It might sound like the simplest thing in the world – just turn up at the casino with a few bricks of cash worth a $million or so and take your seat next to the biggest and best of the world’s high stakes pros – but it’s not quite as easy as that to sit down with the likes of Ivey, Dwan and the big boys!
First up, if you’re a complete unknown – let’s say, me for example, after winning $10million on the lottery and fancying my chances in the Macau or Bellagio Big Game – you’re going to need an introduction.
Pros are happy enough to take money from almost anyone, but if you were Phil Ivey and some random unknown started chucking wads of cash on the table you might wonder, is this guy legit? Is his money even real?
So, you’ll need to know someone who can take you along, introduce you, and basically vouch for the fact you’re not a bankrobber (some pros probably wouldn’t care to be honest, but nobody wants the FBI or IRS on their back!)
Sorry champ, not tonight
Even if you’re a famous name, you’re not guaranteed a seat at the biggest stakes. Private games are invite only – just watch Rounders to see how that works! – and in the real world even the WSOP Main Event champion can find himself out of the loop.
Greg Merson, who took the title down in 2012, went on a Twitter rant when he wasn’t allowed to play at the Aria…
…claiming that the game, basically run by Jean Robert Bellande, was deliberately keeping certain players out while allowing ‘rich whales’ in, and breaking gaming laws by doing so – private games in public casinos being somewhat, ‘irregular’ to say the least, Merson stating:
"The Aria runs illegal private games in their poker room which is terrible for the poker community."
Well terrible for him maybe, but here’s what you also need to know about these big games… nobody, especially not the high-rolling businessmen who often play for thrills, wants to hand their bankroll to a boring pro who is only out to take their money and give nothing back.
The debate on the 2+2 forum saw some wise, or at least realistic, reasons and answers given.
“Greg played some 25/50 nl at Bellagio over the summer, and while he didn’t wear a hoodie or glasses, he never spoke a word… if you want to be invited or in the txt message circles of the big games you need a personality and to 'fit' in their world. The Bobby’s room guys live in a different world than the rest of us, and if you don’t fit in you’re excluded from the club.”
Go East young man
In Macau, where single pots have reached as high as $20million, big name pros have often been left sitting in their hotel rooms for days on end waiting for that elusive call, the one inviting them to sit with the mega-wealthy Chinese businessmen who want to spend their millions playing against famous players.
Again, you have to give something back – so if you’re a ‘nit’ who doesn’t really want to gamble, you’re unlikely to get in - or invited back.
As Tom Hall – known as ‘Hong Kong Tom’ - revealed a couple of years ago in a PokerNews interview:
"It is a quasi-private game, so you shouldn't turn up and expect to be allowed to play, particularly as a pro. Pros are usually introduced through a pro that has played before or through Winfred Yu who organizes the games. Visiting businessmen are usually always accommodated!"
He also explained of the Macau Big Game line-up:
"I don't think any individual is specifically unwelcome, but those super nitty, 'silent at the table' pros are extremely unlikely to get a second invite back to the table."
So, you’ve got the money, you know someone who knows someone who can get you in, you promise to be chatty and willing to gamble at the table to keep the amateurs happy – all you have to do now is actually win to get your name mentioned in the same breath as the world’s best high-stakes cash game players – or, just maybe that $10million lottery win will be in Tom Dwan’s pockets by the end of the night.