The world's biggest private poker game is soon to be played in either Las Vegas or Dallas.
Texas billionaire Andy Beal has issued a challenge to the regulars in the Bellagio's regular $20,000 buy-in Dealer's Choice game, in which he sometimes plays, winning or losing as much as a million dollars.
Typical antes are $1,000/$2,000 or $1,500/$3,000. Pots regularly top $50,000. When the World Series of Poker is in town the blinds increase to $4,000/$8,000.
"On any given night, we always have the biggest game in town," says Doug Dalton, the Bellagio's director of poker operations. "The table is always full, with a waiting list."
The biggest of the biggest. so far, played May 12 and May 13, 2004, was $100,000-$200,000 limit hold'em.
Now, nettled by stories that he says exaggerate his losses, Beal has written an open letter to regulars Doyle Brunson, Todd Brunson (Doyle's son), Gus Hansen, Chip Reese Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, Chau Giang, Barry Greenstein, Ted Forrest, Lee Salem, John Hennigan, Ming La, Lyle Berman and Hamid Dastmalchi.
The letter says: "I recently read a story in the New York Daily News that is an unfair mischaracterization of my recent poker experience in the 'Big Game' played at Bellagio.
"No mention was made that I won more than $10 million in the largest game ever played, $100,000-$200,000 limit hold'em, on May 12 and 13, 2004. No mention was made of the fact that most of the above-mentioned professional players have substantial overall individual net losses after having played many hours against me. I concede that I am a net overall loser in the Bellagio games, although the extent of my losses is often exaggerated and mischaracterized.
"I believe that I am the favorite in a heads-up limit high-stakes game against most of you. For the record, I challenge you to put up or shut up about your 'professional play.' Come to Dallas and play me for four hours a day and I will play until one of us runs out of money or cries uncle. If your play is so great and your wins have been as large as you claim, you should have plenty of bankroll and be jumping at the chance to come and play another $100,000-$200,000 game and win a lot more money.
"I should add that you can bring your own independent dealers and your own cards, and can play in a different location of your choice every day if you wish. You should provide a slate of any six or more of the above players and I will pick from your slate who plays."
Negotiations are proceeding about the stakes, location and who gets to play, but it looks as if the biggest heads-up game ever really will happen, and soon.
To adapt an old wisecrack, "Money isn't everything - prestige is the other ten per cent."