On Thursday night, Matt Berkey, Doug Polk, and Nikhil “Nik Airball” Arcot set aside their rivalries to battle against one other in the inaugural live-streamed game of High Stakes Poker.
Thousands of viewers logged in to PokerGO for seven hours to see a $200/$400 no-limit hold’em game (with straddles on frequently) featuring two long-standing adversaries. It wasn’t long before the crowds saw the action they had come to see. However, the table banter and constant cackling between the players came under fire on social media.
Polk and Airball both made $500,000 bets, bringing the total pot to almost $2.5 million. At the table, Eric Persson had $400,000 in cash, followed by Jennifer Tilly ($150,000) and Lynne Ji ($100,000). Jean-Robert Bellande joined the game late with a stack of $200,000 while Rob Yong arrived later with $600,000.
Berkey’s Airball Stacks Are Rivals
At 3 p.m. PT on Thursday, Brent Hanks and Nick Schulman began their live commentary of High Stakes Poker. New poker players were already squabbling over chips before 4 o’clock.
Heads-up poker was played early in the seven-hour session between Airball and Berkey, as it had done in the preceding weeks.
Berkey was in the small blind and, seeing that there was no straddling going on, decided to play his AA slowly by calling the next bet. With 84 in the big blind, Airball decided to check. The nut over pair was drawing to a flush after the flip of J72. Berkey checked, and his opponent then bet $1,000, continuing his strategy to sneak with aces.
Berkey had had enough of the waiting game and requested a raise to $3,500 in the form of a cheque. The K on the turn accomplished nothing for either player, so Berkey risked $10,000 and was again called.
The 5 on the river completed the flush, increasing the amount of the pot to almost $100,000, but Berkey, who began the hand with roughly $100,000, decided to go for value and bet $15,000. Airball, who was well covered, went all in against him for another $71,000. The creator of Solve for Why had no choice but to make the call before learning the devastating news that his aces had been cracked.
That’s it: “Life is good!” The airhead yelled. The implication is, “Give me all the chips.”
Airball reached over and moved the chips from Berkey’s stack to his own when Berkey didn’t give them to him right away. Berkey lost his whole stack early on, but he rebought for the same amount, doubled back to even, and then rapidly doubled again to be ahead.
Poker Is Quite the Joke On occasion, the greatest preflop hand in no-limit Texas hold ’em is a pair of aces. However, the poker gods can and will punish any player at any time who chooses to play pocket rockets. On Thursday’s main event, the preflop nuts showed up frequently but frequently failed to hold.
In a bad beat against his archenemy Berkey, Airball came out on top thanks to his pocket aces. But later in the show, in an even larger pot, Bellande turned the tables on him.
Airball, holding AA with a double straddle, raised to $25,000, driving away all but the best players and causing Tilly to fold his AJ. Despite being down six figures for the day, Bellande called an all-in bet of $148,000 with 6 6 .
After a quick call from Airball, who had already added $500,000 to his initial buy-in and was ready to go, the high rollers decided to run the game just once. The final scoreboard would read 94, 610, 88, giving Bellande the set and suckout victory. The night ended with him in the black as he won the $299,000 pot on one of the final hands.
Polk Finally Unlocks Airball’s Secrets
On High Stakes Poker, Nik Airball’s pocket aces were both a blessing and a curse. With that hand, he got into a heated confrontation with Polk, who had just joined the game intending to muscle up half the table.
After the action checked to Airball with $27,000 in the pot on a flop of 65K, he bet $13,000 with AA, an over pair and the nut flush draw. That was a solid hand, but Polk had flopped a flush with Q10 and called, putting him in a precarious position.
When the 4 hit the turn, Polk once again checked before calling a $50,000 wager. Polk checked the river a third time in the hopes of setting the trap when the 7 appeared. The co-owner of The Lodge Card Club won $153,000 when Airball folded, but the pot would have been much bigger if Airball had led out on the river.
Polk was up more than $100,000 throughout a good portion of the session, and he was in the black for more than half of it. Unfortunately, he lost about $120,000 that day after running into two coolers in large pots. Against Persson’s complete house, he had trouble folding the nut straight in one hand. In the other, with a board reading 7-10-A-J-3, he bet out $50,000 on the river and then called a raise to $200,000 from Yong, who held the nuts with K-Q.
Cackling Too Much?
Over the course of the evening, over 12,000 people watched online. However, many Twitter poker players criticized the players’ “cackles” and table banter. Daniel Negreanu, himself, cast aspersions on the contestants.
No one could have reasonably expected this roster to sit quietly and play poker. After all, PokerGO hand-picked this team since several of its members were bulking up. However, not everyone in the audience enjoyed the heated exchanges between the competitors.
As author Shane Schleger put it, “what a time to be alive, the famous Hollywood actress is the least attention-seeking personality in the bunch,” meaning that Tilly never has any beefs with anybody.
Someone on Twitter wondered how Negreanu would do in that lineup, and he responded, “awful,” since the other players would have made him “monkey tilt.”
I’m done with it. God, this is terrible. These a-holes are disrespectful, then they replay the interaction and cheer themselves. Take all of @berkey11 and @JenniferTilly’s money, and good luck to you! After seeing the footage of Airball ridiculing Berkey after stacking him, poker writer Jennifer Newell tweeted, “I couldn’t be more disappointed in poker right now.”
When Tilly, who had a set on the turn, bet all in, Airball responded strangely, if not irrationally, by entering a 10-minute tank with nothing but ace-high and a deuce kicker.
Commentators Schulman and Hanks couldn’t figure out why Airball kept tanking with a hand so poor that it only defeated a handful of other hands. With ace-high and the 2 on a three-spades board, he was facing a bet of about $100,000 to win a pot of $257,000, so it’s not like he was pot committed.
Airball splashed his stack of chips in front of him for some reason, then put his cards beneath the chips while he considered his option (if he was truly doing that at all, since others believed he was simply seeking attention). When time was called, he folded, and the historic first episode of High Stakes Poker was over.
*Photos provided by PokerGO.