Ghostface Killah & Shawn Wigs Interview: Pokerface

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by Alex Shtaerman

For most MC’s “stacking chips” is just another expression in the broad encyclopedia of Hip-Hop jargon. However, when it comes to Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and his Theodore Unit prodigy Shawn Wigs, the phrase takes on a whole new much more literal meaning. Since joining forces on “Pokerface”, Hip-Hop’s first bona fide poker room anthem featured on Ghost’s critically acclaimed new LP More Fish, Ghost and Wigs have done more than just play their cards right. Far from a studio card shark, Wigs is a seasoned casino vet, recently taking first place at the FunkMaster Flex celebrity Poker Tournament, hosted by Diddy at Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal. With the worlds of poker and Hip-Hop drifting ever closer together as celebrities and fans alike jockey for an opportunity to get in on the action, Ghost is raising the stakes and blazing a trail for what is certain to be an exciting new outlet for the Hip-Hop community for many years to come. is the first and only online poker room designed specifically with Hip-Hop in mind. With his team of Shawn Wigs, DJ radio personality Angie Martinez and manager Caruso ready to take on all challengers, Ghostface brings the excitement of no-limit hold’em to fans around the globe as not only offers a unique interactive experience, but also opportunities for fans to win prizes, all expense paid VIP trips to shows and even a chance to kick it with Ghostface in Las Vegas. Want to know more? Read the interview.

RIOTSOUND.COM: The first thing many fans probably want to know is, how did you initially get involved with playing poker? How often do you play and how serious are you about sharpening your skills when it comes to the game?

GHOSTFACE KILLAH: Yo, first of all, I watched my mans and them play, they get busy, you know what I mean. Up in the studio we got like a little poker room in the back, so they be getting busy and shit and I see them niggas having a lot of fun and all that shit. And it’s like – yo, I tried that shit out. You know, it’s kinda hard, I ain’t no master at that shit, I’m still learning. But what happened was my man Wigs had wrote a poker song [Pokerface] and we put it on the album [More Fish]. A lot of motherfuckers liked that song, a lot of poker players and shit like that. We got the call from these poker dudes and they wanted to come in business with us. My man [Wigs] had won the Puff Daddy poker tournament up in Atlantic City, so the whole shit was just ringing. So niggas wanted to do business and one thing led to another and that’s how we got the website.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As far as the worlds of Hip-Hop and poker coming together on a single plane, what kind of synergy did you see there that really prompted you to go that route and launch the website?

GHOSTFACE KILLAH: I mean this shit is going to explode G. I’m glad that we caught it early because a lot of people they still not really really too far up on poker yet. Well actually, a lot of people is up on it but there is still a lot more that’s not, so within the next couple of years it’s gonna be in it’s prime and we gonna be sitting right there taking off. Our synergy is getting bigger and bigger because we gonna make this shit so fucking big son. We ain’t even get to paint the pictures that we want to paint yet, you know what I mean? So it’s like – yo, this shit is just still growing G and we at the sea level right now.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Some younger fans might not remember this but when Wu-Tang first came out you actually wore a mask over your face so nobody could see who you really were, hence the name Ghostface Killah. In a sense, isn’t that exactly what you want to do when you’re playing poker, mask your true self from your opponents so nobody could tell what you’re really thinking?

GHOSTFACE KILLAH: Yea, we gonna do all that shit, I’m hot on that shit. I’ma be the fucking Don King of this shit, the motherfucking Ric Flair of this shit. When we come in we gonna make this shit excitement. You might be able to call me Mr. Excitement in a minute, you know I what mean, because it’s gonna be going down son. I can’t really explain it, I don’t wanna give out too much information because I don’t want nobody to steal my ideas and shit. You know niggas always do that shit.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Without giving away any secrets, what do think are some of the most important factors in staying on top of your game and coming out ahead at the end of the day?

