Bitter Cackling Rivals Matt Berkey, Nik Airball, Doug Polk Clash on Live High Stakes Poker

high stakes poker doug polk

Matt Berkey, Doug Polk, and Nikhil "Nik Airball" Arcot put their differences aside to compete against each other in the first ever live-streamed High Stakes Poker Thursday evening.

PokerGO aired seven hours of a $200/$400 no-limit hold'em game — straddles on regularly — and thousands were tuned in hoping to see some fireworks between some bitter rivals. It didn't take long before the fans got what they came to see. But there was also some criticism on social media over the banter at the table and the constant cackling between the players.

There was over $2.5 million on the table, with Polk and Airball each buying in for $500,000. Eric Persson showed up with $400,000 in front of him, and then Jennifer Tilly ($150,000) and Lynne Ji ($100,000) began with the smallest stacks. Rob Yong would later arrive with $600,000 in his stack and Jean-Robert Bellande entered the game late with $200,000.

Trash-Talking Eric Persson Flips JRB the Bird on HSP

Airball Stacks Rival Berkey

nik airball poker
Nikhil \"Nik Airball\" Arcot

The High Stakes Poker live-stream, commentated by Brent Hanks and Nick Schulman, began at 3 p.m. PT Thursday afternoon. Before the clock reached 4:00, poker's newest rivals were battling it out for stacks.

Early on in the seven-hour session, Airball and Berkey played some heads-up poker, which they've been doing quite a bit of recently.

Action folded around to Berkey in the small blind — no straddle on in this pot — and he opted to slow-play his AA and just call. Airball went for a check with 84 in the big blind. The flop came out J72, creating a flush draw against the nut over pair. Sticking with his plan to be sneaky with aces, Berkey checked and then his opponent bet $1,000.

Berkey was done slow-playing, so he went for a check-raise to $3,500 and received a call. The turn was the K, which didn't improve either hand and Berkey bet $10,000 and again earned a call.

With the pot size on the rise, the 5 on the river completed the flush, but Berkey, who started the hand with around $100,000, went for value — $15,000. Airball, who had him easily covered, put him all in for another $71,000. The Solve for Why founder was unable to find a fold and made the call before receiving the bad news that his aces were cracked.

“Life is good!” Airball shouted. “Give me all the chips.”

Berkey didn’t immediately hand over the chips, so Airball reached over and pushed them over to his stack. Although he lost his entire stack early, Berkey rebought for the same amount and quickly doubled right back to even, and then soon after was up a decent amount.

Poker is a Funny Game Sometimes

Pocket aces is the best preflop hand in no-limit Texas hold'em. But sometimes the poker gods want to punish anyone who picks up the pocket rockets. During Thursday's big game, the preflop nuts appeared quite often and didn't always hold up.

Airball was on the winning side of a pocket aces bad beat against his hated rival Berkey. But the tables were turned on him later on in the show in an even bigger pot against Bellande.

With a double straddle on, Airball went for a massive raise to $25,000 with AA, enough to get even some decent hands to fold, including the AJ Tilly was holding. Bellande, who was down six figures on the day at that point, didn't fear the huge raise and moved all in for $148,000 with 66.

Airball, who added on another $500,000 from his original buy-in and was up for the day, snap-called and the high rollers agreed to run it just once. The board would come out 946108, giving Bellande a set and a suck-out win. He scooped the $299,000 pot, one of the last few hands of the night and went from the red to the black.

Polk Cracks Airball's Aces This Time

doug polk matt berkey

Pocket aces were good and bad for Nik Airball on the High Stakes Poker live-stream. In one pot with that hand, he tangled with Polk, who entered the game beefing with half the table.

With $27,000 in the pot on a flop of 65K, action checked to Airball, who bet $13,000 with AA, an over pair and the nut flush draw. That was a strong hand, but he was in deep trouble because Polk had flopped a flush with Q10 and made the call.

The turn was the 4 and again Polk checked before calling a $50,000 bet. When the 7 appeared on the river, Polk decided to check for a third time, hoping to set the trap. Airball wouldn't oblige and the co-owner of The Lodge Card Club took down a pot of $153,000, but it could have been larger had he led out on the river.

Polk would spend more than half the session in the black, and was up over $100,000 for quite some time. But he ran into two coolers in big pots that caused him to lose about $120,000 for the day. In one hand, he couldn't find a fold with the nut straight against Persson, who had a full house. In the other, he bet out $50,000 on the river with J10 on a board of 710AJ3 and then called a raise to $200,000 from Yong, who had the nuts with KQ.

Too Much Cackling?

There were over 12,000 viewers tuned in throughout much of the evening. But many on poker Twitter were critical of the table talk and "cackles." Even Daniel Negreanu threw some shade at the players.

It was to be expected that the players in this lineup wouldn't just sit quietly and play poker. After all, PokerGO created this specific roster because many of them were beefing. But not everyone watching was thrilled with the constant back and forth between the competitors.

"What a time to be alive, the famous Hollywood actress is the least attention-seeking personality in the bunch," Shane Schleger wrote, referring to Tilly who never beefs with anyone.

When asked by a Twitter follower how he'd perform in that lineup, Negreanu said "awful" because the players in the game would have forced him to go on "monkey tilt."

"I'm over it. This is fucking awful. These classless people are rude & then watch it over & applaud themselves for being rude. GL to @berkey11 & @JenniferTilly - take all their money. I couldn't be more disappointed in poker right now," poker journalist Jennifer Newell wrote in response to the video of Airball taunting Berkey after stacking him.

On the final hand, Airball acted oddly and perhaps erratically when he went into a 10-minute tank with nothing but ace-high and a deuce kicker against an all-in bet from Tilly, who had a set on the turn.

Even Schulman and Hanks, the commentators, were confused as to why Airball was tanking so long with a weak hand that beats very few hands. He was facing a bet of around $100,000 to win a pot of $257,000, so it's not like he was pot committed with ace-high and the 2 on a three-spades board.

As Airball pondered his decision — if he was actually even doing that as some suggested he was just seeking attention — he splashed his stack of chips in front of him for some odd reason and then placed his cards under the chips. Eventually, after the clock was called, he folded and that was the end of the first ever High Stakes Poker live-streamed show.

*Images courtesy of PokerGO.

  • Find out how the feuding poker pros performed in the first ever live-streamed High Stakes Poker.

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