High Stakes Poker Live: Entertaining, Painfully Unwatchable

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Unsavory conduct

“This man is a raving lunatic,” mentioned commentator Nick Schulman concerning the self-anointed King of LA, poker’s latest unhealthy boy Nikhil Arcot as he downed his umpteenth glass of Pinot Noir throughout a tumultuous seven hours within the PokerGO studio. 

Nik ‘Airball,’ as Arcot is best identified, introduced his signature smack-talk and rowdiness to proceedings from the get-go however because the wine took its toll, his schtick disintegrated into bare bravado and idiocy. It was noteworthy that his goader and cheerleader Doug Polk and Lynne Ji finally stopped egging him on because it turned obvious that he was off the rails, a dancing, shouting, burping buffoon. 

poker for the ‘Love Is Blind’ technology

It was an excellent circus and an inglorious horror-show, compelling viewing that exposed the worst of poker. It was not simply insanity however the reason for insanity in others. It was poker for the ‘Love Is Blind’ technology besides it was the viewers that needed to pluck out their eyes. 

Poker beefs

Evidently, poker is a aggressive endeavour and with competitors comes rivalry and with rivalry generally you get real animosity between gamers. Poker gamers are a various bunch, coming from all walks of life with quite a lot of world views so, off the felt, there’s most likely extra battle than you’d discover in different communities too. 

Proper now, it does really feel like we’re extra polarized than ever earlier than with arguments and disagreements between members of the neighborhood receiving extra consideration than the precise taking part in of the sport all of us love. These beefs dominate poker Twitter, sometimes spilling over to the felt. 

Whether or not it’s actual beef or manufactured beef, exhibits like Hustler’s ‘Max-Ache Monday’ have leaned into the skilled wrestling mannequin, accentuating the pre-game verbal altercations to boost the eventual on-felt actions. The priority is, nevertheless, that whereas battle is definitely the important thing to riveting drama, it will possibly additionally delay lots of people. 

there are lots of people who’re intimidated by the obnoxious carry-on”

My fellow VegasSlotsOnline Information contributor Dara O’Kearney is fed up of the “for clicks” justification. In an upcoming episode of ‘The Chip Race,’ he says “this type of behaviour may encourage individuals to look at poker however I don’t suppose it makes many wish to play it. I do know from private expertise of teaching college students that there are lots of people who’re intimidated by the obnoxious carry-on. Worryingly, this group traits closely in direction of demographics already underrepresented stay, like females.”

Negreanu’s beefs price him hundreds of thousands

Traditionally, one of many greatest poker beefs was between two of the video games greatest content material creators, veteran Daniel Negreanu and heads-up specialist Doug Polk. In July 2020, Negreanu lastly had sufficient of Polk’s relentless jibes and accepted a problem to play him heads-up. Seven months later, Polk had realized an necessary lesson concerning the worth of trolling as he backed up the truck to the tune of $1.2m. 

Negreanu could have misplaced a bit of cash however, in taking over Polk, he realized lots concerning the trendy recreation. He was eager to display these new abilities by reigniting an previous rivalry with Phil Hellmuth. ‘The Poker Brat’ obliged and a rejuvenated Negreanu had his fish on the hook for a Excessive Stakes Twin. 

The build-up concerned a number of boisterousness as Negreanu relentlessly criticized his rival’s perception in ‘white magic’ and questioned his report in opposition to harder opposition. “On the key league excessive curler circuit, he can not win,” mentioned Negreanu, including: “He could have been a GOAT of his period, however that period is lengthy gone.” Negreanu additionally boasted of the extra aspect motion he was taking over himself within the match. 

Hellmuth received 3:0 for a $350,000 mixed win

In response, Hellmuth was cordial, respectful and complimentary of Negreanu and when the matches lastly occurred between March and June 2021, Hellmuth received 3:0 for a $350,000 mixed win. “The place’s the window, child?” mentioned an virtually giggly Phil Hellmuth, after finishing the Excessive Stakes Twin II whitewash. 

A World’s Truthful of grudge matches

Different well-known poker feuds embrace these between Polk and Charlie Carrel, Polk and Fernando ‘JNandez,’ Habegger and, extra just lately, Polk and Matt Berkey. There may be additionally loads of friction between Berkey and Nik Airball, Berkey and Ji, and Berkey and Eric Persson. It’s in opposition to that backdrop {that a} stay Excessive Stakes Poker line-up was concocted by PokerGO Director of Programming Brett Hanks.

On April seventeenth, Schulman took to Twitter to interrupt the information:

Billed because the World’s Truthful of grudge matches, PokerGO had a hunch how issues may go:

On Thursday evening, Jean-Robert Bellande, Rob Yong, and Jennifer Tilly took their seats alongside the possibly explosive quintet of Polk, Persson, Ji, Berkey and Nik Airball. It was a tinderbox however some speculated that, in particular person, the gamers would undertake a extra civil tone. These ideas had been rapidly solid apart when Berkey and Nik Airball clashed throughout the first orbit. 

Airball versus Berkey

Nik Airball is an funding banker and common in The Hustler On line casino Stay money recreation. He has risen to prominence prior to now 12 months for his brash and rambunctious manner and, extra just lately, due to an look on Doug Polk’s podcast on which he known as Berkey a scammer. 

“If you run a coaching website and you may’t beat the video games, you’re a scammer. You’re promoting bullshit.

It simply is what it’s, you’re a scam-artist.”

It was spurious reasoning from Nik Airball whose sense of entitlement seemingly extends to the concept that poker gamers ought to simply drop no matter they’re doing and journey to LA to play him when he hollers. The entire incident wreaked of clout-chasing however ultimately, Berkey took the bait, albeit beneath his personal revised phrases. 

