7 Biggest Punts of 2022/23 – Featuring Eric Persson, Nik Airball, and Wesley
Last Updated: September 23, 2023
It’s been years since the first high stakes games aired on TV, but the games we used to see back then were significantly smaller, and significantly less wild than what we have had a chance to see over the recent months.
The rise of Hustler Casino Live and Big Bet Poker, along with the return of High Stakes Poker, bigger and better than ever, have led to some insane action aired in real time for millions of poker fans.
Over the last 12 months, we have seen some of the best poker players battle it out with a cast of villains who came up in the live streams and made quite the names for themselves.
These encounters often ended up in epic blowups and hands that were played extremely unorthodoxly, often to the detriment of a few select players whose plays, while questionable from a strategy standpoint, certainly didn’t lack courage.
This is a look at the biggest punts we have had a chance to witness over the last year and a reminder of some of the most epic hands televised poker has ever brought us.
7. Rampage vs. Blank Check Ben – Hustler Casino Live
It’s been some time now since Ethan “Rampage” Yau has joined the high stakes poker scene, and he’s been one of the fan favorites in every show he’s played on.
2023 was still young when Ethan set down in the biggest game of his life up to that point, facing off against the likes of Double M, Bill Klein, and Blank Check Ben.
The hand started in a fairly common way, with Ben opening it up to $1,800 with his J♣10♦, and Rampage bumping it up to $12k with his red Kings.
While some players might just fold right here, Ben raised it back to $33.8k, giving Rampage a chance to win this hand right then and there.
The young pro decided to trap instead, and it was this “just call” that led to him losing the biggest pot he ever played to that point.
The board of A♣J♠J♥ could have saved Rampage, but it wasn’t quite enough. After both players checked the flop, Ben followed up on his preflop aggression with a $48k bet on the 6♠ turn, which Yau called.
The 5♦ completed the river and Ben fired $83k into the pot, wanting to get paid. Rampage, probably mad at himself and the way he had played the hand, ended up making this call and probably one the biggest punts of his life.
The size of this pot was certainly not enough to derail Rampage’s fledgling high stakes poker career, but it was a big hit and perhaps a lesson taught by one of the loosest players in the game.
6. Eric Persson vs. Alan Keating – Hustler Casino Live
It’s been just about a year since an epic hand played out between Mr. Maverick himself and Alan Keating, one of the most beloved characters in TV poker.
The hand was brought to us by Hustler Casino Live as part of a monster session that saw huge swings with players like Jean Robert Bellande (JRB), Wesley, and Blank Check Ben all in the mix.
For some context, Persson had just lost a big pot holding pocket Aces against JRB’s 9♦6♦, and was looking to make things happen, and fast!
A $2.4k straddle was on when Eric looked down at A♦Q♠, a hand he believed was worth exactly $18.2k. The raise was met by a quick call by Mr. Keating, who held two black Fives in the hole.
It was all good news for Alan when a flop of 5♦J♣2♣ hit the board and Persson continued for $20k. Keating slow-played his set, only to see the 7♥ hit the turn and Eric fired out a $50k bet into the abyss.
Once again, Keating opted not to defend against flush draws, simply knowing that Eric didn’t have one, but rather just random two cards.
His slow-play paid off big time on the 7♦ river, as Persson shoved the remaining $150k of his stack into the middle, holding nothing but Ace-high.
It was one of the trademarked Eric Persson blowups that saw him torch well over $200,000 in that hand alone, making him the big loser for the session.
Eric left the game after the hand, clearly tilted, but he would be back for quite a bit of action, and quite a bit of pain, in the sessions to follow.
5. Eric Persson vs. Andy Stacks – Big Bet Poker Live
Big Bet Poker took over for Live at the Bike, one of the longest airing poker live streams, and immediately started attracting attention with massive games, led by none other than Eric Persson.
In one epic hand that happened at the very end of 2022, Persson decided to torch off over $400k of his million dollar stack holding “The Robbi,” a hand that was popularized in the epic showdown between Robi Jade Lew and poker pro Garret Adelstein.
With players left and right trying big bluffs with J4 off-suit, Persson felt it was his time to give it a shot when he was dealt the hand in a $100/200 game on Big Bet Poker Live.
Aussie Al opened the action to $2k holding A♥9♠, which was called by Andy Stacks’ black Tens. When both Tan and Berkey joined along, Eric decided to spice it up and raise it up to $18k, holding nothing but “The Robbi.”
