Norman Chad

Top 5 Poker Commentators

Welcome to the who’s who of poker commentators.

These are the voices that take us through riveting high stakes, heart-breaking losses, and triumphant wins, all the while providing helpful advice and analysis. So without future ado, let’s salute 10 of the best in the business.

#1 – Norman Chad

Commentated On: World Series of Poker (WSOP)

Norman ChadNorman Chad in action at the WSOP (Image Credit: media.cardplayer.com)

“Someone needs to tell this guy he’s going home – he’s drawing dead!”

No-one perhaps embodies the World Series of Poker more than commentator Norman Chad, who has been commentating on many of ESPN’s poker broadcasts, including the WSOP, since 2003.

In fact, no-one could deliver the lines, “he’s been dealt Queen-Jack!” with such enthusiasm for thousands of hands ad infinitum and still make it sound interesting. But, with over-excited co-anchor Lon McEachern in tow, Chad is rightly considered one of poker’s best commentators.

While not all viewers may warm to Norman’s references to his many marriages, no one can fault his no-nonsense approach to the game and dislike of egos.

Norman Chad isn’t your guy if you want a detailed, step-by-step poker hand breakdown with tips on what a player should do in a particular situation. He’s also prone to a little quip (“Bet sizing is a key component of Texas Hold’em, but so is shirt-sizing”), and some may fault him for this light and funny approach to poker.

However, he’s one of few personalities with the power and charisma to make the game entertaining, even to someone who’s never played a single hand of Hold’em in their life. This is what makes him our favorite of the World Series of Poker commentators.

#2 – Mike Sexton

Commentated On: World Poker Tour (WPT)

Mike Sexton and Vince Van PattenMike Sexton (left) with co-host Vince Van Patten (credit: World Poker Tour/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

“OMG! I cannot believe he just tried that!”

The dulcet tones of Mike Sexton flowed through 13 seasons of the World Poker Tour, ever since the first televised tour event aired in 2003.

With his trusty steed (former tennis pro Vince Van Patten) by his side and armed with a wardrobe of badly-fitting shirts, Sexton (and his Florida drawl) is rightly considered one of the best World Poker Tour commentators of all time.

Sexton had the rare advantage of actually being a decent player himself. He had a successful run of results in the WSOP, even before he started in front of the camera. Mike’s career tournament cashes total $6,708,146, including a WPT Montreal Main Event win in 2016.

Sadly, Sexton passed away in 2020, but his influence on the game lives on.

#3 – Jesse May

Commentated On: Late Night Poker, Poker Million, Irish Poker Open, Poker Nations Cup

Alexey Rybin, The Royal Flush Girls & Jesse MayAlexey Rybin, The Royal Flush Girls & Jesse May (third) (credit: World Poker Tour/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The original “Voice of Poker”, Jesse May was many Brits’ primary school teacher in the late 90s and early 00s as he took a whole new generation through the bewildering world of Texas Hold’em in the iconic ‘Late Night Poker’ show.

Always assisted by the laconic tones of Nic Szeremeta, Jesse’s commentary was notable for its frequent bouts of chuckles and incredulous cries of “WHATTTT?!” as one young upstart dared to raise it up pre-flop with K-2 offsuit.

The comment itself is much funnier if you know May’s background story and how he got involved with poker commentary in the first place. Initially, “Late Night Poker” had no plans to have a commentator, but it turned out that players, although they were all “characters,” were terrified of being on camera, and there wasn’t much banter going on at all (save for late Devilfish, of course).

Jesse busted out of the tournament early on, making a play with 9-3 offsuit, so he really didn’t have much going on. He volunteered to commentate on the rest of the action, secretly hoping he would get a chance to explain his move at some point. From there, stars simply lined up for the man who would become the “Voice of Poker.”

In 2012, Jesse was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the European Poker Awards for services to the game. What a legend.

#4 – James Hartigan

Commentated On: EPT, PCA, PokerStars Shark Cage

Poker commentator James HartiganJames Hartigan (credit: @J_Hartigan/X)

The British journalist and broadcaster from south London started out with the BBC and commercial radio before being given his big break in gambling with the cable-based The Poker Channel (the starting out point for many British media starlets).

Currently, James can be seen fronting up the TV commentary for PokerStars’ European Poker Tour and PCA coverage on UK television.

Hartigan has formed a dynamic duo with Joe Stapleton. Joe happily takes on the role of a “clown” while James is the serious one that tries to tame and control young Stape’s enthusiasm. It can feel awkward at times, but that’s precisely what show producers are aiming for, and once you get used to it, it adds to the whole viewing experience.

The pair’s terrific chemistry won them the ‘Best Podcast Award for Poker in the Ears’ in 2022, while Hartigan won the ‘Best Broadcaster’ award at the 4th Global Poker Awards in 2023.

