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Series / High Stakes Poker

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"I'm All-In!"

In the mid 2000s, the poker boom was peaking. Thanks largely to the onset of the World Poker Tour and the Moneymaker Effect of 2003, the popularity of the game had never been higher. ESPN was broadcasting as many World Series of Poker events as they could, internet poker was exploding with new players, and the bright minds of the poker world were beginning to figure out the game on a higher level than had ever been done before. With plenty of tournaments being broadcast on television, there was an interest in getting cash games out to the public as well. High Stakes Poker was among the most well-known of the cash games that ended up being televised during this period, lasting seven seasons from 2006 to 2011, airing ninety-eight episodes over it's run. Comedian-turned-poker-professional Gabe Kaplan and AJ Benza did commentary over the first five seasons, with Kaplan going solo in season six and Kara Scott conducting interviews of the players by the table. Season seven switched to comedian Norm Macdonald in the booth.


High Stakes Poker was a High-Stakes Poker cash game featuring some of the biggest, best, and most recognizable players in the world during that time period. HSP was a no limit Texas Holdem cash game, meaning players were simply buying in for various amounts of money, wagering that money in hands, and could rebuy in for more money if they lost their initial buyins, as well as being able to buy out and leave at any time. This format contrasts with tournaments, in which everyone buys in for the same amount, starts with the same number of chips, and plays until they either run out of chips or have won all the chips in the tournament, with their place of elimination determining what prize money they win, if any. Players would play poker for long sessions, lasting for most of the day, and the most interesting hands from that session would be edited together into forty-three minute long episodes, allowing viewers to get a feel for how the session went by seeing the most significant hands without actually seeing the uneventful hands.


Players on High Stakes Poker always bought in for at least one hundred thousand dollars, with some later seasons requiring buyins of at least two hundred thousand, and some episodes even having a minimum of half a million. Some players would buy in for a full million, and the table would frequently have more than five million dollars on it at any given time. Hands would frequently result in pots of six figures, with several of them getting up over half a million and a few even coming just shy of one million, among the biggest televised cash game pots of all-time.

Hundreds of players appeared on High Stakes Poker over it's run, a mix of old-school professionals who were at the top of the game in the prior era of poker (Doyle Brunson, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Sammy Farha, Barry Greenstein, Phil Hellmuth Jr), the new-wave professionals who were playing the game differently and utilizing a more modern, technical perspective on how to play best (Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond, David Benyamine, Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl, Patrik Antonius), and wealthy amateurs who were there mostly to have a good time (Eli Elezra, Jerry Buss, Sam Simon, Guy Laliberte). The cash game format created a more relaxed environment, allowing for more conversation and jokes between players, providing viewers a snapshot into how high-stakes players interacted with each other when not abiding by tournament rules.

The popularity of the show began to wane over it's final seasons. Poker Stars became the official sponsor of the show in it's last season, which forced the players who were sponsored by Full Tilt Poker (Dwan, Ivey, Antonius, Benyamine) to boycott it. The events of Black Friday proved to be the nail in the coffin for the show, as Poker Stars was moved to pull out of the United States thanks to the crackdown on online gambling.

Provides Examples of:

  • The Ace: Could apply to most of the professionals who were regulars on the show, particularly the new-era stars that had become big players in the 2000s by applying new strategies to the game.
    • Though already well-known to everyone who paid attention to the world of online poker at the time, the legend of Tom 'durrr' Dwan in the mainstream poker world was largely built off of his memorable performance on High Stakes Poker. Always buying in for massive amounts of money, Dwan brought his aggressive, unique, entertaining game that he had cultivated online to the felt, and was undoubtedly the biggest star of HSP. He pulled off the two biggest bluffs in the show's run (betting over a quarter-million dollars with nine-high on the river, forcing Phil Ivey to fold a pair of sixes, and betting over a hundred thousand dollars with a pair of tens on the turn, getting Peter Eastgate to fold trip deuces and Barry Greenstein off of pocket aces) and won the biggest pot the show ever had (nine hundred and twenty thousand dollars, making trip queens to beat Greenstein's pocket aces). On the hands that actually made the television cut of High Stakes Poker, Dwan profited one million, seven hundred and fifty-six thousand dollars. Only one other player exceeded nine hundred thousand dollars profit.
