Goodness gracious, what a week for stupendous wins and loses by players on shows and livestreams across the country. The massacre continued Sunday night with a pro playing whack-mole with a bona fide whale who seems to be on an ego-driven mission commanded by a man who gives no fucks.
But the week started with a man who clearly does, Phil Hellmuth, who continued to not navigate playing cash poker in front of cameras well. In back-to-back sessions, he torched $338,500, the worst week he’s had in 12 years, he said. True or not, the king of the World Series of Poker is rattled.
On Sunday, Eric Persson tripled Hellmuth’s losses after torching off $973,000 in one hand on the PokerGO show No Gamble, No Future. The men handled their pain differently.
Hellmuth’s strange livestream adventure began in May on Hustler Casino Live when he played against a tableful of YouTube stars like Mr. Beast and Alexandra Botez, who seems to have caught the poker bug.
The 16-time WSOP champ was rigid and uncomfortable among the decades-younger internet superstars. He looked a little like a narc sitting at a high school lunch table. Hellmuth bought in short and played like a nit, and heard it from the YouTubers who quickly caught-on that under the Adidas jacket is a thin-skinned crybaby who acts more like a pretentious diva than a poker ambassador.
During that stream, poker fans experienced mass euphoria as one of the biggest heels in poker got runner-runnered into a split pot against a man called Ninja. It was a glorious result after he not only bought in short, but also angle-shot the amateurs for $5,000.
The criticism about buying in short got to Hellmuth, who made a promise to begin bringing more cash to the livestreams and shows, and also using his own money.
This led him to buy in big on both the Hustler Casino Live and Live at the Bike streams last week. On the Hustler Casino Live on Monday, he wound up a $144,500 loser, the biggest loss on a livestream in his career, he said. That cloud of despair followed him to Live at the Bike the next day to play in the first session of what was supposed to be a three-day high-stakes stop.
But after he misplayed wired kings, which brought his session loss to $194,000, he sprung out of his chair, said “I quit,” and flew home.
Later that week, he took to Twitter to rescind his promise to buy in for $300,000 or more of his own money on livestreams. This is what losing $338,500 in two sessions will do to a man.
I am rescinding my offer to buy in “$300,000 of my own money” on all LIVESTREAMS/televised poker games. It was too painful losing $140,000 w K-K, last Monday, in one hand! I will buy in for whatever I choose. If I want to sell a piece or get staked, I will do that. I am free!! pic.twitter.com/9mSpJLmQel
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) February 20, 2023
It seems like Hellmuth came to a harsh realization this week: He’s not one of the top players playing high-stake cash poker. He even admitted he can’t handle the enormously sickening swings.
When someone in his Tweets asked how a pro can have so much trouble with this, Hellmuth wrote back: “We are who we are.”
…and the whale
Eric Persson’s brash and bull-like behavior and willingness to throw around his immense wealth at poker tables makes him one of the most desired players on the high-stakes livestream cash circuit. Often playing as loose as a goose after it got into a Taco Bell Dumpster, he has been involved in some of the biggest streamed pots of 2022.
He is using his new-found poker fame to pimp his casino chain, Maverick, which includes 22 newly-aquired Washington State poker rooms. He even got the jagged cowboy logo tattooed on his enormous arms, which, for many of us, makes it seem like he’s trying a wee bit too hard.
But the persona fits for a guy who likes to swing away and apply pressure and project to the world that the money does not matter. A bully who sometimes makes it feel like he’s rubbing his wealth directly in everyone’s faces, he’s becoming The Million Dollar Man of pro wrestling without the pose or the bow tie or, let’s face, the charm of Ted Dibiase.
Only with Persson, the money and swagger — as far as we could tell — are both real.
Both those things took him to the No Gamble, No Future set this weekend. Blinds started at $500/500, and increased through the sessions, which helped build enormous pots, and Persson’s plugged away.
But on Sunday, sitting with a. little over a million dollars in front of him, he got busy with Q9 suited hearts against Patrick Antonius’ AK of hearts. Disaster struck after he decided to try to run over Antonius, which is never a great idea. This led to him moving all-in on the turn for $759,000 drawing dead.
Antonius called without even using a time chip and won the $1.1 million pot, the largest in televised poker history.
“I’m dead,” Persson said before the river was even dealt. “Fuck.”
And then after a moment staring at the ceiling, he slid stack after stack after stack of chips over to Antonius, who sat as still as a condor knowing it has plenty of time to devour and digest his prey.
It’s been radio silence from Persson since he torched all that money. I’d like to think he spent the last few days stewing about how he he played that hand, and understand how he messed it up, but I’m not sure he’s interested in becoming anything more in the world of poker except the biggest whale.
And also maybe the biggest something else.