The expectations for Hustler Casino Live’s Million Dollar Game are sky high – both as a piece of poker entertainment, as well as the history that might be made over five days of streaming.
With its minimum $1 million buy-in, nosebleed stakes of $500/$1000 (with a $1k bb ante), and an eclectic cast of characters, it’s easily one of the most anticipated livestreamed games in HCL (poker?) history. Simply put, with so much money on the table – a minimum of $7 million at the start of the day – every single hand could be the can’t-miss moment that has the poker world talking.
With five days of 10-hours-a-day coverage, there’s so much to keep an eye on. Who will be the most aggressive? Who will pull off the biggest bluff? Who will walk away the biggest winner? And who, if anyone, will go broke?
But aside from the stats, we’re keeping our eyes on some additional storylines that could play out during the course of the Million Dollar Game.
Can Nik Airball Bounce Back?
Over the past few months, love him or hate him, Los Angeles-based high stakes regular Nik ‘Airball’ Arcot has made a name for himself in the poker world. Thanks in part to his brash demeanor, trash talk and willingness to play big at every opportunity, he’s cultivated the public persona of a pro wrestling heel – a persona that helped him soak up the poker spotlight and turned him into one of Hustler Casino Live’s fastest rising stars.
But ahead of the Million Dollar Game, we’re a long way from Airball’s “The King of L.A.” era. Since early March he’s been on a very public downswing, including a session of HCL in which he lost more than $750,000 and, of course, getting taken to the cleaners for just over $1 million in his high-stakes, heads-up match against Matt Berkey.
So, while it’s true Airball is reportedly still up money while playing on livestreams (around $300,000 according to TrackingPoker.com), he’s in desperate need of a win. It’s impossible to know if his bankroll needs a boost, but his public persona could use one. And it would do him a world of good to thrive when the stakes are at their highest. Sure, for a lot of these players the money is the most that’s at stake, but for Airball there’s also a chance at rebuilding his reputation on the line. Can Arcot use the Million Dollar Game to rebound from his recent public L’s, or is this the game that buries him?
Ethan “Rampage” Yau Shoots His Shot
If you follow the world of poker vlogging at all, then you know that not only is Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau one of the most popular players in the game right now, but he’s also been on a straight-up heater for the better part of a year. From winning WSOP Circuit rings (4), WSOP bracelets (1), a $25K High Roller at the 2022 WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas, and a more than $500K winning session on Hustler Casino Live, Yau has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time what most poker players spend a career hoping to achieve.
But even with all the wins, cash gains, YouTube money, and locking up a deal as WPT Global’s newest ambassador, taking a seat with $1 million in this game in front of him is as big a risk as Yau has ever taken in poker. He’s shot taking, plain and simple. As of this writing, it looks like Yau is planning to bring $1.5 million to the game (likely sitting with $1 million and having a $500,000 rebuy ready if needed). Even with selling half of his action to his viewers, he admits that he’s “pretty nervous about the game to be honest.” So, we’re watching to see if Rampage’s charmed career hits new highs as he brings home a win for his community.
Playing for the Record Books
Rampage isn’t the only one shooting their shot. Hustler Casino Live, as a show, is doing the same. There’s never been a game like this: million-dollar minimum buy-in, nosebleed stakes, and five straight days of 10+ hour live coverage.
And with a show with such hype behind it, some expectations come with it. The first is viewership. It’s going to be tough to beat the current record for HCL, which was the May 2022 Creator Game headlined by Mr. Beast. That broadcast had a reported more than 100,000 concurrent viewers. And while HCL has done well in it’s wake, it would take a Herculean effort for the Million Dollar Game to match that number.
However, everything else – including the show that featured the infamous Adelstein/Lew hand – is on the table. With no less than $7 million on the table at a time and a number of notable personalities on board, the spectacle alone should make this their most-watched week of the year (and beyond).
Speaking of money, another looming possibility with all that cash is a shot at some of the largest livestreamed pots of all time. Currently, the largest televised cash game pot took place at a Triton Million Dollar cash game where Tom Dwan lost a $2.35 million pot to Paul Phua. Just recently, the largest U.S. livestreamed pot took place on PokerGO’s No Gamble No Future when Patrik Antonius dragged in a $1.978 million pot versus Eric Persson. The money to take down both of these records will be on the table at the Million Dollar Game, but will the action be wild enough to push these players to break records and make poker history?
Established Names vs. New Faces
By most accounts, Ryan Feldman is one of the industry’s best at crafting a lineup and he’s done a nice job here by bringing in a number of recognizable names that viewers will have history with. Doug Polk, Rob Yong, Jean-Robert Bellande, Brandon Steven, and the recently added Haralabos Voulgararis may not all have all played with each other exactly, but have entertained fans over a number of mediums and games for the better part of a decade.
On the other side of the lineup equation are some of Hustler Casino Live’s newer stars including the aforementioned Airball, social media star Mikki Mase, the aggressive “Prince Charles”, and the first person to ever sit with $1 million on the show’s livestream, Wesley ‘Wes Side’ Fei.
While the Friday lineup looks to be more of the “adults table”, with a wide crop of established names kicking off the broadcast, as the stream goes on the players will mix and match. We’re likely to see many great dynamics of new school players and veterans as each side tries to figure out how to deal with each other in real time for massive sums of money. It’s the benefit of having such a deep player pool (so far at least 18 players are confirmed for some part of the stream), and we will get to watch the collisions as they happen.
Will Persson Apply The Pressure?
No doubt about it, Eric Persson has a reputation as one of the more aggressive nosebleed poker players at the table. He’s incredibly vocal about requiring his opponents to play big (with their own money) and to play often – with a high VPIP.
He’s a game starter, boundary pusher, and, if you get on his bad side, trash talker. From giving Hellmuth the double middle fingers on PokerGO to annihilating “Mr.Dr.Batman” on Hustler Casino Live, Persson can be electric at the table. But, even he can switch gears – as we saw on the recent live episode of PokerGO’s High Stakes Poker. During that session, Persson seemed to pull back and let the action come to him.
But there’s one thing he’s always said, and that’s that money is the great equalizer. If enough cash is on the table you can put even the best poker players in the world to incredibly tough decisions for fortunes. Now he’s going to get the chance to bring that to one of the widest audiences he’s ever had.
Will Alan Keating show up?
If Keating and Ryan Feldman get past their business differences, a Mr. Keating showing could take this broadcast to a whole other level.