Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Return of the Richest Poker Game of All Time

The Inside Story of the $20 Million Poker Game at

Wynn Las Vegas

In what is considered the largest head-to-head poker game of all time, self-made billionaire banker Andy Beal matched $20 million against a rotating cast made up of the best high-stakes poker players in the world, including Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman, Todd Brunson, and Ted Forrest.

During the month of February, Beal played many of the world’s best poker players in head-to-head games of Texas hold’em, for stakes of $30,000-$60,000 and $50,000-$100,000 at Wynn Las Vegas. Average pot size per hand was over $300,000 with the largest pot at $1.9 million. To play in a game of such astronomical stakes, twenty of the world’s best poker players had to combine bankrolls. They played three series of matches in February where each side started with at least $10 million on the table, with millions more in reserve. Wins and losses ran as high as $10 million in a single day, and one session featured two $8 million swings.

This game is the latest (and largest) installment of the richest poker game of all time, started in 2001 when Beal, the publicity-shy owner of one of the most profitable banks in Texas, whose other hobbies have included theoretical mathematics and astrophysics, became interested in poker. On six occasions between 2001 and 2004, he played “heads up” – one-on-one – against members of the group of high-stakes pros who took turns opposing him. Although the professionals won in most of those matches, Beal developed into a world-class high-stakes heads-up hold‘em player, who once won $5.5 million in five days and on another occasion won $12 million in one day.

The only person allowed table side to document this historic rematch “hand by hand” was Bluff poker columnist Michael Craig, author of The Professor, The Banker and The Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time (Warner Books, June 2005). Craig himself was influential in arranging the multimillion dollar rematch and at Beal’s insistence, agreed to sit at the table to document the 2006 games.