High stakes poker has always been popular with both players and fans, and it’s easy to see why; millions of dollars on the line, fast-paced action, and unique personalities. Today, we’re going to look at what high stakes poker is, which players are known for playing at nosebleed stakes, and more!
High Stakes Poker Players
High stakes poker refers to poker games with very large amounts of money at risk. While most poker games have pretty low stakes, with players wagering tens or hundreds of dollars on each hand, high stakes poker involves bets in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The high stakes environment attracts the most skilled professional poker players in the world, as well as wealthy recreational players looking for excitement.
This blog will be looking at the world’s best high stakes poker players, stakes you’ll find at the top high stakes poker site – and everything in between. Don’t forget to check out our recommended legal online poker sites if you want to play poker at reputable poker sites.
What Are High Stakes Poker Games?
High stakes poker is generally defined as any poker game where the minimum buy-in is at least $10,000. This includes both cash games and tournament buy-ins. However, this is a somewhat fluid definition, and it’s not official. After all, the stakes needed to qualify as “high” have increased over the years as the game has grown. What was once an unthinkable amount of money to risk on a poker hand is now bet every hour thanks to online poker.
High stakes poker games can be played in an almost unlimited number of ways, but some of the popular formats/variations include:
- No Limit Texas Hold’em
- Pot Limit Omaha
- Mixed games
- High rollers tournaments
The amounts required to play in these games will vary based on the casino or tournament. Cash games generally have lower buy-ins compared to major tournaments like the World Series of Poker Main Event or high roller events on the tournament circuit. However, it’s worth remembering that the stakes are always relative to the normal stakes for the game type or tournament field. Even a $1,000 tournament could be considered high stakes if the normal buy-in at that venue is $100.
It’s also worth noting that we all only know about public poker games. Private high stakes games are rumored to be played all around the world and have reportedly seen pots worth upwards of $10 million! However, the private nature of these games means they’re nothing more than rumors – so the remainder of this blog will focus on the facts.
Famous High Stakes Poker Players
Certain players have become famous for regularly playing for millions of dollars in high stakes cash games or dominating the highest buy-in poker tournaments in the world. Here are some of the most successful high stakes poker players:
- Daniel Negreanu – With over $42 million in career poker tournament earnings, the Canadian pro known as “Kid Poker” is one of the biggest stars in high stakes poker. He’s won six World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour titles and is loved for his friendly, charismatic personality.
- Phil Ivey – His versatile style and incredible ability to read opponents has allowed Ivey to become one of the top players in history, amassing over $29 million in tournament winnings so far. Nicknamed “The Tiger Woods of Poker,” Ivey is known as a cash game specialist – and many continue to refer to him as the best all-round poker player ever.
- Tom Dwan – Known by his online handle “durrrr,” Dwan was one of the biggest winners in online high stakes cash games before Black Friday. He continued that success in the live arena, playing for millions on shows like High Stakes Poker before disappearing for several years. Recently, however, Dwan has been seen playing high stakes cash games in Macau.
- Patrik Antonius – The Finnish pro is one of the most aggressive cash game players in the world, and he’s known for being incredibly disciplined. That being said, he’s not afraid to get involved in big pots – as his notorious hand with Sam Farha showed on HSP.
- Phil Hellmuth – Known as the “Poker Brat” for his explosive temper, Hellmuth holds a record 15 WSOP bracelets, along with over $23 million in tournament earnings. He continues to play high rollers and cash games today, although he’s never seen the same levels of success at the cash table compared to tournaments.
That’s just a fraction of the high stakes poker players – and the names listed above are all pros. There are many wealthy businessmen and celebrities like Bill Perkins, Guy Laliberté, and Rick Salomon who often play for millions of dollars too.
High Stakes Cash Games
Cash games, in which players can enter and leave with their money at any time, are a popular format for high stakes poker, and it lends itself well to nosebleed stakes given its flexible nature. Big cash games run daily in poker rooms around the world, with the very biggest taking place in secret high limit rooms.
Some of the biggest public high stakes cash games saw blinds as high as $3,000/$6,000 in No Limit Hold ’em, or as much as $4,000/$8,000 in Pot Limit Omaha! Pots at these limits can quickly escalate into the millions on a single hand.
The unpredictability of no limit cash games has made them a popular form of high stakes poker to televise, including shows like High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. We’ll talk more about televised high stakes poker later on. Remember, if you want to play poker online, here’s our recommended list of poker sites in Nevada.
High Stakes Tournaments
High roller poker tournaments are equally as popular, and, for many poker players, they’re much more achievable than cash games. Why? Because you can enter them for a fixed buy-in, which means you know exactly how much you’re risking upfront. In cash games, the stakes can escalate quickly, and you can easily get wiped out in one hand.