Berkey provided to play Airball on the Bellagio at stakes of $200/400 on daily basis for a month. Polk then provided himself as a substitute to which Berkey replied: 

“We’ll roll the pink carpet out so that you can come play full ring you washed up geezer. Nobody ever has nor ever will duck you in ring video games. Keep in your lane.”

The combating speak continued and after buying and selling a number of extra barbs on podcasts and on Twitter, the 2 combatants lastly selected a heads-up ‘death-match.’ Additionally they mutually agreed on an arbitrator for future disputes. 

Enter Galfond

Run It As soon as founder Phil Galfond was requested to carry out within the unenviable place of arbitrator for the grudge match. One among his first mediations was a possible deal-breaker for Berkey who refused to permit Nik Airball to have his pal Eshaan Bhalla on the rail. Galfond shared to Twitter how the negotiations had been going:

After that concern was resolved, Galfond posted that the pair had agreed on a 100-hour match at stakes of $200/$400-$400 with a $100k minimal buy-in. They’d play three periods per week with 6.5 hours per session. Both participant can give up if down $1m and there could be a $10,000 penalty for a missed session or quitting early. The match started on April 2 however not earlier than the pair went toe to toe for a weird weigh-in of types:

Since then, there have been a number of extra disputes over Nik Airball’s egregious break-taking and Berkey exposing arms at showdown. Nevertheless, all in all, Galfond appears to be maintaining the match on observe. On the half-way level, Berkey is up $306,800 as the 2 combatants took their rivalry to a unique location and a wider viewers. 

Photographs fired early on Excessive Stakes Poker 

PokerGO aired seven hours of poker pantomime but it surely solely took a couple of minutes to witness a conflict between Berkey and Nik Airball. The previous set his lure, limping blind versus blind with pocket Aces solely to fall into that lure himself when the latter made a flush on the river. A $100,000 stack was shipped to Nik Airball however not rapidly sufficient for his liking:

Though eager to take part in all the banter happening, Polk who has been serving to Nik Airball in his grudge match, was considerably restrained when it got here to Berkey. Polk insisted that he had nothing private in opposition to him however fairly his points stemmed from how Berkey had negatively mischaracterized points of his new card membership ‘The Lodge.’ 

For his half, Berkey principally blanked Polk and the incessant cackling from Nik Airball and Ji. He was very a lot dialled into the poker, though on a Twitter Areas after the session, he made it abundantly clear that his points with Polk are private, saying: “I actually despise him.” 

Drinks flowing, pots rising 

Because the evening wore on, the drinks had been flowing and the pots had been rising. The deck served up some coolers as Tilly misplaced a number of however then took a chunky one off Berkey. Then Yong and later Persson took massive ones off Polk. Bellande bled all evening till getting fortunate with pocket Sixes versus Nik Airball’s pocket Aces within the last orbit. 

Doug realized that he may on the mistaken aspect of historical past

Whereas the chips had been definitely flying, it’s truthful to say that the true story to emerge was the degeneracy of Nik Airball who was loud and obnoxious, badgering his opponents at each flip. As he received messier, it appeared as if maybe Doug realized that he may on the mistaken aspect of historical past:

The session ended on a fairly weird word with Nik Airball shedding an unnecessarily massive pot to the all the time elegant Tilly however not earlier than he wasted eight full minutes tanking whether or not he would name off one other $87,000 with a deuce-high flush draw. All through the spot, it was unclear whether or not he had misinterpret his hand or if he was genuinely contemplating a second of insanity. In any case, the clock was known as by a clearly unimpressed Polk and a line was lastly drawn beneath the torrid affair. 


A number of weeks in the past, Vanessa Kade mentioned: “Twitter has been such a horrible shit-show this week” and after I noticed that I assumed ‘what an evergreen tweet.’ The extent of discourse has devolved into one thing extra resembling faculty yard exchanges between individuals who ought to know higher and it’s unclear whether or not this episode of Excessive Stakes Poker was both an extension of that or a lancing of that boil. 

The subsequent morning, Polk expressed the dilemma going through livestream creators as it’s simple that there have been individuals who loved the stream and individuals who had been repulsed by the stream however rubbernecked it regardless:

In that phase for ‘The Chip Race,’ O’Kearney follows up by saying: “I do my greatest to dispel the concept that everybody who performs stay is an asshole but it surely’s swimming in opposition to the present of all this supposed content material.”

My very own take is there’s most likely house for all sorts of poker streams, together with this one, but it surely was disappointing to see an esteemed present like Excessive Stakes Poker sully it’s model by embracing the values of ‘The Jerry Springer Present.’ It’s sadder nonetheless to suppose that PokerGO believed that they wanted to co-opt the skilled wrestling mannequin to compete with the likes of Hustler Stay. 

Closing ideas

In WWE wrestling, the storylines are written and the wrestlers are actors. In that sense, they observe the script and receives a commission for his or her performances. In livestream poker, nevertheless, the gamers are risking theirs and generally different individuals’s cash whereas additionally taking part in the sport inside the recreation. The aim of that secondary recreation is reaching poker notoriety which might additionally carry supplementary income streams however can be desired by many in and of itself. 

everybody concerned in immediately’s excessive profile poker beefs has one thing to promote

It can’t be ignored that just about everybody concerned in immediately’s excessive profile poker beefs has one thing to promote. It additionally can’t be ignored that the livestream producers even have a product to promote. The difficulty is whether or not these goals run in keeping with or afoul of the broader aim of promoting poker to a wider viewers. 

For higher or worse, this episode of Excessive Stakes Poker has introduced eyeballs to poker. The query stays whether or not it’ll put bums on money recreation seats or if it has simply solid us as a bunch of dickish high-schoolers and fame-hungry wannabe actuality TV stars with whom no person would wish to spend their leisure time. 


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