    • David Benyamine, another successful online player, also starred on High Stakes Poker, as the one other player who profited over nine hundred thousand. Much of his success came at the expense of Daniel Negreanu, with some of his more memorable hands on the show involving him getting Negreanu to go all-in for a total of nearly two hundred thousand dollars with pocket jacks when Benyamine held quad fours, getting Daniel to commit a quarter-million dollars on a bluff that Benyamine shoved on with pocket aces, and a merge-bluff in a pot of over a quarter-million dollars, getting Negreanu to fold the ten-high flush when he held the seven-high flush.
  • Announcer Chatter: The announcer team of Gabe Kaplan and AJ Benza talked constantly throughout the show and offered commentary on virtually everything that happened. Contrasted with NBC's Poker After Dark, where commentator Oliver Nejad was mostly silent, with most of his comments simply describing what happened with very few opinions offered. Benza mostly stuck to describing the actions of the players and the cards that came, whereas Kaplan would analyze the play, make guesses on what players might be thinking, and try to figure out what players were trying to accomplish with their actions, as well as give opinions on how good or bad particular decisions were.
  • Badass Grandpa: Doyle Brunson, perhaps the most famous poker player of all time, frequently participated on the show, competing against players nearly a quarter his age who were bringing a new approach to the game. Over a period of time where these young players were beginning to take over and change the game, pushing the older players out, Doyle more than held his own. His profit of over half a million dollars on televised hands was fifth most of all players to ever appear on the show (although much of this margin can be attributed to one hand against billionaire amateur Guy Laliberte), seemingly enjoying himself the whole way.
  • Bad Luck Charm: Sammy Farha, the most superstitious player on the show, refuses to turn over his cards on an all-in until after the river (or rivers) are dealt out, believing that showing his hand before the river is bad luck. He's willing to tell his opponents what he has (or at least clue them into the kind of hand he has) so the players can make a fair deal based off the equity, but he won't show his cards until after the runout.
  • Born Lucky: Johnny Chan was a part-time participant on High Stakes Poker, only appearing in season one and season seven. Things went incredibly well for him in his rare appearances, as Chan was the third-most profitable player in the show's entire run with over six hundred thousand dollars on televised hands. His success can basically be boiled down to two big hands he played that account for almost all of that profit. In both hands, Chan had pocket aces, and in both hands, other players overplayed their hands and put in considerably more money than they should have.
    • Season One: Chan picks up pocket aces from under-the-gun plus one with the straddle on, raising to four thousand. Fred Chamanara has action folded around to him and looks down at ace jack of spades. He announces a raise to four thousand, not realizing that Chan had already raised to four thousand, thus binding him to a minimum raise to eight thousand. Amir Nasseri calls from the straddle with nine eight offsuit, presumably under the assumption that Chamanara would have just called Chan's raise if not for the mistake. Chan raises to twenty-eight thousand. Fred shoves his remaining one hundred and thirty thousand in, getting Amir to fold, and Chan instantly calls to build a pot of three hundred and one thousand dollars with him as a nearly nine-to-one favorite. After fading spades on the river, Chan takes the monster pot.
    • Season Seven: Daniel Negreanu straddles to sixteen hundred, Eric Boneta limps king queen of spades, Phil Laak limps pocket threes, Chan limps pocket aces, Galfond limps king five of hearts, and Negreanu...raises to ninety-one hundred with ten nine of clubs. Boneta and Laak call, Chan pops it up to thirty thousand one hundred. Negreanu folds, Boneta and Laak call, and Chan has just a shade under one hundred and two thousand dollars in the middle already with aces in the hole. Flop of deuce five six rainbow should mean this hand is about to be over, with Chan continuation betting and everyone folding...except, Chan bets forty-five thousand and Boneta ships over two hundred thousand in an attempt to represent a set. Chan immediately calls, and there's over half a million in the pot and Chan has ninety-seven percent of the equity. Three board runouts later, all of it goes over to Johnny.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: On High Stakes Poker, cash played (not the case on shows like The Big Game and Poker Night In America), meaning players could put cash on the table and have it count just the same as the chips. Likely done just for the cool effect of players having giant bricks of cash in front of them on the table.
