If you haven’t heard already, and that’s a big if, you need to know that PokerStars’ The Big Game will make a comeback in 2024. It’s been twelve long years since the initial run of the show and the announcement of the return has the poker community steeped in anticipation.
Thus far, we know of a few players that will feature on the show’s return, thanks in part to the most recent installation of the Poker in the Ears podcast, hosted by Joe Stapleton and James Hartigan. The names announced on the episode include veterans of The Big Game Lex Veldhuis, Phil Laak, Jennifer Tilly, along with the introduction of Arden Cho, high stakes poker player and actress.
PokerOrg spoke with Veldhuis to hear his thoughts on the return of The Big Game and to get a feel for his approach to playing this time around.
We haven’t seen you in a televised cash game setting in a while. What can we expect from you in The Big Game?
Lex Veldhuis: I’m just ready to play, you know? I really feel like I’ve matured in poker. I take the game more seriously. And I think the game has gotten more serious as well, right?
There’s a big difference in the way people are competitive, randomly blasting isn’t always going to get you to the finish line. I’ve definitely spent more time working on my game in the past two years with BBZ than I have in the past ten years together, I think. I was very fearless in cash games back then.
I haven’t played many cash games before, but I think the things that I’ve learned transfer over really well, to this format as well. So, I’m just super excited, I like the game element of it. I’m just gonna have a good time, you know. I’m not afraid to play, I’m not afraid to mix it up.
And I’m just there to have a good time. The Big Game in the past was just one of the most fun experiences that I’ve had playing poker. I haven’t been this excited to play something in a very long time, and I’ve been pretty excited to play other things, you know, like if I think about getting ready for a COOP or the PSPC, of course. But this one has got me like, you know, rubbing my hands. When everything was settled and it was a hundred percent, I was so enthusiastic. I called my wife and I’m so happy, I can’t wait to play. And yeah, I mean, we’re just gonna see what the table’s like and fight for every f*****g pot.
What’s it like looking back on the episodes you were featured in during the show’s initial run?
LV: It’s actually an interesting question because I did a whole YouTube series that looked back on all my Big Game hands. So, I looked back at most of my big hands and I realized I liked the fearlessness.
There’s a lot of stuff I like in there. Obviously, you have to look at it in…it’s timescaped at that moment, right? Like, I can’t look at a hand like, this is poorly played, this is not GTO, all of that’s nonsense. But that’s not really what I should be looking for. Of course, it’s important to learn if you look at the past.
I do think that I did need to reign it in in a few pots, right? There’s some stuff where I just focus on aggression too much. There’s one really big pot that I played with sixes versus Vanessa Russo. And it’s just like, you know, I go all in pre-flop because I think she is weak, but I just can’t represent anything myself.
So, I feel like that’s where the maturity comes in. You know, patience, maturity. I think I was just ready to go and I was always in non-stop go mode. But one thing I do know is that when I look at those episodes, I just remember how much fun I had. I mean you know, the memory of playing with Doyle, talking to him all day, like I sat next to him for 12 hours, you know.
It’s a very cherished memory for me and I really, really loved it. When I think back on it, I just have a great feeling. I loved playing it, I love how it came out, I love how people perceive it. Yeah, I mean it did a lot for my career as well, so, all in all, very good.
What do you think makes for a good Loose Cannon?
LV: You know what? We have a saying in the Netherlands, you can’t look in someone’s wallet. So like, if a loose cannon is up, right? And they start playing tighter, I completely get that. It’s something pretty natural, right? It’s not like they’re there to grind an edge or something.
So, if somebody locks up a big win, I completely get that. I think what the bigger problem is, is Loose Cannons don’t always seem to realize that when there’s 30 hands left and you are stuck $20,000, and you need to make a profit, you really can’t let spots go. You can’t be on the tighter side of things.
You can’t think like, oh, maybe I should play this, but I have a feeling you have it, you know. I actually think that Loose Cannons should weaponize the fact that they need to make action, right? So, for instance, go for really light value bets because people are going to think that they want to bluff to take pots down, people aren’t going to give you a lot of respect.
There were times in the past where people had less than half their starting stack. So, even if they double they wouldn’t be in profit, and they were still folding like reasonable hands. You know, like you would see 75 suited being folded because somebody raised, like you just can’t do that anymore.
At a certain point, you need to go treasure hunting. So, that’s what my advice would be. You can’t think of it as a $50k buy-in. You have to look at it as a freeroll to win money. And the fact that you’re down 20-30k, it’s not your money. You’re not down $20k-$30k, but your chances of making money are getting obliterated. I think a Good Loose cannon realizes that. And I would also give them a tip to try to sort of mis-portray their personality…somebody’s personality is how they’re going to approach the Loose Cannon situation. That’s an important factor.