teenager, that analytical mind paid big dividends. On his 22nd birthday, McDonald won the now-defunct Epic Poker League’s second event in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino for $782,410. But what about that online poker alias? How did that unique nickname come about? It has a bit less of an interesting story than some others here, but stuck, nonetheless.

“I just chose the first thing that came to mind,” he says, “and looked down at my Timex watch – and it wasn't taken yet.”

Timex watch at the poker table

 

Like McDonald, another big online crusher, Tom Dwan, is also stuck with a unique poker nickname that became synonymous with the player. “Durrrr” may be well-known now for high-stakes cash games in Asia but was also one of the online poker savants depicted in the excellent book Ship It Holla Ballas! by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback.

Dwan has $3.4 million in live tournament winnings but much more in cash games, both live and online, where he’s won millions of dollars. According to an interview with Dwan, he chose the nickname because “durrrr” seemed like a name that could annoy opponents. He wanted the name to leave a bad taste in their mouths after a loss.

Viktor Blom is another player with a unique online alias that stuck. Blom has made millions of dollars playing online, and his moniker “Isildur1” has become well-known in the poker world. This Swedish poker sensation played at the highest stakes in the world beginning in the late 2000s. He’s played in some of the biggest online pots in the history of the game.

This high-stakes player battled the biggest names in the game online including Dwan, Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Brian Hastings, and others. Fans of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings may recognise the inspiration behind Blom’s alias. It was quite a bit more inventive than his original online nickname of “Blom90.”

Where’s that odd name come from? Isildur is a character in several of Tolkien’s novels – a king who was ultimately killed by bows and arrows. “Isildur's men were outnumbered ten to one,” according to LOTR.Fandom.com, “and though they initially managed to repel the attack, the Orcs renewed their assault after nightfall and the men were overwhelmed.”

No doubt this Isildur would have topped those Orcs at the poker table.

Poker Players Nickname Chart

Real Name

Nickname

Age

Player Note

Annie Duke

The Duchess of Poker

53

Now a business author and speaker

Antonio Esfandiari

The Magician

40

First Big One for One Drop winner

Barry Greenstein

The Robin Hood of Poker

64

Give much of his winnings to charity

Bobby Baldwin

The Owl

69

1978 Main Event winner

Brian Roberts

Sailor

64

1975 Main Event winner

Byron

Wolford

*72

Former rodeo cowboy and pro poker player

Carlos Mortensen

El Matador

47

Three-time WPT winner

Chad Brown

Downtown

*52

Worked as an actor before poker career

Chris Ferguson

Jesus

56

2000 Main Event winner

Crandell Addington

Dandy

81

Old school Texas legend

Dan Harrington

Action Dan

73

1995 Main Event winner

Daniel Negreanu

Kid Poker

45

Two-time WSOP Player of Year

Darrell Dicken

Gigabet

42

2 WPT final table appearances

Darren Elias

End Boss

32

Four-time WPT champion

David Reese

Chip

*56

Three-time WSOP bracelet winner

David Sklansky

The Mathematician

71

Long-time poker author

David Ulliott

Devilfish

*61

One best-known English players

Doyle Brunson

Texas Dolly

86

Poker legend, 10 WSOP bracelets

Erick Lindgren

E-dog

43

2 WSOP bracelets, 2 WPT titles

Greg Raymer

Fossilman

55

2004 Main Event winner

Gun Hansen

The Great Dane

45

3 WPT titles, Aussie Millions Main Event title

Howard Lederer

The Professor

54

2 WPT and WSOP titles

Hoyt Corkins

Cowboy

59

2 WPT and WSOP titles

Humberto Brenes

The Shark

68

2 WSOP bracelets; fourth in '88 Main Event

Jack Keller

Gentleman

*60

1984 Main Event winner

Jack Strauss

Treetop

*58

1982 Main Event winner

James Meehan

Minneapolis Jim

*66

WSOP bracelet winner

Jimmy Snyder

The Greek

*77

Long-time gambling legend

John Cernuto

Miami

75

3 WSOP bracelets

John Hennigan

Johnny World

48

6 WSOP bracelets, 1 WPT title

John Juanda

Luckbox

48

6 WSOP bracelets

Johnny Chan

The Orient Express

62

87 and '88 WSOP Main Event winner

Johnny Moss

The Grand Old Man of Poker

*88

Poker legend, won Main Event 3 times

Layne Flack

Back to Back

50

Won 2 consecutive Legends of Poker events in1999

Linda Johnson

The First Lady of Poker

65

Former publisher of CardPlayer magazine and WPT announcer

Marcel Luske

The Flying Dutchman

66

Successful player known for dressing sharp at table

Men Nguyen

The Master

64

7 WSOP bracelets

Michael Mizrachi

The Grinder

38

Won WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship 3 times

Mike Caro

The Mad Genius of Poker

75

Long-time poker educator and author

Mike Matusow

The Mouth

51

Two-time Main Event final table player

Mike McDonald

Timex

29

Youngest player to win EPT title

Mike Sexton

The Ambassador of Poker

71

Served as WPT commentator for 15 years

Patrik Antonius

The Finn

38

Long-time high-stakes cash player

Paul Clark

Eskimo

67

3 WSOP bracelets

Paul Magriel

X-22

*71

Long-time poker and backgammon player

Paul Phillips

Dot Com

*47

1 WPT title, now plays sporadically

Phil Hellmuth

The Poker Brat

55

15-time WSOP bracelet winner

Phil Ivey

No Home Jerome

42

10-time WSOP bracelet winner

Phil Laak

Unabomber

46

1 WSOP and WPT title

Randy Jensen

Dream Crusher

NA

WPT runner-up finish for $656,460 in '05

Scotty Nguyen

The Prince of Poker

56

1998 Main Event winner

Stu Ungar

The Kid

*45

Three-time Main Event winner

Thomas Keller

Thunder

38

WSOP bracelet winner and poker writer

Thomas Preston

Amarillo Slim

*83

1972 Main Event winner

Tom Dwan

durrrr

33

High-stakes online poker legend

Tom McEvoy

Grand Rapids

74

1983 Main Event winner and poker author

Viktor Blom

Isildur1

28

High-stakes online poker legend

Walter Pearson

Puggy

*77

1973 Main Event winner

 

* age of player at death

NA – age not available

About the Author
By
Sean Chaffin is a poker writer who appears in numerous websites and publications. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast
Related Content
Who Are the Top 15 Online Poker Players in the World?

Who Are the Top 15 Poker Players in the World?

Chip Protectors and Card Guards – Luck on the Line

Card Guards, Chip Protectors Bring Luck from the Poker Gods?

Top 10 Female Poker Players of All-Time

Can You Name the Top 10 Female Poker Players of All-Time?

What Does the Poker Dream Mean Today?

What Does that Modern Poker Dream Mean for YOU?

12 References to Poker in Pop Culture

Top 12 Poker Pop Culture References of All Time!

A Complete Guide to Buying a Poker Table

Finding the Perfect Poker Table to Suit Your Home Games!

Playing Poker When You Travel – The Ins and Outs of the Game
  1. Top 20 Spots to Plan Your Next Poker Holiday!
Las Vegas Poker Cash Games: A Complete Guide

Turn Your Next Vegas Trip into a Big Hit at the Cash Game Poker Tables!

9 Top Poker Movies Every Player Should Check Out

Are These the Top 9 Best Poker Movies of All Time?

Women and Poker - A Survey

Women and Poker - A Survey