GHOSTFACE KILLAH: Its like – yo, you just gotta take off your pokerface and put on your Ghostface man, you feel me. And if you feel it in your gut, go all in man. That’s what it is G. This ain’t a game right now, we coming in with the swords son. You got chips nigga, we got chips. When we on that table son, it’s going down, you best believe we got the first deck, you heard.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Gza is known for his prowess at chess. Would you say his skills on a chess board would translate well into playing cards, or are those two different mindsets in terms of strategy?

GHOSTFACE KILLAH: Gza is a master at chess so Gza would do well because he strategizing and that’s what we dealing with in the poker hands. In these tournaments we strategizing, we thinking about our opponent or how he bluffing, or is he bluffing, you know what I mean? Sometimes we trying to hold off feelings. Because the best niggas is the ones that can hold their feelings and expressions. Play with no emotions man, that’s what’s going to get us over.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You are arguably the most dangerous player in the entire crew, when did you first start playing cards?

SHAWN WIGS: I started playing cards like six or seven years ago. First I joined a little home game and then I started shooting to the casinos and, you know, once you get involved in it, you just fall into it.

RIOTSOUND.COM: I know a lot of times when you play with your friends and there’s a lot of money on the table, sometimes you can get into heated disputes.

SHAWN WIGS: Oh yea, we always do that, that’s every time we play.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Given that factor, would you recommend playing with your friends or just playing against people you don’t know?

SHAWN WIGS: It depends, if you wanna have fun, play with your friends. If you wanna be more professional play with people you don’t know. You know, ‘cause when you play with your friends that’s not sharpening your game up ‘cause people are just trying to call you just to beat you, it don’t matter if they have good hands or not.

RIOTSOUND.COM: There are many different variations of poker, what are some of your favorite games to play?

SHAWN WIGS: We pretty much just play no-limit hold’em. I don’t really like flat-limit or limit games, I don’t like Omaha or High Low; I don’t really like none of that. Five card stud is alright, we play that once in a while but pretty much it’s just no-limit hold’em.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What would you say is the biggest difference between a no-limit game and a game where there are various restrictions on betting?

SHAWN WIGS: I don’t particularly like limit games because it gives an opportunity for people to fish to see the next card for a cheap price, you know what I’m saying. Pot-limit is a little bit different because sometimes you can raise the pot which could raise them out but otherwise limit and pot-limit gives people an opportunity to see cards where in no-limit you could put their tournament life or all their money at stake on it. No-limit to me is more exciting.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As we move forward, do you see Hip-Hop becoming a big factor in the world of poker?

SHAWN WIGS: I could see poker being a big factor in the Hip-Hop world ‘cause poker is already big. When something becomes part of Hip-Hop it always does well, like clothing, jewelry and [other things]. Gambling is all about high stakes and being flashy and that’s all Hip-Hop’s about so it was destined to come together.

RIOTSOUN.COM: Personally, where do you prefer to play, Vegas or Atlantic City?

SHAWN WIGS: Personally I feel more comfortable in Atlantic City. Vegas is very big and it’s kind of intimidating if you haven’t played in a casino. ‘Cause you know the first time you go in a casino it could be intimidating so just being in Vegas is more intimidating in general. But just like everything else, once you get your shoes off under the table and you comfortable, your good man. You forget where you are, you just playing.

RIOTSOUD.COM: One thing I always wonder about in a poker game is people cheating and working together; how often does that happen?

SHAWN WIGS: Yea, that happens day in and day out.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What do you do when you see something like that going on?

SHAWN WIGS: The only way to stop that is, if you see that going on at your table, just rack your chips and head to another table. There’s not much you could really do about it, especially if you playing online. Who knows who got a computer and who’s talking to each other. If you just play your cards and play smart, that’s the best way to go about it, ‘cause you got cheaters out there no matter what goes on.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What would you say is the most you’ve ever won in a single sitting playing cards?

SHAWN WIGS: It was probably at that Diddy tournament. I took first prize in that little tournament there. It was like fifteen thousand and change.

RIOTSOND.COM: Besides poker, do you enjoy any other card games?

SHAWN WIGS: I don’t really play too much other cards. I mean, we roll dice too. There’s a game called Casino, so we play that too sometimes. As far as cards, it’s pretty much just poker and Casino and that’s it.

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