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Spider-Man’s Fist Fight At The Viper Room And Other Poker Brawls We Would Love To See

by Houston Curtis |  Published: Jul 01, 2020


Have you ever wondered why we never see fist fights break out at the poker table during coverage of the various poker tours? Sure, there’s occasionally some trash talk, but I can’t recall seeing one single brawl bust out in all the years I’ve been watching televised poker.

Perhaps we should be thankful. Given everything going on in the world today, our chosen profession seems to be a peaceful one for the most part.

As I write this column from Phoenix, Arizona, the entire state is on a lockdown curfew of 8 pm due to the riots and looting that occurred on the heels of the horrifying killing of George Floyd. No matter what your political view might be, it’s safe to say that as a society, we can often be violent, inconsiderate, and act in haste.

At the same time, as an American, I’m proud to say that we can also come together during some of the darkest moments and lift one another up. Let’s face it, depending on the circumstance, people have horrific flaws that that can rear their ugly head one day, and incredible courage, generosity, and understanding that makes its way to the surface the next.

I’ve often noticed that in times of struggle, many people look to their heroes for inspiration. And in today’s world, I believe that professional poker players make just as good a role model as any other sporting figure out there.

Having said all this… am I the only one who can admit that I would absolutely love to see a giant fist fight break out one day during ESPN coverage of a final table on the World Series of Poker?

Poker has been compared to actual war! Yet I’ve seen more violent outbursts on the golf course than I ever have during a televised poker event.

And let’s face it. We all know that fights happen. In the ‘90s when I was grinding it out at Hollywood Park, there was at least one fight a night going on in the lower limit games. I’ve seen tables get turned upside down, chips thrown across the casino, and full-blown brawls erupt out of nowhere.

I even saw a dealer damn near knock someone out one night after “he” cracked a pair of aces. Aces that were then torn in half and thrown in his face. But of course, none of this ever gets televised, and is always swept under the rug before any of us degenerates can start getting bets down on who is going to win.

Think I’m crazy for expecting a fight?

Every other major sporting event on television has had its share of fisticuffs. Basketball had the Malice at the Palace, they are swinging helmets at each other in football, and how often do you see the benches clear in baseball? There’s at least one great fight per season. And professional hockey used to have more punches thrown per game than a Sugar Ray Leonard fight!

This begs the question, could professional poker be the most civilized game currently airing on television?

Throughout history, some pretty epic confrontations have gone down at the poker table. There’s the story about Doc Holiday shooting a guy who tried to look at his discards! Doyle Brunson’s Super System shares some great stories about him, Sailor Roberts, and Amarillo Slim getting robbed and having guns drawn on them while rounding their way across the country. And of course, there’s the legendary story of the Dead Man’s Hand, aces and eights, which Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall in the town of Deadwood on Aug. 2, 1876.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have some twisted desire to see a gun fight commence in the middle of a final table, but I would be lying if I told you that a fight breaking out between Tony G and my pal Phil Hellmuth wouldn’t be a stellar ratings winner!

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall the night Phil stepped outside the casino and fought Sam Grizzle! (I know for a fact that Phil won the fight by the way, in case anyone had heard different.) I wonder how many tickets would sell for a pay-per-view featuring a gauntlet style cage match featuring the more prominent members of the poker community? There’s a chance it could give the UFC a run for its money!

If poker can sustain Ponzi schemes, god modes, and live stream cheaters, then surely we could handle a few black eyes and fat lips right?

In the ‘80s we had break-dancers settling their disputes with a dance battle. Poker players these days aren’t much different. The first thing that gets threatened when the tension rises seems to always be a heads-up challenge. It’s like our version of arm wrestling, I guess. I actually scoured the internet recently looking for a “poker fight” and the best I could find was a skirmish that busted out one night at the Talking Stick in Arizona.

I’ve played in many private games over the years, where you could pretty much feel danger in the air so thick it would make you sweat quicker than New Orleans at high noon in the summertime. But the bigger I started playing, the more friendly the games seemed to become. That is until one night when I was at the Viper Room playing high-stakes hold’em with Tobey Maguire.

