The Winners (and Losers) of Hustler Casino Live’s Million Dollar Game

Hustler Casino Live’s Million Dollar Game gave fans four days of incredible nosebleed action that the industry won’t soon forget.

Jeff Walsh
Jun 2, 2023
Images courtesy: Hustler Casino Live

Hustler Casino Live’s Million Dollar Game had a little bit of everything: big names, emerging stars, met expectations, hater fodder, and, yes, poker history. It was four massive streams in five days with more than its fair share of must-see hands and memorable moments.

Now, that it’s in the books, let’s take a look at some of the winners (and even a couple losers) from this epic event.

Winner: Tom Dwan

It should go without saying that Tom Dwan walked away from the Million Dollar Game as the show’s biggest all-around winner. Even though Dwan didn’t earn the most money during the broadcast (that honor to be revealed down the page) Dwan dragged the biggest pot in poker broadcast history when he won the instantly iconic $3.1 million pot against HCL reg Wesley Fei.

Just as important, Dwan’s appearance re-established his legend as one of the sickest cash game players in the history of poker. Dwan built his reputation as the online phenom ‘durrrr’ and parlayed his success into becoming the face of a new generation on High Stakes Poker and a featured young gun on late-night televised cash games. His creative play became the stuff of legend. He’s a different player now, at 36 years old, but just as dangerous and clearly just as popular. Dwan has been a participant, win or lose, in some of the biggest boundary-pushing hands in the history of the game and his future spot in the Poker Hall of Fame should already be locked up.

Winner: Doug Polk

Sure, Polk dropped more than $1 million during the final night of the Million Dollar Game, which could easily constitute as a big loss. But Polk’s no loser here. When you spend days on the internet talking about how you are absolutely going to put on a show for the fans…and then you deliver – that’s a big win.

And that’s exactly what Polk did. Polk kept up his part of the bargain and entertained for the duration. Never tilting, never quitting, and, even in the face of some pointed conversation about some recent (and not so recent) YouTube videos, never not being authentic. Big-money hands will always be given the credit for amazing shows, two of which Polk had a hand in, but Polk’s personality was no small part that final night. In the face of some recent community friction, Polk’s appearance on HCL likely won him back some fans.

Loser: Aussie Matt

Everyone who remembers the high-stakes hijinx of Aussie Matt had to be excited to see that he reemerged and was announced as a special guest on Day 2. However, rather than sit with $1 million, the game allowed for a $500,000 buy-in and the majority of the table did just that. Well, after roughly seven hours of play, Matt got into a hand with Jean-Robert Bellande in which Matt’s Club AHeart K clashed with JRB’s Heart 9Diamond 6. The Diamond KSpade 9Spade 6 flop was a nightmare for Matt. The two quickly got all the money in the middle creating a $893K pot and opted to run it three times. Matt lost all three. Then he stood up and left. Felted and quit.

His reappearance after years of being out of the poker spotlight felt too short.

Winner: Huss

To most of the Hustler Casino Live audience, Huss was likely an unknown quantity. Labeled a “crypto investor”, the recreational player from Down Under at first look was simply Aussie Matt’s plus one. But, as it turned out, he was so much more. Over the course of two days, Huss’ persistent table talk and no-holds-barred needles on Day 3 gave the Million Dollar Game some much-needed life, turning Huss into a player who will most certainly get invited back.

Not only did Huss make a name for himself, but he also made $1.7 million in two days of play – the most of any player to appear on the show.

Winner: Nik Airball

The player you love, or love to hate, was back. While we are still a good deal away from “King of L.A.” vibes, Airball is clearly finished with his post-Berkey blues and attacked the Million Dollar Game exactly as you might expect. Sidelined during the first couple of days, Airball showed up each day at the Hustler Casino, cash in hand, ready to pounce if given the opportunity. Eventually, a spot in the lineup opened up on Day 2 when he wasn’t scheduled and Airball brought his A-game and a million dollars.

In full form, after Airball sent the legend Tony G on tilt in a hand, Tony quit the game for the day. Airball said the only thing he could at the moment: “On your bike! On your bike, Tony!”

Loser: Nik Airball

Yes, Airball’s swagger went on an upswing but his bankroll continued to freefall. After being up in his first appearance, Airball ended down $569,500 over the course of three sessions.

Winner: Rampage (and his backers)

Before the chaos of Day 4, the poker world was abuzz with Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau’s incredible $600,000 bluff versus high-stakes regular ‘Handz’. The hand, which you can see in its entirety here, was impressive but more so it was indicative of the fact that Rampage, who just a few years ago was literally learning how to play poker while vlogging, was seemingly unfazed by the stakes.

Prior to the game, Rampage made a video on his personal YouTube channel where he reached out to his community and looked to raise a significant amount of money to play the game. Rampage had done right by his backers in the past, and his backers didn’t forget. Rampage walked into Hustler Casino with roughly $1.5 million and an army of viewers as support. Not only did his backers get a sweat, but they also got a nice return as Rampage walked with a profit of $588,000 – plenty of which will go back to his backers.

Loser: Wesley Fei

Poker is a zero-sum game. So when someone wins $3.1 million, there’s likely to be a loser. A big one. And in that case, it was HCL star Wesley ‘Wes Side’ Fei who ran a three-street bluff against Tom Dwan’s pocket queens and lost ~$1.5 million in the hand. Add to that, on Day 3, Wes got tangled up in some back-and-forth trash talk with Huss and made it strangely personal, which came off as more than rough needling. A bad look, for which he’s already issued a public apology, but only a fraction of the people who saw the stream will see that apology (so here’s a link to it).

Wes did win a monster hand against LSG Hank to recoup nearly a million of his losses (the second-largest pot in televised poker history) but even so, perhaps there’s a thing or two Wes would like to have done differently over the course of his two MDG sessions. A valiant showing from Wes, who will, for sure, recover.

Winner: Ryan Feldman

Often referred to as the best in the business when it comes to creating cash game lineups, Feldman undertook the gargantuan task of trying to make poker history with an epic stream that required every player to sit with $1 million in chips at risk. There was some rough sledding early in the shows including an internet chorus of the game being too tight on Day 1, too small on Day 2, and one day even canceled at the last minute.

But, in the end, none of the negatives will be remembered. What will be remembered are the intense action, the classic coolers, and the biggest bluffs. The star making turns and the table talk and the hands we’ll be talking about a decade from now. All of the above wouldn’t have taken place at all if it weren’t for Feldman and his heart-on-his-sleeve passion for creating a legacy for his show and, as a result, himself. Big, big win for Feldman. Big, big win for the fans as well.