The excitement of the Gulf Coast Poker Championship’s $5K Main Event created buzz surrounding Tyler Smith, a young pro who has blitzed through Mississippi during 2010. Onlookers also hoped to see the beautiful Vanessa Rousso, braving the field at the Beau Rivage, vying for another final table. Slightly more curious was the tremendous amount of interest in local player William “Poker Monkey” Souther, who hoped to turn his year around in this one event. Last year was excellent for Monkey, including his win of the “Best Overall Player” award at the Venetian in Las Vegas during the summer deepstack event. A final table on his homefield at the Biloxi main event would make 2010 a close contender.
Monkey, who won the trophy for Event 7 after a 20-player chop, is a contentious character and impossible to play against without remembering him. This 43-year-old pro draws crowds of fans and hecklers at any event he plays. His strength as a player is in his uncanny ability to put opponents on a hand.
“Body language gives away a wealth of information,” he said “I laugh when I see players who insist on looking at their hole cards right away. They should be watching everyone else and figuring out what they have.”
His weakest attribute as a player? Monkey has a self-proclaimed “anger” issue, which explains why he draws all the railbirds. Through a continuous effort to keep his temper under control, he now channels his outbursts into an almost comical tone that delights onlookers and frustrates opponents. Said Monkey: “I have a tendency to personalize situations. Players who min-raise, raise too much or constantly snipe my big blind, in the past I’d get tremendously hostile when those things occurred. I’m getting better now. I’ve had to. It will control you if you don’t. The worst thing I can do is to start targeting a specific player.”
Rumor has it Monkey is on probation with a host of casinos.
“That’s a touchy subject,” he said. “I’ve had my share of incidents where I was the culprit. I’ve also had a few things go against me that were based on a bias against me. I play poker with the best of intentions. I’ve taken it all down a notch. I no longer berate people’s play. I don’t act like a freak when I take a bad beat. I’m more polite and it’s paying off. I used to get several ugly comments on my blog a week and now I haven’t had one in over six months. I think you have to be slightly nuts to do this for a living. I am considered a loose cannon, but I’m acutely aware of what I’m doing and saying. … unless I’m drinking Patron, then all bets are off!”
His background includes bar ownership, modeling, baseball and real estate, but full-time poker is where he’s found his groove. There are pros he respects, but he says, “I don’t think poker inspires amazement. I look up to doctors, firemen and soldiers. At the end of the day, we’re all just card players trying to make a living, while fading bad luck.”
On Day 1 of the main event, after playing through most of the 108 entrants, Monkey knew he was the underdog to survive. The close of Day 1 saw the demise of both Smith and Rousso, and left just 45 players. Monkey barely survived as the short stack. Sunday began with an epic run of luck and excellent calls. He doubled up time after time, maintaining his heater to secure a final-table position by day’s end. Monday opened with nine contenders and a series of rapid eliminations, which left only three. Mark Rose, Kai Landry and Souther took a brief break and came to an undisclosed financial agreement, which pleased them all. They played for bragging rights, the WPT seat and bracelet, but for Monkey it was over quickly. Within a few hands he was all-in against Rose with the lower end of Rose’s nut straight. Out in a commendable third place, he “officially” took with him a cool $59K paycheck.
“After the money was worked out, I relaxed,” he said. “I kind of knew I was beat, but it was okay. This was the best day of my poker career.” With an astronomical week-long run, the GCPC has made 2010 one of the best years of his poker career.
Follow Monkey’s trials and tribulations on the pro circuit at pokermonkeytalk.blogspot.com.
— Jennifer Gay is a poker journalist, poker room supervisor and poker player local to the Mid-South region.Her column will focus on the Mississippi-area poker scene. She can be contacted at facebook.com/aceofjewels.