When you play poker online or in-person, you can play budget-friendly games for small amounts of money. However, serious players with bigger bankrolls know that high stakes take the game to another level. In this article, we take a look at official poker tournaments, online games and invite-only games with the highest stakes in history.
Live poker tournaments with the highest stakes and prizes
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) has one of the highest starting stakes in poker, so the tournaments will always feature on a list of high-stakes live games. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest WSOP events and their incredible prize pools.
World Series Of Poker 2006 Main Event
The WSOP was first started in 2004. Many variants are played as a part of this tournament, but the overwhelming majority of these are based on Texas Hold’em poker.
To this day, the 2006 WSOP Main Event retains the largest prize pool in the history of the tournament at $82,512,162, with a buy-in of $10,000. Bets were so high during this series that the tournament had to introduce a new mint-green token, which was valued at $100,000.
The Main Event started on July 28 with 8,773 players, but this was reduced to only nine over several days of play. The final game occurred on August 10, with American-born Jamie Gold taking home $12,000,000, the highest-ever payout in tournament history. Gold claimed the first-place prize with a pair of queens, beating out second-place Paul Wasicka’s pocket 10s. Paul Wasicka took home a respectable $6,102,499.
World Series of Poker 2022 Main Event
The second biggest prize pool in WSOP took place in the recent 2022 Main Event. The prize pool totaled $80,782,475 and Norwegian poker player Espen Jorstad earned the coveted championship bracelet. Jorstad out-lasted 8,663 players and took home $10,000,000 with a first-place victory. The 34-year-old won the title with a full house of deuces over queens on the final hand. He decided to go all-in with the full house and his strategy worked when his opponent, Australian Adrian Attenborough, called with a pair of fours. Attenborough took second place prize with $6,000,000 and Michael Duek went home with $4,000,000 in third place.
With his victory, Jorstad made history as the first Norwegian player to land first place in the tournament. He also soared to the top of the Norway all-time money list, overtaking 2014 WSOP runner-up Felix Stephenson. But Jorstad isn’t letting his ego get the best of him after his incredible victory. Instead, he plans to work on his strategy to use his earnings to play more than $25,000 in buy-in tournaments in the future. To improve your strategy, learn how to read betting patterns in poker so you can read your opponent as well as he did.
World Series of Poker 2019 Main Event
The third-highest tournament stakes for a WSOP Main Event was recorded at WSOP 2019 – $80,548,600. It’s unsurprising that this would also be the second-highest attended Main Event, with 8,569 players participating. The buy-in for the Main Event remained unchanged at $10,000.
The Main Event began on July 3, with the top nine being decided nine days later on July 12. The final game was played on July 16, with Iranian-German player Hossein Ensan winning the first-place prize of $10,000,000. He beat professional Italian player Dario Sammartino with a pair of pocket kings. Sammartino had hoped for a flush, but a queen of clubs denied him first place. Sammartino was rewarded with $6,000,000 for his efforts.
Private poker games with the highest stakes
Since these privately run games are usually invite-only, it can be difficult to know for certain if some claims about the money involved are actually true. That being said, there are definitely some very wealthy people involved in these games, so it’s very unlikely that they would be playing for peanuts.
Games hosted by Dan Bilzerian, the king of Instagram
Dan Bilzerian became a household name thanks to his Instagram page, which shows the millionaire playboy flaunting his lavish lifestyle. He claims that his success was possible thanks to the millions he’s made playing at exclusive invite-only poker games.
However, he’s also admitted that he has a pretty sizable trust fund, thanks to his father’s questionable career as a corporate takeover specialist. To protect his reputation as a formidable opponent on the field, Bilzerian has done numerous interviews to discuss the games he’s been involved in. It’s at these extremely exclusive games where he’s apparently won as much as $54,000,000.
While most of us may be skeptical, one only has to continue reading to understand that pots as high as $54,000,000 may not be that uncommon. According to the player, some of his private poker games had a buy-in as high as $10 million. This has to be one of the highest initial stakes in a poker game. Some players would bet planes and cars like Mercedes, Bugattis and Ferraris worth up to $1 million.
Games hosted by Molly Bloom, the infamous star of Molly’s Game
The games hosted by Molly Bloom were so high-stakes that they made a movie about it. Molly Bloom is a former ice skater whose athletic career was ended by an accident during an Olympics qualifying run. Bloom began her “career” in poker accidentally. After being injured, Bloom found work as an executive assistant to real-estate entrepreneur and Viper Room co-owner Darin Feinstein, who one day asked her to help him run a game at the club.