Tobey had been working out every day due to his upcoming scenes for Spider-Man 3. But even though he looked prepared to handle himself in a fight, he certainly wasn’t expecting one might arise the night he asked his then-girlfriend, Jen Meyer to stop by and bring him some vegan treats.

Here is a play-by-play excerpt of that fateful night straight from my book Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist, which can be purchased on Amazon, or directly from my website And be sure to check out the link at the bottom for a new video that I hope you will find entertaining in terms of poker fight legend and lore.

One time, Tobey phoned his girlfriend Jen from the game. He’d left him in a rush that night and forgot to bring his vegan dinner. (I know – rock ’n’ roll huh?) So Jen agreed to bring it by but after an hour still hadn’t showed. All of a sudden Tobey’s cell stars buzzing. On the line was a very upset Jen screaming at Spider-Man that the bouncer just told her the only way she was gonna be let in the door was if she got on her knees and blew him. Oh Fuck!

We sent Molly to sort out the situation and Darin followed her, ready to chew this guy’s ass out. Meanwhile Tobey looks at me with wide eyes and says, “Fuck, does this mean I’ve gotta go fight this dude?”

When the doorman came back in, he was holding a dozen red roses he must have bought the corner of the market, got on his knees, professed how deeply sorry he was to Jen, and then swore to her and everyone in the room that he was secretly gay and was just trying to protect the privacy of the game at all cost.

You could have heard a pin drop… before everyone started laughing. Tobey slapped him on the back, (instead of punching him in the face) and what could have been a tricky situation was nipped in the bud.

It gave me a new level of respect for Darin Feinstein because I knew that was entirely his way of saving face for the Viper Room — and it worked. Tobey was off the hook, Jen was satisfied, and we went back to making it rain. Hell, the doorman who asked Jen to blow him even got his usual C-note tip at the end of the night.

That was a fun night, but I can’t help but wonder how exciting it would have been to see Tobey being forced into doing what his movie persona Spider-Man would have done, and defend the honor of his girl by throwing down with this dude in a straight up bar room brawl! We will never know who would have won, but it wasn’t like this guy was a big, burly dude. It would have been a pretty fair fight, I think!

Send me comments on Facebook or to on who you think would be the ultimate poker pro brawl to be caught on camera during a final table! (Or better yet, a fight that breaks out on the bubble.)

And be sure to check out the video below if you want to learn about the most dangerous night of poker I’ve ever witnessed. I call it, Russians, Guns, a Jack, and Four Aces.

And while you are there do me a favor and subscribe to my YouTube channel, hit the bell and give me a like! Just a few more thousand hours of watch time and perhaps YouTube might actually start to pay me!

Until next time fight fans.. stay sharp. Stay Kardsharp!

Houston Curtis Houston Curtis, founder of and author of Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist has lived a successful double life as both a producer and card mechanic for nearly 30 years. His credits include executive producing gambling related TV shows such as The Ultimate Blackjack Tour on CBS, The Aruba Poker Classic on GSN and pioneering the poker instructional DVD genre with titles featuring poker champion Phil Hellmuth.

Barred for life from Las Vegas Golden Nugget for “excessive winning” at blackjack, Houston is one of the world’s most successful card mechanics and sleight-of-hand artists of the modern era. Curtis, who rarely plays in tournaments, won a 2004 Legends of Poker no-limit hold’em championship event besting Scotty Nguyen heads-up at the final table before going on to co-found the elite Hollywood poker ring that inspired Aaron Sorkin’s Academy Award-nominated film Molly’s Game.

Curtis resides in Phoenix, Arizona where in addition to running a production company and independent record label, he is also a private gaming/casino protection consultant to clients across the globe seeking insight into master level card cheating tactics via advanced sleight-of-hand technique. To reach Houston for a speaking engagement, consulting or production services send email to

All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Card Player.