Always fun with Bobby Cheung

Updated: July 5, 2005, 3:09 PM ET
By Jay Lovinger | ESPN Poker Club

Previous WSOP Moment

Of all the poker pros, my favorite to play with is Bobby Cheung, who looks, sounds, dresses and acts like a Samoan lounge singer.

If Bobby's in the room, everybody knows it. He's loud, he's non-stop, and he's developed an accent all his own - what you might call deliberately broken English.

His signature phrase - which can be uttered as a roar of triumph, a bleat of resentfulness, a cry for help, just to mention three of the myriad possibilities - is "I am professional (meaning, "I am a professional").

If, for example, he has just made a brilliant play to win a hand, it's the "triumphal" version.

If somebody questions a play he made, it's the "resentful" version.

And if he's just about out of chips, it's the cry for help.

Needless to say, some players resent Bobby, often accusing him of doing his act for the benefit of TV cameras. This is silly and unfair, because he acts this way whether there are TV cameras around or not (and, more often than not, they are not). It's also silly, because Bobby is genuinely funny, pokes fun only at himself and not others, and doesn't have a mean bone in his body. One time, up at Foxwoods, I saw him take the trouble to comfort a lady he didn't know who had just been victimized by a set-over-set flop. "Lady, don't feel bad," he said. "George Bush couldn't play that hand any better."

To me, he's almost a litmus test for character - if you don't like Bobby, maybe it's time to take a serious look in the mirror.

Yesterday, during the early stages of a $540 buy-in NLHE tournament at the Rio - in addition to all the other tournaments, supers, one-tables and mega-satellites, they have one of these every afternoon at 4 - Bobby was, for him, rather subdued. In fact, he was so quiet, I asked him if he was feeling okay. He seemed taken aback, but soon regained his old brio, perhaps to show me all was right with Bobby's world, even if he had the tiniest stack at the table.

With the blinds quickly approaching, and Bobby down to little more than a big blind (which was $200), he unleashed another room-rattling Bobbyism: "ANY PICTURE CARD!" This meant, of course, that he was going all-in with his tiny stack as soon as he saw some paint.

Which he did, and which did not hold up. After he was knocked out, Bobby put his thumbs behind the lapels of his sports coat, straightened it out so that it lay flat and symmetrical against his barrel chest, smiled, and walked away with his head held high, confident, I'm sure, that he had done the best possible job with the tools he'd been given that day.

And I wouldn't be at all surprised if, under his breath, he was whispering to himself, "I am professional."

Jay Lovinger

Founding editor, Page 2
Jay Lovinger is a former managing editor of Life and a founding editor of Page 2. "Jackpot Jay" spent a year as a poker pro and participated in the World Series of Poker. He will be writing a book on his poker adventures for HarperCollins.