  • Butt-Monkey: Daniel Negreanu is one of the greatest poker players of all-time, possesses one of the best poker tournament resumes of all-time, and is one of the most recognizable ambassadors of the game. But on his High Stakes Poker appearances, he turned into a magnet for bad luck, ending up on the bad end of cooler after cooler, getting drawn out on in pot after pot, and routinely misjudging situations. Just the most notable of his High Stakes Poker misadventures includes getting all-in against quads on three separate occasions, running into a straight flush when holding a straight, losing nearly four hundred thousand dollars in two hands to Mike Matusow, and incorrectly hero-folding one of the few times he was actually holding the good end of a cooler upon getting raised against David Benyamine. Negreanu lost a staggering two million dollars on the televised hands he appeared in over the show's run, more than four times the show's second biggest loser.
    • Honorable mention to Phil Galfond. By all measures, Galfond is an absolute poker genius and online cash game extraordinaire, having made millions with his incredibly deep understanding of the game. Tom Dwan actually considered Galfond to be the one player in the world he didn't have confidence in being able to beat routinely in heads up play. But Galfond had little go his way on High Stakes Poker, his most notable highlight being getting bluffed out of a pot of nearly half a million dollars by billionaire Bill Klein, folding a straight when Klein bet holding ten-high. Galfond was down nearly four hundred thousand dollars on televised hands, second only to Negreanu.
    • Although his end results aren't the worst, Jamie Gold was this to a certain extent. Jamie Gold won the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event, which drew the biggest field in poker history, netting Gold a then-record twelve million dollar prize, but Jamie was still considered an amateur who had a large skill disadvantage in a game against experienced professionals. These professionals often looked to outplay Jamie, not falling for his frequent bluffs and trademark table-talk. Gold lost over two hundred thousand dollars total on televised hands, but claimed in interviews to have actually broke even if the non-televised hands are included.
  • The Cameo: Gabe Kaplan stepped down from the announcer booth once during season three and played at the table for awhile, making a profit before departing. Amusingly, Daniel Negreanu stepped away from the table and into the booth to offer up his take on the action while Gabe played.
    • Jason Mercier, just beginning to lay the foundation of his professional career and on his way towards being one of the best tournament players in the world, popped in during season six, ran a monster bluff for all his chips that got snapped off by Phil Ivey, and departed quietly. Something of an Early-Bird Cameo, in that Jason was a few years away from becoming a household name in the poker world as a tournament crusher.
    • Many of the players on the show only appeared for one playing session each. Presumably, some of them were left off the invite list as the show's growing popularity demanded more popular, higher-level players. Some were dissuaded as required buyin amounts and blinds increased, pumping up the risk. Some took a quick beating at the hands of the rest of the table and decided they had had enough. And others were happy to lock in some profit and call it good.
  • Chewbacca Defense: Jamie Gold employed some version of this in order to save himself a couple hundred thousand dollars in a particularly bizarre hand against Sammy Farha. Gold had pocket kings and Farha had pocket aces, with both players very deep. After attempting to trap Farha with an irregular display of betting and raising the flop 'in the dark' (both players betting and raising the flop before the cards were revealed), Jamie came to the realization that Farha had aces, but couldn't bring himself to fold kings. On a dry, ten-high board, Jamie tried to talk Sammy into making a deal to check it down since the pot was already quite large. Sammy bet anyway, encouraging Jamie to fold as Sammy was sure he had the best hand, but Jamie called, seemingly alternating back-and-forth between asking Sammy for mercy, and then implying that he had Sammy beat and that he was offering mercy. On the river, with Farha poised to go all-in, Gold continued to berate him with an endless stream of talk trying to get him to check. His story continued to change between him knowing he was losing but being too strong to fold and wanting Farha to just take the pot that was already there, and him having a hand that could beat aces but wanting to be nice to Sammy and not taking the rest of his money. After a few minutes of Gold not making any sense, Farha ended up checking and taking a large pot, though he almost certainly could have stacked Gold by shoving. Farha would later claim that he knew he had the best hand and was being nice to Jamie (it was the first hand of the session and Gold did not have the bankroll of many of the other players on HSP), but it's at least possible he was confused enough by Gold's performance that he decided he didn't want to risk losing more money.
