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YMMV / High Stakes Poker

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  • All-Star Cast: Pick just about any of the tables put together over the show's run. At least four of the seats will be filled by bona-fide poker superstars, often more. Most notably where Tom Dwan bluffs Peter Eastgate off trip deuces and Barry Greenstein off of pocket aces. The table included them and David Benyamine, Eli Elezra, Ilari Sahamies, Daniel Negreanu, and Doyle Brunson.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Tom Dwan's immense success across only two seasons on the show could be interpreted as him simply being very far above the rim compared to most of his competition, with intimate knowledge about the game that allowed him to play circles around everyone else. There are many, however, who consider his style of play to be overly aggressive, spewy, and ultra-high variance, with Dwan simply having a run of luck during his sessions on the show that made him look better than he was. Both of his famous bluffs on the show, while highly entertaining, did seem to be largely shots in the dark that happened to be correct. His infamous river call with nine-high is a source of debate in the poker community, with some applauding him for being willing to follow through on a read of an opponent's range that very few other people would even consider, and others using it to mock him and as an example of his game being far too careless. Rumors of his lack of success in Macau nosebleed games since the end of the show have fueled the people who consider him to be a flash-in-the-pan.
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    • Daniel Negreanu: Horribly unlucky, or spewy calling station with fancy play syndrome? Or somewhere in the middle? To this day, the poker community can debate over many of Daniel's more infamous HSP hands, with consensus split on Daniel making good decisions that didn't work out, and him just not having a good handle on situations. With Daniel having incredible tournament success in the post-HSP era, it seems like most people consider his play on the show to be a run of brutal beats that were largely unavoidable.
    • Yes, most people agree that Phil Ruffin was the least experienced and worst player to ever show up to High Stakes Poker, despite showing a sizable profit after his session. Generally, his plays were very obvious and straightforward, and he occasionally even seemed to not know the basic rules of the game, acting out of turn and asking players if they had any more money even after they said they were all-in. His profit largely came from one large pot against David Peat, where Ruffin called a turn raise and river bet with just second pair and Peat was bluffing. Most agree that it was an example of Ruffin being such a bad player that he lacked enough poker knowledge to even be bluffed off of any pair, but there are a handful out there who seem to believe that Ruffin actually had a laser-like read on Peat or was noticing Peat trying to boss the table around and wanted to take a stand. Or even that Ruffin's poker ignorance was an act and he was actually a capable player.
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    • Jamie Gold will forever be one of the more controversial players in poker history. Often mocked in the poker community for being an overly-aggressive fish who ran impossibly well in the 2006 Main Event for several days, thus giving him an over-inflated opinion of his abilities and skewing his impression of how often his bluffs would work. Also derided for making tournament poker worse by forcing tournaments to enforce harsher rules against table talk due to his antics, as well as having his character questioned for trying to welch out of an agreement with a friend for half of his 2006 Main Event prize money and later having his WSOP bracelet seized by the IRS to be auctioned off to help pay Jamie's debts. He still has a fair few defenders, who credit him for coming up with a table talk strategy that nobody had seen before or was ready to deal with, having the courage to run bluff after bluff after bluff down the stretch of the main event, and playing very good big stack poker after obtaining a massive chip lead. His HSP showing did little to settle the question, as Jamie was ultimately a significant loser, but also wasn't a complete disaster. His complete lack of poker success and rumors of being broke have cut down his supporters significantly.
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    • Phil Hellmuth, as always. He could just be a manchild who can't handle losing, considers himself such an elite player he's incapable of making mistakes, and believes all of his failures have to be the result of bad luck and bad play by opponents. He might just be constantly pushing his brand of being 'The Poker Brat' and feeling compelled to play the role at every opportunity when on television, and is just acting. Or he could just be unable to control himself when he gets upset.
    • Sammy Farha. Some claim he's a bad player with absurdly large pre-flop ranges because he doesn't care to have the discipline to play well. Others believe Farha knows how to play well but didn't care to on HSP because of being on television, and being able to afford it.
    • The Mike Matusow/Shawn Sheikan rivalry might have been born of actual hatred between the two players. The two did get involved in an altercation near the end of the 2005 WSOP Main Event that seemed to be born of an honest dislike between the two players, and the constant verbal clashing (and Shawn intentionally breaking Mike's expensive sunglasses) have to mean something. But it's possible that much of it is put on for the cameras. In one episode, it's said that Shawn was backing Mike's buyin to the show, and after Mike got felted he went off to talk with Shawn about it, not something you'd expect to happen between actual enemies. Also, Mike didn't seem particularly upset about the broken sunglasses, making light of the situation and not letting it ruin the session.
  • Crazy Awesome: The show ran during the time period where aggression was becoming the name of the game in poker, so many of the participants were known for playing psychotically, which couldn't help but be more entertaining than the more passive styles of most of the players.
    • In particular, Tom Dwan, who was very calculated and mathematical, made it work the best of anyone.
    • Eli Elezra, who was aggressive in the fashion of a typical poker whale (a wealthy, inexperienced player), also had good success.
    • The ultra-aggressive styles of Dario Minieri, Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst, Lex Veldhuis and Ilari Sahamies all saw their attempts to copy Dwan's success fall flat, and Sammy Farha's strategy of playing like the loosest, nuttiest, most-desperate-to-lose-money whale possible also didn't work out.
  • Memetic Mutation: A frequent meme on twoplustwo, one of the world's biggest online poker forums, is using the term 'donkament' to describe a tournament where the quality of play is low and the format is such that players often get all-in on the first hand. Through the twoplustwo forums, a bet was offered to Barry Greenstein where ten thousand dollars would be donated to his charity if he said "lol donkaments" on the show. He did it.
  • Signature Scene: The final hand of an episode in season six between Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey is likely the most well-known hand in the show's run and is often considered one of the greatest televised hands in poker history. A season five hand is comparable in popularity and notoriety as well, featuring Dwan, Barry Greenstein, and Peter Eastgate.
  • What Could Have Been: A season four episode, one of many that season with half-million dollar minimum buyin, nearly had the most expensive clash in televised poker history. Sammy Farha opens to forty-two hundred with ace three offsuit from the hijack, David Benyamine calls with ace eight of clubs on the button, Guy Laliberte calls with king five of clubs from the big blind. Fourteen thousand nine hundred up for grabs. King of clubs, three of diamonds, five of clubs hits the flop, giving Farha bottom pair, Benyamine the nut flush draw, and Laliberte top two pair. Guy checks, Sammy bets thirteen thousand, David raises to forty-three thousand. Guy re-raises to one hundred and sixty-eight thousand, Sammy folds, and David pushes all-in for six hundred thousand. Guy thinks for a moment before calling, creating a pot of one million, two hundred and twenty-seven thousand nine hundred dollars. This would have been, and would still stand today as the largest cash game pot in televised poker history, outpacing the actual record pot by over a hundred thousand dollars. However, David was possibly having money problems at this point in time and had actually borrowed his six hundred thousand dollar buyin from Patrick Antonius, and was uncomfortable playing out the pot as a nearly two-to-one underdog. Guy, an amateur billionaire mostly there to have fun and not wanting to put someone else in an uncomfortable situation, makes a deal where they pretend as if David had folded instead of going all-in, putting him only on the hook for the forty-three thousand he had initially raised. Despite the pleading of Antonio Esfandiari, Guy and David also refuse to show the turn and river to see what would have happened had the hand played out.


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