Poker players and gamblers of other hues love to talk about the biggest game, bet, and stakes ever played. And many of the epic tales of gambling bravado have unfolded beneath the storied skyline of Las Vegas.
For poker players, the ultimate test of skill and psychological endurance is the heads-up match. The bigger the stakes, the higher the pressure and public interest. Such contests, such as the Galfond Challenge and the recent Polk-Negreanu match, attract large audiences rooting for their favorite player, or simply absorbing the cutting-edge of poker theory.
It appears we’re about to see the biggest poker game of all time come to Las Vegas. Dan Bilzerian announced simply via Twitter: “100 million dollar heads up match…”
Where it started
The five-month heads-up poker battle between Johnny Moss and Nick “the Greek” Dandalos is one of poker’s most famous tales. Like many stories based in Las Vegas, however, much of it seems to have been either embellished or simply misremembered by those there at the time.
There is consensus that Moss — the greatest poker player of his generation — played Dandalos over a long period of time and for sums of money not hitherto seen in a casino-based poker game.
Heavily stuck, Dandalos is credited for ending the contest with the immortal line: “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.”
Where it went
For the highest-stakes games, you need extremely wealthy people. Enter banker and self-made billionaire Andy Beal and his match(es) against “The Corporation.”
Starting in 2001, Texas-based Beal took on Las Vegas pros on their own turf in a series of limit hold’em games. The stakes were so large that the pros could only compete with Beal by pooling their bankrolls.
The story is beautifully told in Michael Craig’s classic “The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the richest poker game of all time.” The Corporation, which included such luminaries as Phil Ivey and Jennifer Harman, ultimately beat Beal for a sum reportedly around $20 million. But at one point in the match, Beal came close to wiping out the poker bankrolls of the top pros in Las Vegas.
Where it’s going
Dan Bilzerian is a polarizing figure.
Based on social media reaction, his brand of gun-toting, anti-science misogyny plays well with a sub-group of young men, while frequently leaving more mature audiences disgusted. Bilzerian notoriously referred to popular ACR pro Vanessa Kade as a “hoe,” further cementing his chauvinistic credentials and suggesting he spends very little time gardening.
Opinions on Bilzerian’s poker abilities are similarly divided. High-stakes, heads-up specialist Doug Polk analyzed one of Bilzerian’s sessions, noting some of his play was reminiscent of 2008 button-clicking, and concluding:
“I think that maybe he could beat some high-stakes, very soft live games, but on the internet he’s a fish in the water.”
Bilzerian counters criticism of his poker skills by claiming he has made tens of millions in live games, and that the dumb, trust-fund, meat-head routine is a deliberate act to sucker in unwary opponents.
Those skills are about to be put to the test in what is being billed as the biggest heads-up poker match ever. Bilzerian has announced he will take on Israeli billionaire Alec Gores in a match worth $100,000,000.
While no further details of the contest have been released, speculation is that post-WSOP Las Vegas is the obvious time and place for the event. Notably, PokerGO’s studio hosts “High Stakes Duel” and is technically perfect for the task, while the Las Vegas skyline would make the perfect historical backdrop.
Featured image source: Twitter