  • Dawn of an Era: The show was filmed and broadcast over the peak of the old-school versus new-school debate in poker, with the show featuring a good mix of old-school and new-school players. Old-school players favored playing more straightforward poker, getting involved with fewer hands, folding when not having a strong holding, and making decisions based off of 'gut feelings' and reads. The new-school was all about being more aggressive and playing more hands, hand-ranging opponents to make decisions, bluffing more, balancing ranges, and leveling. Many of the new-school players were online players, and had thus played far more hands than even those who had been playing for decades, as one can play dozens of hands online in the time it takes a player to play one live hand. These players typically had more advanced strategies and plans due to playing so many hands in their life. By the end of the show, the old-school had effectively died out, a new age of extreme aggression having firmly settled into the world of poker. Old-school players either evolved their game (Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth Jr being good examples) or became irrelevant (Howard Lederer and Barry Greenstein). Since the end of HSP's run, in fact, mainstream poker has gone through another period of evolution, with aggression being scaled-back in favor of pot control and hand-reading, while still being many times more aggressive than the 1900s.
  • The Determinator: One of the things that made Tom Dwan so unique and fun. Most players, though willing to occasionally bluff, would give up after the initial attempt failed, unless given very compelling reason to believe it would work or they had some sort of strong draw. Dwan, however, was willing to continue to fire massive amounts of money with no hand and no potential, despite indicators of strength from opponents. In both the signature scenes of the show, Tom knows he has the worst hand, knows he has almost no opportunity to make the best hand on future streets, and has good reason to believe his opponents are strong, but manages to get them off their hands regardless using big bets and indicators of extreme strength.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Brad Booth, a professional player of some success, looks down at four deuce of spades and decides to three-bet to five thousand eight hundred. Phil Ivey, a man often considered the greatest poker player of all-time, and generally believed to be the best of his era, wakes up with two red kings. He four-bets to fourteen thousand. Booth calls, as a four-to-one underdog, building a pot of thirty-one thousand one hundred dollars. Flop comes three-seven-six with one spade. Ivey with the big overpair is still a four-to-one favorite, Booth has a gutshot straight draw and a backdoor flush draw. Ivey bets twenty-three thousand. Surely the best player of his era, a tour-de-force at cash games just like this one, is going to take this pot down with such a good flop for his hand, right? Except, Booth goes all-in for several times more than the pot, over two hundred and fifty thousand bucks, Ivey thinks for a long time, and finally folds. Brad Booth just got the best player of the era to fold kings on a seven-high flop holding four-high and two weak draws. Respect.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Tom Dwan was by far the most successful player on High Stakes Poker. That doesn't mean less experienced players should watch him to learn how to play good pre-flop Holdem. Not only was Dwan extremely aggressive, he was often downright loose, calling raises and limping weak hands and seeing many more flops than any respected poker instructor would ever recommend. Dwan was able to get away with this sub-optimal pre-flop play with expert post-flop play, effectively making up for bad decisions by successfully bluffing, getting maximum value out of monsters and even marginal hands, and folding good hands when beat. Virtually everyone else in the world isn't capable of those abilities, and thus can't make up for it.
    • Other high-level pros, such as Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius, were similarly questionable with some pre-flop decisions but made it work with high-level play later in hands.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first seasons of the show made minimal use of on-screen graphics, not displaying the actions of the players, nor the size of bets, raises, and the pot size at any given time on the graphics. Later seasons began to display all this information at all times.
    • Also, some of the most recognizable players on the show (Dwan, Ivey, Antonius, Benyamine) didn't begin to appear until seasons 3-4.
  • ForeShadowing: In the first episode of the show, most of the players bought in for between one hundred and two hundred thousand dollars. Doyle Brunson bought in for half a million, but Daniel Negreanu would not be topped and bought in for a full million. He began to bully the table from the very beginning, raising and re-raising repeatedly to blow opponents off of their hands. He even raised all-in preflop on one occasion (although the gesture was somewhat muted, as he could only raise the amount of money his opponents had left, which was surely always much less than one million). The first episode actually went quite well for Daniel, with him pushing people around and making good hands to take nicely-sized pots...only for things to rapidly deteriorate as the session went on. By episode nine of the first season, Daniel was down below half a million, having shipped large amounts of money to the likes of Mimi Tran and Sammy Farha, and was very clearly beginning to tilt. Daniel probably should have taken that as a sign and never returned to the set, as his luck never turned, and his entire run on the show was largely similar to his run over this first season.
