Yesterday, we discussed the merits of the huge high-stakes online poker games being played at Full Tilt, and why they are good for the game. Today, however, we'll look at the other side of the coin and discuss the potential negative effect these massive stakes have on the industry — and the players.
When players are experiencing multimillion-dollar swings within hours and the size of an average pot could not only buy a house but an entire block of houses, it's difficult not to argue that the high-stakes online games are getting a bit out of control.
Only a little over a year ago, $200/$400 no-limit hold'em and pot-limit Omaha were the steepest limits on the internet, but when Full Tilt Poker added $300/$600 and later $500/$1,000 games, the nosebleed action climbed even higher despite the fact that nearly everyone who bought in at these stakes was doing so while severely under-rolled.
One hundred buy-ins for a deep-stacked $500/$1,000 game would require a $20,000,000 bankroll, but some regulars say that even that figure is too little.
In an interview with Phil Gordon for the Full Tilt Poker Academy, Patrik Antonius confessed that with the way the games are playing at the moment, even $100 million might be too little to have in reserves.
“If you want to keep playing it, you can lose $100 million in this game. If you can lose $3 million in one hour, so why couldn’t you lose $100 million?” Antonius said.
Aside from Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberte and some of the Full Tilt investors that got in on the ground floor, who in poker has that kind of money?
What if $1,000/$2,000 PLO tables popped up on Full Tilt Poker tomorrow? You can bet your bottom dollar that the vast majority of the $500/$1,000 regulars would move right on up. I'd be penning a story about a $10 million swing for somebody by Monday morning and within the next week there would be news of a $2 million pot.
While the action is incredibly exciting to watch from a railbird's perspective, it's easy to overlook the consequences these inflated stakes are having on the poker economy. Some online poker sites already understand this and have chosen not to spread limits above $200/$400 no-limit hold'em and pot-limit Omaha.
Earlier this year, it wasn't uncommon to find almost half a dozen 6-max or full-ring $500/$1,000 games running every night. By fall, they had completely dried up and had "Isildur1" not appeared on the scene, who knows how often those games would be going off.
Tom "durrrr" Dwan is down over $6 million for the year, $5.5 million of it lost in a single week to Isildur1.
Gus Hansen has lost $5.4 million online in 2009.
Sami “LarsLuzak” Kelopuro nearly destroyed his bankroll in the $500/$1,000 games and is in the process of erasing his $4 million in losses this year by grinding it out at $25/$50 and $50/$100 pot-limit Omaha.
On the flip side, many top players are now smartly avoiding the nosebleed stakes as the pot sizes continue to climb.
Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond has been largely MIA for the last several months while Hac “trex313” Dang and Di “Urindanger” Dang have been playing in the $50/$100 and $100/$200 games.
Consider this as well. Right now, everyone is talking about the $4.2 million Brian Hastings won from Isildur1 two nights ago. As talented as both of them may be, Hastings is a 20-year-old college student and Isildur1 is, by all reports, only 19. How many of their peers will end up inspired by their moxie and start putting their entire bankrolls in play by taking high-stakes shots they aren’t mentally or emotionally ready for?
Obviously, Full Tilt isn’t going to shut down the $500/$1,000 games anytime soon. Full Tilt has drawn huge interest from the public, ourselves included, and given the site an enormous amount of publicity. But for the sake of its players and the sake of the high-stakes economy, Full Tilt should think long and hard before raising the stakes again. To do otherwise could be like shooting oneself, and Tilt's high-limit regulars, in the foot.