Has there ever been a better time to be a fan–casual or otherwise–of high-stakes televised poker?
Somehow, it’s about to get even better.
Tomorrow, Thursday, April 27th, PokerGo will live-stream a special edition of its flagship program High Stakes Poker. It’s going to be a game for the ages.
The lineup announced last week by Nick Schulman is as close to perfect as a lineup can come: Eric Persson, Jennifer Tilly, Rob Yong, Bill Klein, Nik Airball, Doug Polk, and Matt Berkey. The names are notable, sure, but it’s the drama bubbling beneath the surface that promises for an all-time, must-watch session of High Stakes Poker.
Berkey vs. Airball…and Polk…and Persson
If you’ve been paying attention to poker Twitter over the last few weeks, you’ll know that Berkey and Airball are roughly halfway through a heads-up grudge match. The latest reports have Berkey winning roughly $300,000, but there’s a long way to go, and the heads-up swings are volatile. PokerOrg spoke with both combatants prior to the match. Craig Tapscott’s write-up provides insight into their thoughts along with a full recap of events leading up to the match.
The hands play out between Berkey and Airball, but in some ways, these two players are representatives of a larger clash within poker. The match is divisive within the community. The battle lines formed quickly and exist, seemingly, on several planes. These lines aren’t rock solid. There’s sure to be some crossover, but, in a rough sense, this is where they’ve formed.
There’s the geographic front: simply Las Vegas vs. Los Angeles.
The training site line: Upswing vs. Solve For Why.
There’s the content machine line: Berkey’s OnlyFriends Podcast vs. Polk’s YouTube empire, with an assist from Airball’s new YouTube show.
Then there are those that are merely here for the trash talk, the banter, and the blood. They’re all loving this. And let’s not forget the side bets.
Eric Persson’s role in the drama comes mostly as an inciting character, the pot-stirrer if you will. Persson likes to talk and has zero fear of putting his money where his mouth is. Persson’s beef with Berkey likely stems from his involvement in aspects of the OnlyFriend’s discussions of the J4 scandal, but that’s not the only source of bitterness between the two. Persson recently took to Twitter to propose a side bet between himself, Polk, and Airball.
The side bet proposal is likely just another needle from Persson. Besides, it can’t really happen due to the implications for other players and, assumedly, Nevada Gaming laws. The underlying message, however, is important to note.
That message being: “It’s us vs. him.”
As Brent Hanks pointed out, that was just Persson being Persson.
Good? Bad? Ugly? Profitable?
The bad blood between Berkey and the triumvirate of Persson, Airball, and Polk is loud and difficult to ignore. Whether these ongoing feuds are good for the game is arguable, but there’s no denying the entertainment value provided by televising these four players, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in front of each, playing for it all.
The other half of the lineup, the players with no skin in the drama game, are in somewhat of an awkward spot. Do they wade into the fray and mix it up? Or do they wait for the right spots, and play on the safer side? Tilly, Klein, and Yong are all experienced players, none of them likely to shy away from the action. The dynamic at play between the others should provide opportunities for one of the three to insert themselves at a profitable moment.
A bold prediction: Jennifer Tilly or Rob Yong catch a run of hot cards and clean up the entire table.