  • Gambler Groupies: The HSP table was in a room that usually contained at least a couple attractive women, with Kaplan sometimes joking that they were basically serving as this towards whoever scooped up the most recent big pot.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Barry Greenstein never runs it more than once on general principle. He can be a big favorite, big underdog, or it can be a coinflip, and he'll still refuse to run it multiple times. Based off of his results in big all-ins on HSP, he should perhaps have reconsidered this philosophy.
    • His purity in this regard did help him out once. After getting it all-in with jack nine after flopping a jack against Tom Dwan and running into Dwan's aces, Barry was a three-to-one underdog. True to form, he ran it once, and spiked two pair on the turn. Five hundred and fifty thousand found it's way to Greenstein. Unfortunately...
    • Dwan got his revenge in the biggest played-out, no-gimmick pot in the show's entire run. Barry had aces, but Dwan's king queen of spades connected so well with a flop of queen four deuce with the four and deuce of spades, the two quickly built a pot of nearly nine hundred and twenty grand. It was fifty-fifty at that point, and Barry would probably have gotten his money plus a little extra back had he run it twice. His refusal was answered by a turned queen, giving Dwan the pot.
    • Greenstein's pocket fours loved the ten six four flop in a three-way pot during season seven. Of course, Antonio Esfandiari couldn't help but have similar affection for the cards, holding the eight seven of hearts and seeing the six and four of hearts on the board. After cramming in all they could, the pot was just short of six hundred thousand, with Greenstein a six-to-four favorite. Of course, Greenstein ran it once, and a turned queen of hearts sent it all over to Antonio.
    • Barry was living the Holdem dream, holding pocket aces, while Sammy Farha was stuck in the nightmare with pocket kings. The two got it all-in preflop (though Farha strongly considered folding), putting three hundred and sixty grand up for grabs. A four-to-one favorite, the flop brought a king. Farha actually offered to run the turn and river twice even after the king hit, but Barry still turned him down. No ace on the runout gave the whole thing to Farha.
  • House Rules: Thanks to being a cash game not beholden to any hard set of rules, the players could generally do whatever they wanted during the game, including things that seemed to violate the 'spirit' of the high-stakes gambling the show meant to depict. This occasionally caused what would have been a particularly exciting hand to have a disappointing conclusion. However, such alterations to rules of poker were common at high-stakes cash games.
    • Most pots of a decent size where a player got all-in before the river concluded with players running out the remainder of the board twice to reduce variance. Ex: Doyle Brunson goes all-in on the flop having started the hand with three hundred thousand dollars, and Tom Dwan calls, having Doyle covered. Doyle has pocket aces and Tom has jack ten of spades on a king of spades, queen of spades, deuce of clubs flop. On a single turn-river runout, the odds are almost exactly fifty-fifty. So instead of basically flipping a coin for over six hundred thousand, the players might agree to run it twice. The dealer puts out a turn and river, then puts out a second turn and river. Whoever wins the first runout wins half of the pot, and whoever wins the second runout wins the other half. Great for the players, in that they don't have to put the cost of a small house up for grabs in a situation ruled completely by luck with no middle ground. Not so great for the viewers, who might be tuning in specifically to see those massive amounts of money change hands, and now will likely get to see the pot get split and both players get their money back plus the blinds and antes. Occasionally players ran it three times, and on one occasion went a whopping four times, which helped protect players in the event that they got all-in as a two-to-one, three-to-one, or even larger underdog, and give them a real shot at getting some of their money back.
    • Players could chop a pot at any time, where all players who still had a hand could agree to evenly divide the money in the pot amongst themselves instead of playing it out. Sammy Farha would 'jokingly' suggest to do this right before the flop on most of the hands he played, and him not making this offer was often an indication that he had a very strong hand. This was done rarely, mainly used as a way to expedite procedures in situations where it didn't make sense to run out the hand. Daniel Negreanu and Ilari Sahamies got all-in on the flop with both holding the same hand and both having the same double-belly-buster straight draw in one episode, and decided to just chop the pot instead of running it out. Both players actually had a backdoor flush draw, and thus it was possible that one could have won the hand outright, which makes their decision of some note.
    • After getting all-in, players could also elect to reduce the size of the pot by any amount. On the biggest HSP pot of all-time, Barry Greenstein and Tom Dwan got nearly four hundred and fifty thousand dollars a piece into the pot. Greenstein suggested that they both take two hundred thousand back after seeing the equity was practically even, to reduce variance, but Dwan refused.
