Poker has always yielded itself to nicknames. I am not sure how it all started but I am sure it ad something to do with a few seedy characters that would rather not have others know their real name. A few nicknames came about because the person had a name that was different or hard to pronounce. Some of the nicknames were just very descriptive. Slaves and outlaws used nicknames to avoid getting caught when somebody overheard what they had done.

I have never really been given too many nicknames and most have never really stuck to me for any length of time. I attribute much of that to me having a fairly simple but unique name that is easy to pronounce. An easy to pronounce but very common name like Paul will often lend itself to the person being branded by an additional moniker that uniquely describes them. A guy nicknamed Tall Paul would generally be the tallest guy named Paul that plays cards in that card room.

In Crescent City, where I am from, many of the poker players were named Paul and thus we ended up with an assortment of nicknames for them including Black Paul, Five To Go Paul, Last Card Paul, Prison Guard Paul, Tall Paul and Small Paul. I think this comes from a poker players’ undying need to tell stories and it is important that the listener know exactly which Paul it was that sucked out on them.

A few nicknames are just very descriptive and the person has always been branded with the nickname such as Mushroom Larry, Waterman, Hippy Rich, Pony Tail Steve, Marijuana Don, Toothless Tim, Shaky Frank, and The Protector. These guys were all called by these nicknames for various reasons and the names just stuck. Mushroom Larry was a mushroom buyer and a shady character that probably didn’t want people to know his real name. Waterman was a big fat man that used to sell water softeners for a living and once again I rarely heard his real name ever used. Hippy Rich was a guy that wore his hair real long and tended to smoke medical marijuana a few decades before it became legal. Pony Tail Steve was a guy that wore a very long pony tail and with a name like Steve it was easy for him to become Pony Tail Steve. Marijuana Don on the other hand was probably involved in the business of marijuana. Toothless Tim was a young guy with his front teeth missing and he did not get them fixed for a very long time and with so many guys named Tim around it was almost natural that he became Toothless Tim. Shaky Frank is a good guy and a close friend but he has a real bad tell where his hand shakes and it gets more pronounced when he has a big hand and that fact coupled with his hard to pronounce last name left him with names like Frank Z or Shaky Frank. The Protector was just an old guy that always answered to the name and I never heard the story of why he was called that.

The nickname White Shirt Bill is a bit of a tricky one. Bill being a very common name it was natural for him to become Fisherman Bill or some such thing but he came to Crescent City with his own nickname of White Shirt Bill. The story goes that when he played in Reno he was famous for yelling, “Bring in more white shirts” every time he busted out a dealer from the poker game. Thus he became known as White Shirt Bill and he adopted that for his road name. On the subject of road names I will throw Chuck Markey under the bus at this point. Chuck is quite a character in his own right and God only knows what he has or has not done in his lifetime but he has taken to using the road name of JT. We never adopted the nickname in Crescent City but when you see him out and about he is always JT.

There are a few guys that end up with nicknames like Bear, Snake, Worm and Dog for reasons that are less than flattering and generally have to do with a personality that is less than acceptable. If you watched the movie and decided that Worm was your favorite character and you stole his nickname than you probably are one of the above people in need of meds and counseling.

There are a few guys that get nicknamed Tiny, Snow Flake or Loose Bruce when in fact they are just the opposite of what the nickname implies. Tiny was a huge fat man of nearly 500 pounds before he died. Snow Flake was one of the few black men who ever played the poker game. Before everyone jumps on the race card I have to say that he introduced himself to me with the name Snow Flake and I never did know his real name, but he did tell me he picked up the nickname in the army. Loose Bruce was one of the tightest guys I ever played with and once again it was his own nickname.

My co-workers throw around a few nicknames and we have even named our home poker games. We have places like the Double G, MTM Grand, Egyptian Palace, Pistachio Gardens and Victor’s Secret. A nautical theme of nicknames involving Shark, Whale, Killer Whale, Piranha, Marlin, Minnow, Guppy, Krill, Sea Horse and Coral are all bandied about on a regular basis to describe the players in the home game. I think it is just poker and somehow that leads to everyone having a nickname of sorts.

Many of the professionals have nicknames and are known universally by those nicknames.
The Poker Brat
Texas Dolly
The Master
The Mad Genius
The Robin Hood of Poker
The Flying Dutchman
Little Man
Amarillo Slim
The Kid
Kid poker
Whatta Player
The Mouth
Action Dan
The Grinder



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