What if Breaking Bad Was Poker?

Posted by on Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

I was sat on the couch last night watching a re-run of Breaking Bad and drifted into a hazy sleep. Before I knew it, Breaking Bad was over and on came an episode of the World Poker Tour and just for a few minutes as I was waking up, I was sure I heard Mike Sexton describing a hand where Walter White shoved all-in and Gus Fring made the call but was drawing dead. I guess eating cheese before going to sleep is a bad idea.

That weird lactose induced hallucination got me thinking though; the world of poker kind of has some parallels with the fictional world of Breaking Bad, but what characters show similar traits, who is the Walter White of the poker world? Who is cold, calculated, and ruthless Gus Fring? Because I have too much time on my hands, I decided to think about it a little more, and hey presto, now I’m writing an article about it, so here’s what I came up with:

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Walter White: OK, so let’s start with the main characters. Walt starts out as a mild mannered nice guy who’s just doing his thing, keeping out of everyone’s way and then he finds his way into the twisted world of drug manufacturing and distribution. Before long, the entire underworld fears him, or more fears his pseudonym ‘Heisenberg’. He’s extremely intelligent and it doesn’t take him long in the business to become a phenom and no one can come close to him when it comes to strategy. I had a couple of ideas in mind for who the Walt of the poker world is, but in reading that description I’ve narrowed it down to just one: a mild mannered contender for best player in the world who’s pseudonym was feared and is one the game’s great strategists; none other than Phil Galfond who’s screen name ‘OMGClayAiken’ struck fear into the hearts of many.

Gus Fring: There’s a couple of ways to look at this one. Every cool and calm black guy with dead eyes is compared with Phil Ivey. I’m sure everyone has heard the ‘Phil is the Tiger Woods of poker’ comparison lots of times and while the mannerisms might be there, Phil isn’t particularly evil and hasn’t destroyed too many lives on his path to poker stardom. So let’s look at it from another angle: He’s cold and calculated, well spoken and well educated, and runs a huge seedy business that ultimately ruins lives and he doesn’t care who gets hurt along the way, and when things start to go wrong he won’t even talk to his employees. Pffft, this one is too easy…Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Howard Lederer.

Jesse Pinkman: When it comes to looks and mannerisms, Chad ‘lil holdem’ Batista is the obvious choice but going a bit deeper, I think it’s fair to say the criteria for this one are ‘a bit of an idiot, but a decent guy under it all whose problems got the better of him it, and he knows how to handle himself a bit’. I think I have a good fit for this one in a guy who comes across well on TV and doesn’t really set out to hurt anyone, but still ends up owing lots of people money and does some ducking and weaving to avoid paying it back…none other than Eric Lindgren.

Saul Goodman: This is kind of a tough one because his personality matches up with that of a hell of a lot of poker players. Saul is so cocky and sleazy and yet full of personality, never stops chattering and is everyone’s friend but has very little backbone and bails when the going is tough. Actually, it has to be Jamie Gold really doesn’t it.

Hank Schrader: Mouthy all-American guy who is determined, smart, brave and true to himself but a little bit moody from time to time when things aren’t going his way. That’s a pretty good description of Mike Matusow if you ask me.

Skyler White: Strong businesswoman that isn’t afraid to screw people over to get what she wants. Involved in running shady operations that aren’t always what they seem, and related to an even bigger crook….It’s Daniel Negreanu’s best friend Annie Duke.

Mike Ehrmantraut: A no nonsense guy who gets the job done in cold blooded fashion. Doesn’t suffer fools gladly and doesn’t speak unless there’s something important to be said and doesn’t mind getting paid from blood money. Sounds a lot like Patrik Antonius to me!

Tuco Salamanca: A raging lunatic when things don’t go his way. When he starts up on one of his rants, everyone in the room just looks away hoping that he doesn’t make eye contact with them. Not as a big a deal as he likes to think he is. Easy, Phil Hellmuth.

Hector Salamanca: Old guy who used to crush souls but now he needs a chair to get around, but proves he can still get one over on the young generation. Oh hai, Doyle Brunson.

Marie Schrader: Hank’s kleptomaniac wife is a thief with a skinny frame. Hmm, how about Chino Rheem. ‘Oh no, he dih’nt go there. Oh yes, I did’

Gale Boetticher: Walt’s meth cooking understudy. Kind of an annoying nerd that’s good at what he does, but not as good as the masters. Sounds a lot like Andrew ‘Lucky Chewy’ Lichtenberger.

Leonel and Marco Salamanca: Tuco’s cousins. Basically two foreign looking guys that look similar and don’t take any prisoners. I’m gonna go with Z and Hac Dang here.

So that’s most of the main characters covered. I’m disappointed I couldn’t get Daniel Negreanu in there somewhere. I guess he’s just too squeaky clean for the world of Breaking Bad. Actually, nice harmless guy who just wants to do right be people and have fun. Maybe he can be Walter White Jr!

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