    • Most sessions involved the inclusion of the straddle for at least one orbit. When the straddle was active, the player to the left of the big blind (also known as under the gun) would commit some chips to the pot before looking at his cards (typically double the big blind, so twelve hundred dollars on blinds of three hundred and six hundred). The straddling player would then get to act last before the flop. The increase in the amount of money before any players took informed actions meant that future bets had to be considerably bigger, which built bigger pots. Often, every player at the table would have to agree to put the straddle on for a certain number of hands, as most players would only do it if everyone else was doing it. It was not against the rules, but very much frowned upon by the table, to not straddle when everyone else is doing it. Occasionally, double-straddles (the player to the left of the straddle posting double the straddle) and even triple-straddles happened.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Never located, as it turns out. There was never a made royal flush on High Stakes Poker. On one season seven hand, Robert Croak folded queen seven with the queen of hearts preflop, then helplessly watched the ace, king, jack, and ten of hearts all get put on the board. Daniel Negreanu did take a break from catching constant bad luck, however, to make a king-high straight flush in one episode, although he could take only a small pot with it.
  • Humiliation Conga: Negreanu couldn't make it through more than a few episodes without getting coolered, drawn out on, or outplayed in a large pot. In a long and illustrious career, Kid Poker getting abused on High Stakes Poker may very well be the lowlight. The most notable hands from Daniel's horrible run include, but are certainly not limited to:
    • Gus Hansen's got pocket fives, Daniel Negreanu's got pocket sixes, and both players flop a set. Should be an opportunity for Daniel to stack off a few hundred thousand from Gus. Particularly when Negreanu makes a full house on the turn. Except, the turn is another five, making Gus quads. Gus check-raises all-in on the river, and Daniel can do little else but call with sixes full, ultimately shipping a five hundred and seventy-five thousand seven hundred dollar pot over to Hansen.
    • Daniel flops a straight, holding ten nine on a eight jack queen flop. Even better, his friend Erick Lindgren holds pocket eights for bottom set. Erick's got more than a hundred grand in front of him that just seems destined to end up in front of Daniel by the end of the hand...except, Erick hits the last eight in the deck on the turn for quads. Erick raises all-in on the river, Daniel gets uncharacteristically upset, and makes it clear he knows he can't beat anything that Erick could play like this. Despite even admitting that he knows he's losing, he calls, paying off Lindgren in a pot of two hundred and thirty-three thousand one hundred.
    • Daniel's got jacks, David Benyamine's got fours, making Daniel a significant favorite...until David flops a set. On a seven-high flop that Daniel can't possibly fold on, just to make it worse. The turn brings a fourth four, reviving the ongoing HSP feud between Kid Poker and quads. Benyamine bets small, Negreanu shoves, and David calls to scoop a four hundred and sixteen thousand two hundred dollar pot.
    • Eli Elezra's pocket sixes against Daniel's five three suited turns into top set against a flopped nut straight, seemingly guaranteeing massive action and indicating good things for Negreanu's stack. Unfortunately, the turned three reduces the value of Daniel's hand and reduces the amount he can expect to get paid off. And then, the rivered deuce fills up Eli, leaving Daniel muttering to himself about repeatedly flopping the nuts and still losing on the night when Eli makes a large bet. Despite seemingly knowing the straight is no good, he calls, another six figure pot going to a Negreanu opponent.
    • Negreanu turns the ten-high flush, Benyamine turns a seven-high flush, and Doyle Brunson turns top set of queens. Pot is already nearly thirty-seven thousand, and once the rivered ace doesn't pair the board there's no way Daniel doesn't finally get a bit of revenge by taking in a huge pot in the three-way cooler, right? Well, he bets for value, gets called by Doyle, and Benyamine...raises big. Daniel, despite finally being on the good side of a cooler and for once in his HSP life being in a spot where he can make a ton of money, decides that this is the time he's going to make a hero fold, suspecting that David must have the nut flush to be making this raise. To make it burn worse, Doyle calls the raise with a worse hand, paying off Benyamine. Two hundred sixty-five thousand five hundred goes over to Benyamine, after it seemed certain to end up in front of Daniel.
