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Clothes Make the Poker Player?

|  Published: Mar 22, 2005


In Shakespeare's Hamlet, a character admonishes his son to dress well, emphasizing that "apparel oft proclaims the man." Well, until recently, apparel worn by poker players didn't proclaim much if anything about them.

Oh, sure, there have been a handful of players who could be identified by their garb.

Brent Carter and Frank Henderson, for example, wouldn't be caught dead (or drawing dead) without their signature Members Only jackets; same for Louis Asmo and his trademark tracksuit. Then there was the late Cowboy Wolford and his overalls, Daniel and his hockey jerseys, Freddy Gasparian and his shirt declaring "Send the Bread to Fred," Oklahoma Johnny Hale and his walking billboard ensembles, and, more recently, Phil "Unabomber" Laak's hooded sweatshirts. The Unabomber, you recall, was the guy who mailed out letter bombs. Great image for poker.

But, for the most part, what was worn at the table was pretty much what was worn on the street. Or, in the case of railbirds, what was worn in the bread line.

The closest thing to poker wear was the logo apparel given out by casinos in tournaments or sold in their gift shops. The first one to distribute logo wear was the Deadwood Saloon and Card Casino, which offered shirts proudly bearing the inscription "Wild Bill Hickok was shot here." Filthy Willy still wears his. I'm not one to knock casino logo wear, you understand. These garments constitute 90 percent of my wardrobe. I'll wear anything a cardroom hands out, except possibly the T-shirt from Big Denny's Card Casino that reads "Farmers Welcome."

In any event, all of this is suddenly changing, as a whole slew of clothing companies and various other poker entities have begun marketing their own poker apparel. Foremost among them is Card Player, which is selling jackets and vests on its website. Please do not think I am shilling for them or am in line for any sort of commission. However, if you should order any clothing from their site, be sure to key in my name.

But Card Player is certainly far from the only entity selling poker garb. It's become a whole new industry. I first began noticing poker shirts in casino gift shops that are made by a company called Pocket Rockets. They come with all sorts of poker-inspired phrases, such as "Checking is a Sign of Weakness," "A Rack, Please," "Straddle This," "I'm Pot Committed," and, "On the 8th Day, God Created Poker."

Then, while surfing the Internet, I discovered a bewildering array of poker apparel sites and their offering of shirts with table-talk poker sayings. For example, there was Poker Detour with "Eat, Sleep, Poker," "No Fishing on the River," "Under the Gun" (with a drawing of someone with a gun to his head), and "On Tilt." All In Wear has "What's Your Favorite Position?" and "Cracked Aces" (with a drawing of aces with cracks in the cards). In response, has "Crack My Aces and I'll Crack Your Head." Just the Nuts has women's tees reading "Just the Nuts" and "River City Cemetery" spelled out on a cemetery entrance arch.

On and on it goes. Sly Shark Clothing has "Got Poker?" has a bunch of sayings: "I Know Your Tells" and "Sex is Good but Poker Lasts Longer" (women's shirts), "I'm Wired," and even shirts for infants ("I Always Show my Poker Face," with a teddy bear's face) and babies ("Poker Champ"), along with a "Shut Up and Deal" cap. They also have "Dead Money," but does them one better. Their "Dead Money" shirt is illustrated with the likeness of a famous dead person: Elvis. Slowplaying's shirts tend to be rather edgy, such as "Celebrity Poker Showdown Sucks," and "I Hate the … " (a name adopted by a group of players who banded together for mutual support). Card-Sharx Apparel offers "Who Needs a Woman When You Have a Great Hand."

One company, All N Poker, whose signature slogan is "Dominate the Table," is trying to cash in on the poker apparel boom in a unique way. In January, it listed the entire company for sale on eBay, with a minimum bid of $25,000. Company co-founder Ryan "Goldenboy" Maloney said he'll play in the 2005 World Series of Poker with proceeds from the auction. There were no bids, at least the first time around, so Maloney may have to go the satellite route.

After a while I got tired of all the research and finding a number of the same expressions carried by several outlets. However, I was captivated by two women's tees: an illustration of stacked chips with the saying "I'm Stacked," and a telephone with the phrase "Call Me." even had beverage coolers in the form of miniature poker shirts.

Then I began wondering if I might get into the game, devising clever sayings to sell these companies. I do have prior experience. I once had a job thinking up happy sayings for a company making Chinese fortune cookies. Unfortunately, after a while I got bored writing things like "Much good fortune will come your way," and got fired when I snuck in "Do not eat the moo goo gai pan."

Some of the poker clothing sayings I have in mind would include "How Could You Play that Hand?" "Change the Deck," "Call the Floorman," and "Let Me Tell You About My Bad Beat." And, of course, the classic slogan for railbirds: "Can You Stake Me? This is My Best Game."

Another opportunity could await players who market shirts bearing their own trademark expressions. These would include Scotty Nguyen's "Call and it's all over, baby," Men the Master's "Ni' hand, sir," (or, "Bring me another Corona"), and Phil Hellmuth's "That's the worst call I've ever seen."

Well, now that poker players aren't ashamed to be identified as poker players, opportunities seem to be endless for poker apparel. But I'm afraid one company, which shall remain nameless, just hasn't gotten it. It sent out a press release bragging about how it was developing a line of poker clothing with more than just sayings. The clothes would be designed to meet the special needs of players, the same as they are for other athletes, such as golfers and tennis players. The main innovation would be compartments built into clothing so that chips of different denominations could be stored there, like coin dispensers for bus drivers. I guess nobody told them what happens to players caught stashing tournament chips in their pockets.

Well, poker slogan shirts should be around for a while, but I don't think they'll ever overtake logo wear in the money department. At the last World Series, online poker sites were offering up to $5,000 to players who would wear their logo gear at a televised final table. Don't look for anyone to offer you five grand for wearing a dead Elvis shirt. spades