Some might feel that a discussion on poker fashion sounds somewhat outdated given the game’s rapid advancement online. However, its online success doesn’t detract from its continued popularity live and in-person too. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the biggest celebration of live poker on the planet, staged in the Nevada desert of Las Vegas. It is living proof that poker buffs still enjoy the social buzz of playing face-to-face with other competitors.
The 2021 WSOP paid out almost $238m in prize money across its 99 events, equating to an average prize pool of almost $2.4m per event. So, it’s no surprise that some players take their appearance very seriously when entering tournaments that could yield life-changing sums of money.
With that in mind, let’s explore some of the major fashion trends characterized by multiple generations of poker icons, many of which live on today.
The Cowboy Hat – putting the Texas in Texas Hold’em
Texas Hold’em poker was borne out of the Lone Star state of Texas in the early 20th century. A cowboy hat was a prerequisite to sit down at a poker table, with the likes of Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim widely regarded as the original cowboys of the poker scene – in the way they dressed, not the way they acted at the tables. In fact, Brunson has long been considered one of the gentlemen of professional poker, despite his “wild west” persona. He hung up his cowboy hat and his poker career after the 2018 WSOP, but his fashion legacy lives on.
Baggy Sports Jerseys – poker personalities searching for fandom
Oversized sports jerseys characterized the early 2000s era of poker, around the time when online poker was starting to get going and live poker tournaments were experiencing increased airtime. American poker professional Phil Hellmuth was one of the biggest exponents of the baggy jersey. Hellmuth’s jerseys were usually from the NBA Golden State Warriors team, repping his home state of California.
Neck Scarfs – dual-purpose accessories to throw opponents
Neck scarfs may be one of the most unorthodox and surprising fashion accessories at a live poker table – but hear us out. Italian poker player Dario Minieri made a big impression as a complete newcomer in the 2007 WSOP Main Event. By Day 3 of the tournament, he was the chip leader. No-one knew who the guy wearing sunglasses and a garish AS Roma soccer scarf was, or how he was hoarding chips so effectively. The reality is that neck scarfs have a dual-purpose – they can keep players warm in air-conditioned poker room environments and can also be used to shield physical tells, creating an air of mystery. To this day, Minieri continues to wear neck scarfs at the table, as does George Danzer, another hyper-aggressive poker whizz from Europe.
The Humble Hoodie – the relaxed look from the 2000s poker boom
Whether it’s branded or fashion hoodies, the hoodie craze took live poker rooms by storm in the mid-to-late 2000s. It was around the time when many of the most successful online poker whizz-kids started to venture into offline poker tournaments. These were players who would sit at home and play for a living in their slacks, so what better garments to wear for a live poker tournament than a comfy hoodie? Online poker players tended not to have the godlike physiques of physical sports stars, so would steer clear of high fashion. Poker professional Lex Veldhuis said the “internet wave” of players meant that people wanted to “sit at the table as they did at home” in front of their PC monitors.
Dapper Suits – the mark of a player’s professionalism?
Suits have always been a sign of class and respect at the poker tables. Often reserved for the final table of major live poker events like the WSOP Main Event, the likes of Tony Dunst and Anthony Zinno have been known to don their finery to bring a sense of grandeur to the occasion.
Poker pro Lex Veldhuis believes more players are starting to adopt formal dress and upscale the dress code in recognition of taking their lifestyle seriously. This includes their diet, “sleep schedule” and other general “health trends in poker”. Given the riches involved in live poker today, it would seem remiss for the biggest stars not to look after themselves and their appearance.