    • One episode in season six had Negreanu playing the part of Mike Matusow's whipping boy. Flopping trip nines in a three-way pot feels pretty good, but after quickly getting it all-in against Matusow, it ended up being completely crushed by Mike's kings full of nines. With only one out, the players ran it twice and Daniel failed to catch either time. Three hundred and twenty-nine thousand two hundred, all over to Matusow.
    • Later in the same episode, Matusow's ace queen of clubs ran into Negreanu's pocket tens. A seven-high flop with two clubs was good enough reason for Mike to shove nearly two hundred grand into a pot of nearly one hundred grand, and Daniel eventually called to find himself in a flip. The players ran it twice. Matusow made the nut flush on the river of run one, Daniel managed to remove pair outs from the equation by turning a set of tens on the second run...and Matusow made another flush on the river, scooping a pot of nearly half a million. The sequence is particularly interesting to view now, nearly a decade later, with Negreanu and Matusow no longer being friends due largely to Matusow's support of Donald Trump in the 2016 election, with Negreanu speaking very poorly about Matusow when prompted.
    • Daniel's got a ten on a ten nine three three board, and David Benyamine's got pocket aces. Benyamine bets the turn to build a pot of nearly two hundred grand, and Daniel decides to turn top pair into a bluff by raising. The two engage in an extended conversation, with Negreanu saying he put Benyamine on kings, and Benyamine decides to shove. The pot stands at a staggering eight hundred and fifty thousand, and Daniel has to fold.
    • In one of the more mystifying hands on this list, Daniel rivers the nut flush, with a fourth spade hitting the board and Daniel holding the ace of spades. Daniel checks. Todd Brunson turns his pair of jacks into a bluff and bets about sixty percent of the pot. Sammy Farha lays down trip fives thanks to the four-flush board, leaving Daniel with a seemingly easy call after he under-represented himself by checking the river. Daniel tanks for a moment, puts Brunson on a full house, and folds, despite only needing to put another twenty-one thousand into a pot of over fifty-six thousand to find out if the nut flush was good.
    • Daniel decides to get frisky with jack eight offsuit, getting involved in a pot of nearly fifty thousand dollars preflop with Tom Dwan despite a three-bet from Tom, who holds ace king offsuit. Daniel flops a pair of jacks...but Dwan flops trip aces to leave Daniel drawing almost dead. Bet from Dwan, call from Daniel, six figure pot. Dwan fills up on the turn with a king, bets, Daniel turns his pair into a bluff and raises, Tom calls. River goes check-check after Daniel gives up on his bluff, shooting the three hundred and eighty-three thousand four hundred dollars over to Dwan.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: The seventh and final season featured Norm Macdonald doing commentary by himself. Also, Full Tilt Poker professionals were boycotting the show after Poker Stars began to sponsor it, depriving the show of some of the more successful players of the earlier seasons (Full Tilt Pros Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, Patrick Antonius, David Benyamine, and Eli Elezra were some of the biggest winners over the first six seasons). New players were brought in to fill this void, including some of the young players who became the biggest stars of the game in the 2010s, such as Jonathan Duhamel and Vanessa Selbst, just as their stars began to rise. Wealthy businessmen such as Bill Klein and Robert Croak were among the new additions as well.
  • Main Characters: Of the hundred-or-so players who participated in High Stakes Poker over seven seasons, only four played in every season. Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, and Antonio Esfandiari.
  • Money to Throw Away: Sammy Farha frequently played like this when on High Stakes Poker. Outside of the billionaire businessmen who occasionally played on the show, Farha was the wealthiest player to make recurring appearances, and used his massive bankroll to play very loose and aggressively, calling with weak hands and frequently bluffing, knowing that the money he might lose from playing less-than-optimally was not a significant deal to him. With the show being televised, it was more important to him to have a good time and make the televised cut as much as possible than to actually make money.
    • Eli Elezra played similarly, being very loose with his calls and raises, although Eli ended up being one of the more profitable players.