#5 – Gabe Kaplan

Commentated On: Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker

Not many people combine sitcom acting, poker playing and commentating, but then, not all people are Gabe Kaplan. Now retired, he was perhaps most famous for his stint analyzing and commentating on High Stakes Poker. Kaplan’s dry and down-to-earth demeanor was a stark contrast to the mayhem going on at the table as Negreanu, Hansen et al proceeded to knock seven shades of bankroll out of each other.

It’s fair to say Gabe was instrumental to High Stakes Poker’s huge success. While fans enjoyed watching the game’s best duke it out on the green felt, it was Kaplan’s commentary that helped people understand what was going on, and his funny remarks helped pass the time when someone would go into a long tank facing a river bet.

When Gabe and HSP parted ways, the show just wasn’t the same anymore. Kaplan wasn’t an outsider, and he personally knew many of the best poker players appearing on the show, which probably helped a lot.

“It’s funny – once someone gets a $500 tip, the cocktail waitresses [sitting in the High Stakes Poker studio] start to multiply.”

Saying it how it is….

#6 – A.J. Benza

Commentated on: High Stakes Poker

While Gabe was the star in the commentary booth of High Stakes Poker, A.J. Benza was there to keep him company throughout the first five seasons of the show. Although Benza didn’t really know much about poker at all when the show first kicked off, he and Kaplan made an interesting duo.

A.J. was happy to take the role of an “armchair quarterback” (as he called himself in an interview describing his experience with HSP), who asked questions and let Gabe take things from there.

The chemistry between the two was good, and poker fans warmed up to A.J. co-commentating. In fact, when he was let go at the end of Season 5 and replaced by Kara Scott, fans from all over the world urged the GSN to reconsider their decision and bring Benza back.

A.J. wasn’t thrilled about the decision, either, but he always emphasized he was very fortunate to have an opportunity to work alongside Kaplan and help make HSP the success it had become.

Then in 2020, PokerGO relaunched High Stakes Poker with Kaplan and Benza in the commentary booth once more.  

#7 – Ali Nejad

Commentated on: Poker After Dark, National Heads Up Championship

Poker commentator Ali NejadAli Nejad (credit: Matt Waldron/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

To the poker community at large, Ali Nejad is best-known for his commentary on NBC’s Poker After Dark, although he did coverage for the National Heads Up Championship as well.

Unlike many more outspoken commentators out there, Ali had a different style, mostly calling out the action and throwing in an occasional pun. He largely let the chips and the players do the talking and kept to trying to explain things where necessary.

This approach divided the fan base. To some, it seemed like just wasn’t doing much at all, save for calling out the action. Others were happy with Nejad’s style as he wasn’t spoiling the actual play or trying too hard to add commentary where it wasn’t necessary.

#8 – Lex Veldhuis

Commentated on: Triton Poker Series

Lex isn’t in the same boat as many of the others covered in this article as he’s primarily a player – and a pretty good one, having won over $700,000 over the years. However, Veldhuis decided to take on a more active role as a poker commentator as well, covering certain events and high stakes cash game sessions taking place during various Triton Poker Series stops.

Lex may not be the showman that has an endless supply of jokes, and he doesn’t approach poker in the funny and relaxed way that some other commentators do, but that doesn’t take away anything from his commentary.

Instead of trying to make it fun for all, Veldhuis is more focused on the strategic aspect of the game, so he’ll offer his insights into hands, providing useful analysis and explanations for certain plays.

He may not make you laugh all the time, but he can definitely help you learn about the game along the way.

#9 – Tony Dunst

Commentated on: World Poker Tour

Poker commentator Tony DunstTony Dunst (credit: World Poker Tour/Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

With over $4.2 million in lifetime tournament cashes, Tony Dunst is an excellent poker player in his own right. He merged his passion for the game with his desire to spread his knowledge with the rest of the world, working as a WPT commentator.

Dunst was primarily in charge of the “Raw Deal” segment of the show. During every WPT episode, producers would select one or two exciting hands to break it down play by play, and Dunst was the man doing the breakdown.

When Mike Sexton announced his retirement from WPT commentary, Dunst was promoted into the role.

Dunst is quite popular with the fans. His unique style of analysis with just the right dose of humor and expert opinion added some flavor to the WPT coverage.

#10 – David Tuchman

Commentated on: Live at the Bike, Full Tilt Million Dollar Cash Game, World Series of Poker, PokerStars Highlights Show, 888 Live

Poker commentator David TuchmanDavid Tuchman (credit: World Poker Tour/Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

David Tuchman is one of the best-known voices in poker. Having started his commentating career in shows like Full Tilt Million Dollar Cash Game, he joined the World Series of Poker team in 2011, making his claim to poker fame.

Tuchman has also regularly appeared as the voice behind PokerStars Highlight shows, calling out the action for Sunday Million final tables as well as many other critical online events.

David Tuckman has also been involved with 888 Poker, commenting on their events and live streams. All in all, his name belongs to this list of the best poker commentators, and poker fans around the world will likely be listening to Tuckman’s voice for many years to come.

For similar articles, check out the Top 10 Biggest Poker Scandals Of All Time and The Most Memorable Moments In Poker History.

Author: Nathan Sanchez