They say that one of the greatest parts about playing poker is that if you just put up the buy-in, you can play with the very best in the world. And that’s true, provided you have the buy-in. But it’s not often, or rather it’s extremely rare, that we mere mortals have the opportunity to battle against the very best in the world – often because of how high they play. And by the very best in the world, we’re talking about Phil Ivey.
Ivey, the two-time World Poker Tour champion, 10-time WSOP gold bracelet winner, and arguably the first name mentioned when you talk about the greatest poker player of all time – is someone even the biggest names (with the biggest bankrolls) in the game are excited to sit with.
But for one day only this year, Ivey battled against the masses when he arrived at the Wynn Poker Room for the WPT Premier Meet-Up Game. Forgoing his four-figure big blinds, Ivey splashed around in the $1/$3 and $2/$5 game surrounded by fans and poker influencers giving the everyman a shot at a home game story they’ll tell forever.
That’s certainly going to be the case for Long Nguyen, a player from Seattle who battled Ivey in a hand and was ecstatic to tell the tale.
“Coming into this trip I was saying it would be crazy if I had a chance to stack Phil Ivey and I was in a good spot,” Nguyen said. “I looked down at ace-queen suited and I jammed all in and Phil put his chips in…it was time for me to do it…I just got lucky.”
Nguyen is relatively new to poker in general but says he’s been studying Ivey’s Masterclass and watching him on YouTube videos.
“It’s just crazy,” he continued. “This is what dreams are made of, right? You see someone like Phil on all these videos and on livestreams and to be able to sit next to him and play, take a picture, and get a good story. Yea, this is what dreams are made of.”
Ivey spent the day making dreams like that come try for so many fans. The low stakes for Ivey were high stakes for those he was playing and it seemed he was more than ready to give them a shot at winning a ticket to the WPT World Championship drawing, and a forever brag in their home games.
“He’s one of the first players I can really remember watching like 15, 20 years ago when I was getting into poker with my dad,” said Paul Losch, who also battled Ivey at the MUG. “A legend of the game.”
Losch, regularly a tournament player and low-stakes cash game fan found himself at the table with Ivey and, for a time, Brad Owen. After Ivey shoved under the gun and was called in one spot, Losche made his move with ace four suited and came out the victor.
“[The game was] a blast and so organized and let us regular folks play with legends like that.”
Mike Pierce has two times the bragging right when he gets home to Seattle.
“I did stack Phil Ivey,” Pierce said with pride. “They are playing the 10-2 game so if you win a hand with the Doyle Brunson you get another ticket for the raffle. So I took a shot at it.”
In honor of Doyle Bruson, who lit up the Meet-Up Game just last year, players who used ten-deuce won additional entries into the contest. Pierce got it in behind with second pair against Ivey’s top pair on the flop, but when a deuce hit the turn Ivey couldn’t catch up and he downed the legend with a legend’s hand.
The Washington Huskies football fan made plans to visit Vegas to watch the Washington vs. Oregon football game, but couldn’t help taking his shot at playing with Ivey.
“Turns out there’s the coolest poker thing I’ve ever seen happening here. The energy in the room has been great and I’ve gotten photos with a bunch of people I know and it’s been awesome. It’s worked out really, really serendipitous.”
“He’s definitely out here for fun and to hook people up and stuff,” Piece said. “But I can tell that story forever – I stacked Phil Ivey with ten-deuce. It’s phenomenal!”