Bad Hat Piel is more than just a bad poker hat

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Kenny “Bad Hat” Piel is a professional poker player who lives in Tunica, Miss. But to just call him a poker pro is selling him short as Bad Hat is an entrepreneur, an author, a former golf pro and a successful musician. He recently was a guest on the Ante Up PokerCast, just before he won the senior event at the Magnolia Classic. Here’s a portion of that entertaining interview.

One of the very unique events on the schedule (for the Magnolia Classic) was something you helped create called the Bad Hat White Tiger tournament. Can you tell us a little bit about how that event works?

Mike Woods (White Tiger) and I actually came up with the format. It originated with me playing a normal tournament at the Horseshoe in Tunica. A young new player sat next to me and acquired a pretty good-sized stack before what appeared to me as if they moved him to another table. … Eventually he came back and he was pretty upset. I said, “What are you doing?” And he said, “I went to cash out and they wouldn’t give me the money.” He took 52,000 in tournament chips up to the cashier and tried to cash out of a $250 buy-in tournament. He thought he was going to get $52K.

We had a real good laugh about that and then in our conversation we said, “Well, why can’t you cash out? Nobody’s done that, why can’t you?” So we started working on a format and it took us about four months to develop it to where it would be a plausible fun method to play where everybody would enjoy it and you wouldn’t get knocked out right away. You’d still have time to play and the blinds wouldn’t go up too fast. So there was a lot to consider. But we got it all done and we copyrighted the whole thing. … We license it out to different casinos. Anybody who is interested can contact me at badhadpoker.com.

Speaking of badhatpoker.com, how did you get the idea to create these hats? It was really funny. I was a professional golfer when I started playing poker.

That was in 2001 … and I always wore a golf hat because I had some issues with skin cancer, so I always wore a big-brim hat. I just continued to wear it when I walked into the poker room. What I found was … people would say “Boy, that’s a nice-looking hat … That’s a bad hat! Where’d you get that?” So I didn’t want them all looking like me so I told them I bought the last one and they couldn’t get one. After a while I had so many inquiries about it … maybe I oughta be the guy where they can get ’em. So I redesigned the hat, sent the design work off to a manufacturer and had them produced.

Your book, Funny Thing About Poker, is a collection of funny stories you’ve experienced or had relayed to you. You do have that “everyman” look, but did somebody really confuse you with Jerry Yang?

Oh yeah, and the weirdest part was the man was dead serious. He thought I was Jerry Yang because I told him I was. He recognized my jacket. I was wearing a 2007 World Series of Poker (leather) jacket. … He said, “Where’d you get that jacket?” It says 2007 World Series of Poker right across the top of it. I said, “The World Series.” He said, “Did you win that?” I said, “Yeah!” He said, “What event?” I said, “The main event.” He goes, “You won the main event?” I said, “Yeah, I’m Jerry Yang.” All the other guys at the table are watching this guy going, “Is this guy out of his mind? Does he believe this?”

And the guy says, “Yeah, I know that, we played together before.” (laughs) We went on and on and it was unbelievable to me that this guy actually thought I was Jerry Yang.
And the whole story is in the book and it’s a lot more detailed than that. … These are the kinds of things that got me to write the book in the first place. … We got to the point where we accumulated several stories from T.J. Cloutier, Tom McEvoy and several well-known professional players. … I thought, boy, I’m gonna put all of these together in a book. It’s worked out very well and I’m working on the sequel now called Another Funny Thing About Poker.