While an alienated electorate showed its rejection of mainstream politicians by largely embracing far-right parties at this week’s European elections, the people of Lithuania showed their leanings by voting in the brash and flamboyant poker player known to most as simply Tony G.
And while the Euroskeptic movement gained ground across the continent, G’s pro-Europe Liberal Party exceeded all expectations by securing with 16.52% of the vote, making it Lithuania’s third political party.
“Today we made history in Lithuanian politics,” proclaimed Tony G – real name Antanas Guoga – who will now take his seat on the European Parliament. “For the first time Liberals have won two seats in the European Parliament. My sincere thanks go to all the voters, those who supported and helped me along the way!”
The poker-player-turned-businessman, who was born in Lithuania but grew up in Australia, has become famous in his country of birth for his many charitable projects and for, somewhat bizarrely, coaching the national basketball team from 2010 to 2012, even leading Team Lithuania out at the London Olympics’ opening ceremony.
He first appeared on our TV screens at the 2004 WPT Grand Prix de Paris, where he finished second to the UK’s Surinder Sunar, having mercilessly bated his opponent throughout the final. He soon built up a reputation for brash table manners and for having a proficiency in tournaments as well cash games – today, his lifetime live tournament earnings stand at almost $5 million.
As a businessman, he is the founder and CEO of the poker news portal PokerNews.com, and his online betting and poker site TonyBet.com.
Famously, he once berated poker player Ralph Perry – who is of Russian heritage – so harshly – with his cries of “On yer bike, Russian” – that it prompted commentator Gabe Kaplan to speculate that he might reignite the Cold War. We’re hoping his tenure in parliament doesn’t result in that – particularly in the current climate.
“I think that Lithuanian politics needs new people and new blood and I want to change policy,” Guoga has said in the past. “I have been fortunate enough myself to be reasonably successful in my life and I have new ideas and hope to inspire others to come into politics too. I think I can bring a lot to the table with my experience in life and business.”
The European Parliament is currently made up of 766 members, with its main roles being to discuss and pass European laws, supervise other European institutions and adopt and enforce the EU’s budget. And it seems Tony G is intent on bringing his poker player wiles to the European political stage, having previously described politics as one big sit-and-go: “We are all playing,” he said. “Every country is playing and whoever plays the smartest, is going to be successful.”