Big Buy-In Cash Games and Tournaments
High stakes poker games are no longer on cable TV, though there is still plenty of action around the world at ‘nosebleed’ buy-ins. Macau is a centre of the action, with US pros regularly found in games where pots reach 6-figures. Add to this list high stakes rooms at the Bellagio and Aria in Las Vegas – plus plenty of online action.
Stakes are relative in poker. For some people, buying in for $1000 might be a pipe-dream. For others, a big blind of that amount could be their regular stakes. This page covers both the super high stakes scene, and games at $5 / $10 blinds and above that you’ll find online.
Here is what you’ll find below:
From 2006 to 2011 there was a TV show called ‘High Stakes Poker’. This ran on cable TV, and featured cash games with the biggest names in poker betting tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many of those who starred in these shows are still at the top of the game. They include Gus Hansen, Doyle Brunson, Phil Helmuth and Daniel Negreanu.
Much of the focus for super high-stakes cash games has moved to Macau. Here the big names like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey play against the best Chinese businessmen and poker pros. While these games are not televised, millions of dollars are changing hands.
You will also find high stakes cash game’s in Las Vegas. Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio regularly hosts mixed games with blinds in the thousands. Over at the Aria ‘Ivey’s Room’ likewise attracts players at the very top of the game.
For many years, the biggest poker tournament around was the World Series of Poker Main Event. This has a $10,000 buy-in. Those at the top of the game played in a mixed game format, known as the ‘Poker Players Championship’ – this one had a $50,000 entry fee.
Those buy-ins are tiny compared to the recent high-roller events.
The WSOP now features the ‘Big one for the drop’ tournament, with a buy-in of over $1 million dollars (a part of which goes to charity). There is an Aria high-roller tournament with a buy-in of $300,000 – plus many more big buy-in ‘High-Roller’ events around the world. Some high stakes poker tournaments have caused controversy before they even begin. Well known German pros refusing to join until they see several recreational players already registered.
Winning just a couple of these events is enough to put players close to the top of the all-time winners list. Examples include Justin Bonomo, who recently passed Daniel Negreanu after winning $5 million in the 2018 Aria event. Antonio Esfandiari holds the record for the biggest single win. He took down the 2012 ‘One Drop’, winning $18.3 million for 1stplace.
During the online poker boom years, the focus of high stakes play was Full Tilt. People used to sign in specially to watch the big games – with blinds of $1000+ and stacks of $100,000k. Phil Ivey, Jungleman, Tom ‘Durrrr’ Dwan, Patrik Antonius, Gus Hansen, Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom and many others used to trade pots which sometimes reached 7 figures.
Things reached fever-pitch with the ‘Durrrr Challenge’. In an effort to raise the stakes even more, Tom Dwan offered 2-to-1 that nobody could beat him heads up in a race to $1 million. He got an opponent in the form of high-stakes pro Patrik Antonius. Their match was followed by millions of poker fans around the world. A second match involving ‘Jungleman’ was also started.
Alas the ‘Black Friday’ episode in 2011 – which led to Full Tilt being temporarily closed – put an end to the Durrrr Challenge. This also saw the ‘nosebleed’ stakes online decline in popularity. While you can still find big buy-ins at PokerStars or Bovada – the blinds are now measured in the $100’s not $1000’s!
While the days of the ‘Nosebleeds’ and ‘Durrrr Challenge’ are gone, there is still some high stakes action to be found online.
If you have the bankroll, and skills to complete, you can enjoy games with $25 / $50 and $50 / $100 blinds running at both US and Non-US poker brands.
For US players, the biggest poker network is the place to head for high stakes action. This is the Bovada / Ignition / Bodog.eu grouping – known as the PaiWangLuo network. You’ll find the games here are anonymous. While there are some bigger stakes tables at the other US networks, these rarely see action. You might find the occasional $10 / $20 games on the Winning Poker Network – evenings and weekends are the best times to check.
Internationally, the player pools are much bigger. This means high stakes action is easy to come by – though the competition in the games is a lot tougher. PokerStars / Full Tilt pool their players these days. This is the only place you will find continual high stakes action. $50 / $100 games are available in several formats – with $100 / $200 games running at peak times.
While the buy-ins might not compare to those in the boom years, $20,000 stacks are more than enough to generate some high stakes action.
It is rare to see big buy-in poker tournaments online. The biggest is $25,000 – a high-roller event which is part of PokerStars’ ‘World Championship of Online Poker’. Regular events at the biggest sites top out at around $625 to enter.
There are regular $1 million prize pools. PokerStars run the ‘Sunday Million’, while other sites have these games as part of their special tournament events.
US players can find tournament events at Bovada and on the Winning Poker Network. At Bovada, look out for the Summer Millions and ‘Black Spade Open’. WPN is the only US network that runs regular $1 million guarantees. These are often part of their regular ‘Online Super Series’ events.
You can also enjoy online poker tournament action with a real WSOP bracelet as a prize. You’ll need to be physically located in Nevada to enjoy these events – which take place as part of the live WSOP schedule.
If you want to play games as ‘small’ as $5 / $10 online, then your requirements for deposit methods are different to small stakes players. Moving large enough sums to cover high stakes games is going to be difficult with credit cards – from the US especially.
Here are the options:
Caution is required before you jump into the high stakes poker games online. If you are able to beat $5 / $10 in your local casino, then the equivalent games online will tend to be much tougher. That is not to say they can’t be beaten – fish will find their way into every limit from time to time. You’ll find the best players from around the world, often playing several tables at the high stakes. It can pay to start lower than your regular live level – and move on up when you have a solid winning record.
Only the biggest sites are able to offer high stakes cash games – and the biggest online tournaments have lower buy-ins than their live equivalents.
You will not find the ‘nosebleeds’ of the poker boom years online these days – though there is plenty of high stakes poker action to enjoy.