Nosebleed Heaven

by , Jul 15, 2012 | 5:10 pm

Dan Bilzerian tweeted this picture of $9.4 million in chips with the caption: “Our poker game is officially fucking huge.”

Flags were flying around Las Vegas — and it had more to do with the WSOP than the 4th of July.

Sure, you can always expect to see more $5,000 chips in play on Vegas felts during the WSOP, but the super-high-stakes action that requires them really picked up this summer — more so than usual, it seems, particularly in the days leading up to Big One for One Drop, the biggest buy-in tournament in history.

Pots in the hundreds of thousands of dollars practically became the norm in The Ivey Room at Aria, where a bunch of billionaires and Hollywood socialites were playing $2k/$4k NL for more than a week. At the same time, a $1k/$2k PLO game was going on in the Pavillion Room at the WSOP, and Doyle Brunson was logging super-long sessions at his home room in Bellagio.

Poker room supervisors say Vegas hasn’t seen this level of action since billionaire banker Andy Beal took on “the Corporation” at the Wynn in 2004. ($15k/$30k and $30k/$60k heads-up limit hold’em was their game.) There’s some chatter among Vegas regs about how different poker rooms go about bringing in certain players while keeping others out — lest the biggest casino whales get devoured too quickly by certain poker sharks.

Here is a 2012 guide to the who/what/when/where/why of the really big games around Las Vegas:

The Original Big Game
Bobby’s Room (Bellagio)
Game: Mix
Stakes: $200/$400
Minimum buy-in: $10,000

The two tables behind glass have been home to players like Doyle Brunson, Eli Elezra, and Jen Harman for years, and more recently players such as Ben Lamb and Tom Marchese. They typically play a variant of HORSE, with NL 2-7 and other games in the mix. According to Todd Brunson they play 2-7 with a cap at Bellagio, but uncapped across the street at Aria.

Frickin’ Huge
The Ivey Room
Game: No-Limit Hold’em
Stakes: $2k/$4k
Minimum buy-in: $500,000

This game started about a week before the $1 million One Drop tournament and ran daily. Though a security guard kept gawkers and potential short-buys at bay, recognizable faces included One Drop Founder Guy Laliberte, Rick Salomon (the movie producer most famous for his Paris Hilton tape), and self-described “model/actor/astronaut/asshole” Dan Bilzerian (@DanBilzerian). When this game runs, even the pros who play the regular 300-600 mix at Aria move elsewhere. “Crazy” Mike Thorpe, who organizes many high-stakes mix games in town, says the regular 300-600 players at Aria, which include David “Viffer” Peat and Ivey Room host Jean-Robert Belande, have to move to Bellagio because Bobby Baldwin himself (Bobby’s Room namesake) would rather host his nosebleed no-limit game in The Ivey Room without pros.

WSOPLO (with Rebuys)
Pavillion Room (Rio)
Game: Pot Limit Omaha
Stakes: $1k/$2k
Minimum buy in: $100,000

The biggest cash game in the walled-off area of the Pavillion Room at the Rio ran only a few times this summer. But when it did go it was super-big, with $5,000 straddles, double straddles and triple straddles. With only an open-air half-wall separating this action from 1/3 players and the daily $235 deepstack, it was possibly the most “railable” big game in town, with guys like Ben Lamb, Andrew Robl, and Isildur trading chips while waiting for a random whale chomping on an unlit stogie to call off a brick of cash.

Foreign Currency?
Caesars Palace
Game: No Limit Hold’em
Stakes: HKD $1k/$2k-$10k/$20k

All the talk at the Caesars Palace poker room late in the WSOP included rumblings of a nosebleed game with Tom “Durrrr” Dwan, John Juanda and a few of their friends from Macau. This game reportedly took place in Palace Court, the casino’s high stakes area away from the poker room, somewhere past the marble statues and golden entrance way. Veteran 2+2 poster 663366 shared this insight:

Caesars Palace … converted (I think) a baccarat table into a poker table… The game was held in a room inside the high limit room with the doors open. … The same lineup of guys from Macau (Dwan, Juanda, 3 noted Chinese/Malaysian businessmen) plus a couple of other Asian/Chinese players and a young Caucasian live pro (not a big name from online) have been in a $10K/20K HKD game at Caesars Palace high limit room this past week ahead of the One Drop tournament. Money on the table each other north of $20M USD which isn’t unusual for this game of course.

Caesars poker room staff confirmed the game happened, but declined to provide any details about the action itself, including what language the chips came in.

Little Big Games
Even in rooms where the ridiculous stakes might have slumped, poker room directors say the number of overall cash games noticeably increased this year. So if the nosebleed stakes are too much of a stretch for your bankroll, perhaps you’d be interested in something a bit smaller:

Wynn — On the weekends, regular games can get as big as $25/$50 NL, with Vegas mid-stakes pros populating the action, when a big enough fish wanders in.

CantorGaming Poker at the Palms — Pros are stopping by just to check out the new room, and games behind the special glass-enclosed table have been as big as 25/50 NL, 200/400 mix, and $100/pt Chinese. Pros such as Phil Hellmuth, Michael Mizrachi, Brandon Cantu, Layne Flack and Isaac Haxton have all stopped by to play (and possibly lay down some sports bets, though that isn’t confirmed).

Venetian — They created a special section for high stakes in the largest room in Vegas, but seldom now do they get games bigger than 10/20. But throughout the WSOP — and the Venetian’s summertime DeepStacks — there’s often been enough interest to keep that game going daily.

4 Comments to “Nosebleed Heaven”

  1. Greg D

    The Flamingo had a big PLO game back in Mid-June ($25/$50, if I remember correctly). It was rather odd, as the rest of the room just had $2/$4 Limit, $1/$2 NL, and daily donkament tables running.

  2. Dave Ferrara

    Interesting. Didn’t hear about that. Definitely huge for the Flamingo.

  3. sapol

    Viffer’s last name is Peat, not Pete

  4. Dan Michalski

    editor’s fault. thanks for the fyi.