  • Oh, Crap!: David Benyamine in the monster-pot-that-wasn't against Guy Laliberte on seeing Guy's hand. David was hoping to end the hand by shoving six hundred thousand in with the nut flush draw, thinking that Guy would have a lesser flush draw, combo draw, or even an overplayed top pair and probably fold, but sometimes call with David in good shape. But then Guy, while thinking, turns over his cards to show the table he has a real decision, and shows top two pair, and David realizes Guy is going to eventually call and be a two-to-one favorite for the biggest pot in televised cash game history. Oh yeah, and David borrowed his buyin from Patrik Antonius due to some financial issues he was having at the time. His expression accurately reflects all of these factors. Guy bails David out by offering to just end the hand there in exchange for less than ten percent of the money David had put into the pot, but Benyamine was certainly not feeling good in that moment.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: While a very intelligent person and good player, Phil Laak's frequent appearances on the show were as much for his lively personality and frequent jokes as anything else. Laak was well aware of, and frequently talked about how, he was clearly inferior to many of the players he would play against.
    • Laak's best friend Antonio Esfandiari was also often involved in the more humorous moments of the show, even if he was also a well-regarded player at the time. Interestingly enough, after the show's end, Antonio would win the 2012 Big One for One Drop, the biggest poker first prize of all-time, and then become regarded as one of the most elite players in the world over the next several years.
  • Professional Gambler: Often a whole table of them, with occasional seats reserved for amateurs with enough money to play.
  • Running Gag: If Sammy Farha is in the hand, expect him to suggest a chop to the other players in the hand before the flop is dealt. Mostly said in jest, as nobody ever takes him up on the offer, but he typically passes on offering it if actually holding a big hand.
    • Though always respectful to the Godfather of poker, Gabe Kaplan would take opportunities to mock Doyle Brunson for his old age when possible.
    • AJ Benza's lack of poker knowledge was a frequent source of needles from Kaplan. Though often over-exaggerated for comedic effect, Gabe was doubtlessly the more poker-knowledgeable of the two.
  • Side Bet: There was probably no moment on set during the show's entire run where at least one side bet wasn't on. If viewers learned anything about the world of High Stakes Poker from this show, it's that these guys didn't consider it enough to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars on poker hands.
    • Players were almost always locked into prop bets during the game. These were mostly luck-based wagers made by players at random, dependent on things that happened in the game. For instance, Gus Hansen might have a prop bet in place that he wins a thousand dollars from all other players participating in prop bets every time the flop is all black cards, while Phil Ivey could win five thousand from everyone every time the flop is one-gapped (five-seven-nine or ten-queen-ace), and Patrik Antonius gets ten thousand from everyone every time the river card is a red ace. Prop bets were such a huge part of the show, players would often spend the entire session talking about them and taking notes on them, with Kaplan wondering if the producers might eventually complain about all the focus on them.
    • Cross-booking was an occasional factor, though not quite such a continuous factor that it dominated table talk. Players would agree to supplement the other player's winnings, should that player have any. If Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow were cross-booking each other at thirty percent, and Hellmuth ended the session with one hundred thousand dollars profit, then Matusow would owe Hellmuth thirty percent (thirty thousand). Of course, if Matusow also profited in the session, say fifty thousand, Hellmuth would owe Matusow fifteen thousand. It was in effect a bet to see who would profit more during a session, with the loser paying the winner an amount that scaled to the margin of victory.
    • One side bet that was actually a factor in gameplay was the occasional placing of the deuce-seven game. When active, any player who managed to win a hand holding a seven and a deuce (the worst hand in Holdem, due to it's immediate weak value combined with it's inability to make three-card straights), either by bluffing or making the best hand at showdown, was entitled to a bounty from all the other players, usually five hundred dollars. This wager would motivate all the players to play deuce seven as if it was aces or a flopped set, making for larger and entertaining pots. Players would risk tens of thousands in attempts to win the bounty which often totaled less than five thousand, proving that the players mostly considered the bragging rights of winning with deuce seven more compelling than the extra money.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: Phil Ruffin barely seemed to know the rules to poker, folding out of turn constantly during his season seven appearance, yet he made several hundred thousand dollars in his one session. On top of making a couple big hands that won significant pots, Ruffin's best trait seemed to be that he was both too rich and too inexperienced to bluff. His most well-known HSP hand involved him snap-calling a six figure river bet with second pair no kicker on a board with possible straights and flushes, picking off a complete airball bluff from Viffer, likely because Ruffin was uninterested in thinking about the hand at all beyond the acknowledgement that he had a pair. Hilariously, after Viffer told him he was good and turning over the bluff, Ruffin continued to push stacks of chips into the pot, even though he already knew he was just going to take them right back because he knew he had won.

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