American Idol’s William Hung Details Failed Poker Career


In 2004, the name William Hung became synonymous with a unique blend of earnestness and musical shortcomings, as he attempted to captivate the judges on American Idol with his rendition of Ricky Martin’s ‘She Bangs.’ Hailing from Los Angeles, Hung brought a palpable positivity to the stage, but unfortunately, his singing endeavors during the show’s third season were met with Simon Cowell’s blunt assessment, deeming it “one of the worst auditions we’ve had this year.”

Despite falling short of pop stardom, Hung’s audition took an unexpected turn into the realm of virality, catapulting him into a brief but intense spotlight that included media appearances, motivational speaking engagements, and even the release of an album. However, this newfound notoriety also paved the way for a less savory chapter in Hung’s life – a foray into poker that ultimately led to the development of a gambling problem.

Reflecting on this period, Hung disclosed, “Unfortunately, I developed a gambling addiction. I knew I was adept at poker, but unchecked greed led me into sports betting and the whole gamut. I know better now. I wasn’t supposed to tread those paths, but I did, and I paid the price. It resulted in divorce, and I learned the importance of making wise choices when taking risks.”

Following the initial wave of fame, Hung redirected his focus towards education, achieving degrees in mathematics and an MBA. Despite securing a steady job in statistical analysis with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the allure of the poker table proved too compelling for Hung to resist. Three years ago, he made the bold decision to quit his job and embark on a career as a professional poker player.

His poker journey unfolded with notable successes, accumulating $108,295 in live tournament winnings. Highlights included a commendable third-place finish for $17,856 at a $235 World Series of Poker Daily DeepStacks event in 2015 and a victory in the Ante Up 4 Autism benefit tournament in 2022.

Originally from Hong Kong, Hung experienced a common pitfall familiar to many dedicated gamblers – the temptation of off-table betting. Last year, he shared a candid and detailed account of his struggles with gambling on LinkedIn, vowing to sever ties with all forms of wagering.

Since that turning point, Hung has undergone a transformative journey. He returned to his former job, entered into a new marriage, and now aspires to build a family with his new wife. Grateful for the simplicity of his current life, he reflects, “There’s nothing amiss in embracing a stable job post-fame. I believe it’s the right path to provide for my family now.”