Berkey ends Airball in heads-up match, wins $1 million

Matt Berkey at the 2022 WPT World Championship
Mo Afdhal
Posted on: May 08, 2023 04:48 PDT

It's all over.

Saturday, Matt Berkey and Nik Airball sat down for the ninth day of their heads-up challenge. Going into Saturday's session, Berkey was winning big, up well more than $600,000.

A few hours later, the match was over and Berkey declared victory, taking more than $1 million from Airball in less than sixty hours of play.

The grudge match

The two began their heads-up battle last month after Airball called out Berkey on a podcast episode with Doug Polk. After a heated negotiation (and some thankless arbitration from Phil Galfond) the two parties agreed on terms, and the match began. The plan was to play for 100 hours with a stop loss set at $1 million at which either player could choose to end the match.

The match began with expected turbulence. Airball took frequent breaks during the first session of play, frustrating Berkey endlessly. Again, Galfond had to step in, this time to arbitrate rules for breaks in play. With the excessive breaks tempered, the match continued and Airball showed improvement in his game, winning in two consecutive sessions.

The sixth session of the match seemed to be the opening of the floodgates with Berkey taking Airball for more than $300,000. Airball bounced back, though, booking a small win himself. In the eighth bout, Berkey hit back at Airball for another big number.

Then it was all over in the ninth.

There was debate about whether the match would end due to completion or to the stop loss. Some thought it unlikely for either player to go down a million dollars playing at these stakes. Others were certain there'd be blood in the streets from at least one of the fighters.

In the end, the stop loss was triggered first.

Who's got next?

The line of poker players wanting action from Airball after this match is certain to stretch longer than the Las Vegas strip. At the top of the list, however, is Garrett Adelstein.

During Airball's appearance on Polk's podcast back in March, Berkey was not the only target of his ire. Airball took issue with Adelstein, particularly in relation to the influence he believed Adelstein wielded when it came to setting line-ups for the Hustler Casino Live games. Airball's rant against Adelstein eventually materialized into a standing offer to play heads-up.

Adelstein has accepted the challenge, but claims to have not heard back from Airball yet.