Bloom talked to talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres about how she knew from the first game that this was an extremely rare opportunity. The players who attended included billionaires, A-list actors, politicians and powerful players on Wall Street. Buy-ins started at $10,000 when Molly first hosted, but the buy-ins grew to $250,000 towards the end. The players regularly walked away with millions of dollars. Bloom stated that the biggest loss ever in any of her games was $100,000,000.
Bloom’s high-stakes games ended after the FBI caught wind of her taking a cut of the pot, which is against federal law. Bloom was arrested on April 16, 2013, and pleaded guilty to reduced charges. She received one year of probation, a fine of $1,000 and 200 hours of community service. Despite being at the center of all the games, she only ever discussed people who were revealed by the Bradley Ruderman Ponzi scheme, which included Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Pete Sampras.
High-stakes online poker games
Online poker is extremely popular, with many sites offering their services to amateurs and professionals who want to play online. Sites like these provide players around the world the chance to take part in live online poker tournaments, which are easy to follow thanks to the schedules they provide. Here are two of the biggest online tournament stakes in poker history.
2022 WSOP Online Main Event
The WSOP’s staking poker players are no longer limited to live tournaments in Vegas. The Online Main Event draws thousands of professional online players.
In the 2022 WSOP Online Main Event, the third-ever of its kind, Simon Mattsson beat 4,983 players to take the first-place prize. The poker tournament specialist secured $2,793,574 from the unbelievable $23,674,000 prize pool. The 30-year-old made online poker tournament history and his online tournament winnings now exceed $27.6 million.
World Championship of Online Poker Main Event 2019
Long before WSOP Online, the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) made high-stakes online tournaments possible. The WCOOP began in 2002 and was started when the organizers realized there was growing interest in high-stakes online poker tournaments. PokerStars decided to create an online tournament that could rival WSOP, and so the WCOOP was born.
Much like WSOP, WCOOP consists of many tournaments running different rules, including Pot-Limit and Seven Card Stud. The Main Event for WCOOP 2019 was played according to No-Limit Texas Hold’em rules. The online tournament had a buy-in of $5,200 and a total prize pool of $11,180,000.
Fraser “BigBlindBets” Russell walked away the winner of the tournament with $1,665,962. But it wasn’t easy for Russell at the final table, where he came up against online veterans, including the likes of Talal “raidalot” Shakerchi and Brazil’s Danilo “dans170′” de Lima Demetrio.
After some extremely intense play, Russell was left with only one opponent: de Lima Demetrio. Russell, who was holding an ace and two of spades, managed to clinch victory with a flush, defeating the much stronger ace and king of diamonds that de Lima Demetrio had in hand.
2009 Full Tilt Poker Pot-Limit Omaha
The next biggest online pot was won by Patrik Antonius, who walked away with $1,375,999 in a game of Full Tilt Poker. In 2009, he was up against the incredible Viktor Blom in a Pot-Limit Omaha game with a starting pot of $500/$1,000. Viktor raised the pot to $3,000, then there was a three-bet, a four-bet and finally a five-bet that took it up to $81,000.
The two players went on to the flop, which ran out 4-5-2. Antonius led for $91,000 and Blom raised to $435,000. Antonius went all in and got a snap-call. Blom ended with an open-ended straight draw, but Antonius had an ace-three-king-king. The board ran out 5-9 and Antonius walked away with a massive $1,375,999.
Can you handle the heat in BetMGM’s high-stakes poker games?
BetMGM Poker is the perfect place for beginners who are still learning how implied odds work or intermediate players who are finetuning their poker strategy. We have many tournaments with budget-friendly buy-ins to help new players dip their toes in the water. But did you know BetMGM has many high-stakes games and tournaments to satisfy advanced players?
The poker stakes on our site are always increasing. Our weekly Mega Tuesday tournament has a guaranteed prize pool of $12,000, and our Sunday 30K has a guaranteed jackpot of $30,000. New Jersey players can join our monthly Six Figure Sundays, where players win up to $100,000 in prizes. For some live action, watch out for the highly anticipated The Return Poker Championship Event at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa. The $3 million championship has a guaranteed first-place prize of at least $1 million.
Raise the stakes and play for real money with BetMGM
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