However, when you’re playing a tournament, once you’ve paid your entry fee, that’s it; you can’t lose more than that, unless you opt to rebuy. Plus, tournaments offer the chance for a bigger payout at the end – although there can be hundreds or thousands of other players, and you may end up playing for hours or even days!
When it comes to high stakes poker tournaments there is no shortage to choose from. The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas hosts a full schedule of high roller events every summer that are popular amongst pros.
Tournaments like the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, $100,000 High Roller No Limit Hold’em, $250,000 Super High Roller No Limit Hold’em, and $1 million Big One for One Drop, feature buy-ins from $25,000 up to $1 million.
The Triton Super High Roller Series is another popular high stakes poker tournament that originated in Asia and is now held in locations around the world. Featuring buy-ins from $50,000 to $1 million, Triton has set records for the largest prize pools in tournament poker history.
The Super High Roller Bowl from Poker Central is another well-known poker event, although it’s invite-only and costs a cool $300,000 to buy into the tournament! However, the prize pool can be huge; in 2021, for example, it was worth more than $30 million!
High Stakes Online Poker
While live cash games and tournaments with five or six-figure buy-ins get the most attention from fans at least, high stakes online poker is often played for significantly larger sums of money.
Popular high stakes online poker formats include No Limit Hold ’em with blinds as big as $2,000/$4,000, Pot Limit Omaha up to $2,000/$4,000, mixed games like HORSE and 8-Game, short-handed games, and heads-up cash games. High stakes online tournament series are frequently held by online poker sites as well, with buy-ins reaching into the six figures.
Many famous high stakes live pros like Tom Dwan first made their names playing online under screen names before transitioning to live games. Other notable high stakes online pros include Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, Gus Hansen, Phil Galfond, and Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky.
The thing about online poker is that it’s fast; this means it’s possible to win or lose millions of dollars in a matter of seconds. In a land-based casino, at least, the pace is slower and more laid back – so high stakes online poker tends to attract a pretty niche set of players.
Televised High Stakes Poker
Given the drama and tension involved when playing for such huge sums of money, it is no surprise high stakes poker has become great television. Here are some of the most popular high stakes poker TV shows that have aired over the years:
|High Stakes Poker||Aired on GSN from 2006 to 2011, this popular series featured cash games with a $200/$400 minimum and up to $500/$1,000 on special “Million Dollar Cash Game” episodes.|
|Poker After Dark||This NBC show aired from 2007 to 2011 and featured $200/$400 stakes six-handed cash games each week with top pros and celebrities.|
|PokerStars Big Game||Short-lived 2010 show featured the likes of Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson in $200/$400 mixed cash games.|
|Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge||Special event during the Aussie Millions in 2011 with a $100,000 buy-in cash game table aired on GSN.|
In addition to dedicated poker shows, final tables of major tournaments like the WSOP Main Event and World Poker Tour championships are frequently broadcast on ESPN and other networks. Bravo also aired WSOP events for several years. Hands are usually shown on a 15 or 20-minute delay to prevent cheating.
Thankfully, you don’t have to play at these nosebleed stakes to enjoy the game for yourself – and potentially make some money! If you’re new to the online poker world and don’t know where to begin, check out our guide to playing online poker in Pennsylvania as a solid first step.
Frequently Asked Questions
High stakes poker has always attracted attention, and it’s easy to see why. With millions of dollars at stake, it’s no wonder so many fans just enjoy watching it! To finish off this blog, we’re going to answer some FAQs below.
Who are some well-known high stakes poker players?
When it comes to high stakes poker, you’ll find a few names that are synonymous with big hands and even bigger pots. Players like Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, and Tom Dwan have become big names in this high-stakes arena – and all three have played in million-dollar pots!
What actually are high stakes poker games?
High stakes poker games are where – well, high stakes are played with! We’re talking about games where the minimum buy-in could easily pay for a new house. Some high stakes games have pots worth millions of dollars – and they attract the best pros in the world, and the wealthiest businesspeople.
Do online poker sites offer high stakes games?
Yes, the largest online poker sites like PokerStars run games up to $2,000/$4,000, and sometimes, even higher. However, it’s worth noting that these stakes are typically only available by invitation to players who are clearly already playing at nosebleed stakes.
How do high stakes tournaments differ from other tournaments?
High stakes tournaments tend to have huge buy-ins, smaller player pools – and they attract the best players from around the world. Of course, winning one will almost always result in a gigantic prize!
Do any TV shows air high stakes poker games?
Yes – in fact, TV high stakes poker has done a lot to popularize the game. Shows like High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark let you join the best players in the world as they play for millions of dollars. Find out more in our Televised High Stakes Poker section.