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High Stakes Poker Live: Entertaining, Painfully Unwatchable


Unsavory habits

“This man is a raving lunatic,” mentioned commentator Nick Schulman in regards to 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 healthier 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’ era

It was a wonderful 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’ era besides it was the viewers that wished to pluck out their eyes. 

Poker beefs

Evidently, poker is a aggressive endeavour and with competitors comes rivalry and with rivalry typically you get real animosity between gamers. Poker gamers are a various bunch, coming from all walks of life with a wide range 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 enjoying of the sport all of us love. These beefs dominate poker Twitter, often spilling over to the felt. 

Whether or not it’s actual beef or manufactured beef, reveals 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, nonetheless, that whereas battle is definitely the important thing to riveting drama, it could 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 form of behaviour may encourage individuals to look at poker however I don’t assume 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 tendencies closely in direction of demographics already underrepresented stay, like females.”

Negreanu’s beefs value him hundreds of thousands

Traditionally, one of many largest poker beefs was between two of the video games largest 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 in regards to the worth of trolling as he backed up the truck to the tune of $1.2m. 

Negreanu might have misplaced a piece of cash however, in taking up Polk, he realized so much in regards to the fashionable recreation. He was eager to exhibit these new expertise by reigniting an outdated 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 quite a lot 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 might have been a GOAT of his period, however that period is lengthy gone.” Negreanu additionally boasted of the extra facet motion he was taking up himself within the match. 

Hellmuth gained 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 gained 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 Honest 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’s 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 Honest 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 doubtless explosive quintet of Polk, Persson, Ji, Berkey and Nik Airball. It was a tinderbox however some speculated that, in individual, the gamers would undertake a extra civil tone. These ideas have been shortly solid apart when Berkey and Nik Airball clashed in the course of the first orbit. 

Airball versus Berkey

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

“If you run a coaching website and you’ll’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 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 in the long run, Berkey took the bait, albeit underneath his personal revised phrases. 

Berkey provided to play Airball on the Bellagio at stakes of $200/400 day by day 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 preventing 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. Certainly one of his first mediations was a possible deal-breaker for Berkey who refused to permit Nik Airball to have his good friend Eshaan Bhalla on the rail. Galfond shared to Twitter how the negotiations have been going:

After that subject 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 might 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 fingers at showdown. Nonetheless, all in all, Galfond appears to be holding the match on observe. On the half-way level, Berkey is up $306,800 as the 2 combatants took their rivalry to a distinct location and a wider viewers. 

Pictures fired early on Excessive Stakes Poker 

PokerGO aired seven hours of poker pantomime however it 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 shortly sufficient for his liking:

Though eager to take part in the entire banter occurring, 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 moderately his points stemmed from how Berkey had negatively mischaracterized facets 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 have been flowing and the pots have been rising. The deck served up some coolers as Tilly misplaced a couple of however then took a chunky one off Berkey. Then Yong and later Persson took huge ones off Polk. Bellande bled all evening till getting fortunate with pocket Sixes versus Nik Airball’s pocket Aces within the remaining orbit. 

Doug realized that he may on the fallacious facet of historical past

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

The session ended on a moderately weird be aware with Nik Airball shedding an unnecessarily massive pot to the all the time stylish 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 referred to as by a clearly unimpressed Polk and a line was lastly drawn underneath the torrid affair. 


A couple of weeks in the past, Vanessa Kade mentioned: “Twitter has been such a horrible shit-show this week” and once 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 following 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 have been repulsed by the stream however rubbernecked it regardless:

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

My very own take is there’s most likely area for every type of poker streams, together with this one, however it 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 assume that PokerGO believed that they wanted to co-opt the skilled wrestling mannequin to compete with the likes of Hustler Dwell. 

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, nonetheless, the gamers are risking theirs and typically different individuals’s cash whereas additionally enjoying the sport inside the recreation. The objective of that secondary recreation is reaching poker notoriety which may additionally deliver supplementary income streams however can also be desired by many in and of itself. 

everybody concerned in at the moment’s excessive profile poker beefs has one thing to promote

It can’t be ignored that just about everybody concerned in at the moment’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 problem is whether or not these goals run according to or afoul of the broader objective 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 is going to 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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