Poker is a game associated with celebrities, huge wads of money, and exclusivity (at least, at tables with the highest stakes imaginable). While those of us who just play a few hands of online poker with friends are highly unlikely ever to land a seat at these exclusive tables, high-stakes cash games with celebrities in the seats sound like the most entertaining poker conceivable. But who runs these games, and where?
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest celebrity home poker games and find out who gets to turn up and what kind of stakes these millionaires play with.
Dan Bilzerian’s billionaire game
Where better to start than with Dan Bilzerian – the king of Instagram and one of poker’s most controversial players. While Bilzerian is undoubtedly mega-rich and leads a lifestyle centered around women, guns, and private jets, could he really have won $50 million in private cash games in just one year?
Well, if you look at the star-studded cast of his LA home game – including VIP guests such as Tobey Maguire, Nick Cassavetes, and Mark Wahlberg, to name a few – adding in the fact that Bilzerian is probably better versed in poker than this Hollywood cast, then his claims hold up a little better. Bilzerian also mixes it up sometimes with Bill Perkins (more on his home game later), who is one of the wealthiest men in America. Then, his tales of $10 million buy-ins and “betting Bugattis” instead of money start to (maybe) ring a little more true, too. Bilzerian may even do some of his big winning playing online poker, though he hardly seems the type to do anything in the privacy and comfort of his home when he would rather be in the public eye.
Regardless, Bilzerian is ultra-rich, whether he earned that money through online poker, cash games, or through the trust fund left to him by his infamous father. Whatever the source of his enormous wealth, the very exclusive home games aren’t going to stop happening any time soon.
Johnny Carson’s Boys
While this home game no longer exists, Tonight Show host and actor Johnny Carson used to host one hell of a home game. Among the exclusive list of invitees were some of Hollywood’s biggest-hitters, including Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Neil Simon, Steve Martin, and Carl Reiner. The game was hosted at Dan Melnick’s house in LA, but this was still Carson’s game while it lasted (Carson died in 2005).
Back in the day, the game was known as the “Gourmet Poker Group” on account of the world-class dinners that players were served when they took a break. It was said that anybody who wanted a seat at the table had to “go through Carson,” and he was given the final say of whether or not you were eligible to play. At least these days – with no hope of getting Carson’s nod “from beyond” – you could just relax at home and play some poker online!
Can you imagine a private home game so big, with such a star-studded guest list, that it’s turned into both a book and a movie? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Molly’s Game. Hosted in the VIP section of the Viper Room in Hollywood, the private game was originally Tobey Maguire’s, but up-and-coming actress Molly Bloom took it over; she later became one of the biggest “facilitators” of high-stakes poker action in the poker world.
The game featured the biggest names imaginable from Hollywood, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Maguire (obviously), and Leonardo DiCaprio. Celebrities weren’t the only millionaires invited to the game, though, with the rest of the seats filled by multimillionaire gangsters and businessmen. This may be the underlying reason why this massively private and exclusive home game caught the attention of the FBI.
Sure, these names are all huge, and so we can assume their bankrolls were too, but what kind of money was staked at the table here? Well, to give you an example of the level of play as well as the stakes, 2006 WSOP Main Event winner Jamie Gold supposedly lost almost all of his $12 million bankroll in a single evening.
Bill Perkins’ private game
Bill Perkins is one of poker’s most enthusiastic players. If you’ve ever seen a televised poker event where the stakes are high enough to summon this jolly whale to the table, then you’ll know Perkins when you see him, or indeed, when you hear him. Perkins is among the most wealthy men in America, so it only makes sense that this ultra-rich multimillionaire would host a massive home game for the other enthusiastic whales he meets on his business trips and at poker tournaments.
We don’t have enough information to tell you exactly who gets which seat or what the criteria are for earning a seat at this exclusive table, but we do know that Dan Bilzerian (the millionaire playboy and king of Instagram we mentioned up top) gets a seat, and has told stories of winning $10.8 million in a single night! Even if he’s exaggerating, trimming a single zero off the end doesn’t make that a cheap game, either.
You know the stakes are high when Perkins admits that even someone as wealthy as him couldn’t ignore the sting of the losses incurred at his own home game, and when a man like Bilzerian – who is the living embodiment of the laissez-faire, devil-may-care immunity to massive poker losses – can’t laugh off a bad run at this exclusive table.
Now, the Macau Millionaires may not be a home game, but it’s impossible to talk about private poker games, particularly ones with high stakes and celebrity casts, without mentioning the gambling mecca of Macau.
This is the game where the poker elite (and by that, we mean immensely skilled and ultra-rich) come to do some high-stakes betting among their peers. Poker pros and legends such as Phil Ivey, Tom “Durrrr” Dwan, and Johnny Chan have all had regular seats at this game, along with the Chinese, Hong Kong, and Malaysian business moguls who frequent the table. We’re not kidding when we say this game is for the big boys in poker, with blinds starting at around $10k/$20k. Tales of losses close to $10 million in a single session are the total of what we know about what happens at poker’s biggest private table. (Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall, there.)
Now, if you thought it was hard to get a seat at any of the other private games we mentioned, then prepare to have your mind blown. To give you an idea of how exclusive and rare a seat at this particular table is, consider that when the game’s running, there are WSOP champions and legends posted up in every hotel and casino around, waiting (praying) for that call to come through that invites them to an empty seat. It’s all about “who you know”… and even then, that’s not always good enough – but that’s the very nature of exclusivity in the world of big-game elite poker!
Get a seat at your own table with BetMGM
While we may never get a seat at any of these exclusive home games, it’s fun to imagine a day that we’re sitting down with millions of dollars in chips in front of us as we rub elbows and needle some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Until then, why not indulge your fantasies by playing the best online poker at your favorite online casino?
At BetMGM, you can play real poker online and many other casino games, not least online slots. From classic Texas Hold’em games and many other poker variants to our exciting and immersive live dealer games and even online poker tournaments, you’ll find there’s a table perfect for your budget and play style. Take your seat at the table and register with BetMGM and start your journey to poker fame, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll be hosting the next big home game for the stars!