Four players went to the flop, as Tan’s A♠J♠ and Berkey’s pocket 7s looked too tempting to fold, and $75k was in the pot, just like that.
Andy could hardly believe his luck when the board read 10♥9♦2♠, giving him top set in this gigantic 3-bet pot. He was certainly even more excited when Eric followed his preflop action with a $54k c-bet.
With two players still left to act and a potentially scary board in front of him, Andy decided to risk nothing, and raised it up to $145k, which should certainly have been the end of the hand.
The other two quickly got out of the way, and just as we waited for Eric to end the posturing and throw his cards in the muck, he announced the was ALL IN!
Just like that, $400k of Eric’s stack was in the middle, with Andy a 95% favorite to win the massive $862k pot. To make things even crazier, Eric announced they were running it once, as he always does.
The remaining cards did not help Persson, whose massive stack was left in ruins following one of the biggest blow-ups we have seen on live streamed poker, all fuelled by a whimsical bluff attempt with J4, as Robbi Jade Lew continues to indirectly cost poker players hundreds of thousands of dollars with each passing day.
4. Nik Airball vs. Tom Dwan – Hustler Casino Live
Nik Airball may deem himself as the best cash game player around, but his experience and skill fade in comparison to Tom Dwan, the original king of cash game poker.
The two faced off in a huge Hustler Casino Live hand, which might very well be the biggest Nik Airball punt we have seen on TV, costing him nearly $300k.
This hand happened in the same Million Dollar Game in which Wesley tried to bluff out the legend, as Nik Airball decided it was his time to try the same.
Nik limped in for $1k holding A♠10♥, and decided to call Tom’s iso-raise to $8k, which was quite apparently designed to keep Airball in and get everyone else out.
Holding two black Tens, Tom continued for $10k on a board of 8♦7♣6♥, and Airball decide it was his time to play cowboy, as he raised it up to $30k.
Dwan made a somewhat unorthodox play here, raising it back to $79k, and opening the action back up for Airball. Nik would not be one to back out, and he ripped it all-in for $282k in total with just a gutshot straight draw.
While Dwan did bemoan his own “dumbness” for re-opening the action, he finally mustered the call and ended up winning both runs of the board that would spell the end of Nik Airball’s action in the game that cost him yet another cool million dollars.
3. Doug Polk vs. Tom Dwan – Hustler Casino Live
Everyone who knows poker also knows the name Doug Polk, and few would say they consider him a punter or a bad player.
However, one thing everyone knows about Doug is that he is both capable and willing to pull the trigger on some massive bluffs. This is exactly what happened during the Million Dollar Games on HCL earlier this year.
The hand kicked off with blinds at $500/1k and Doug kicking it up to $3k with his 5s4s, a very standard open from the cutoff.
Sitting in the small blind with a stack of about a million dollars, Dwan made it $14k to go with his 7♥7♣, which Polk quickly called and proceeded to the flop.
The players were both very deep, so it comes as no surprise that Doug decided to see the flop, and this was certainly not the point at which the punting began.
The flop came perfect for Tom with K♦7♦2♠, but it seemed like action might halt considering Doug only had a couple of backdoor draws.
This didn’t stop Doug Polk from calling a $15k continuation bet on the flop, which once again was a relatively standard play considering their stack depth and other dynamics involved.
It was the 6♥ on the turn that got Doug into trouble. Turning an open-ended straight draw, he saw an opportunity and raised Tom’s $30k bet up to $115, which must have felt like music to Dwan’s ears.
The river was a 6♠, filling up Tom’s boat and ensuring that he has the best hand. Smart enough to realize Doug was probably bluffing, Dwan checked his option and let the heads up master hang himself.
It took less than a minute for Polk to announce a bet of $420k, money that he would definitely be saying goodbye to.
It took Tom an unusual amount of time to decide on just a call. Holding one of the best possible poker hands, and with KK almost out of the picture, most of the table was surprised to see Tom not go all in, but it would not have mattered anyway.
In the end, Polk revealed his hand and laughed along with Wesley and other players at the punt he had made, likely believing he played the hand right and simply ran into a monster that time.
2. Wesley vs. Tom Dwan – Hustler Casino Live
Coming from the world of crypto trading, Wesley has quickly turned into one of the crowd favorites on Hustler Casino Live, as his willingness to gamble and play for high stakes have not gone unnoticed.
The spirits were high when the biggest pot in TV poker history started, with players laughing it up and talking during a session of the massive Million Dollar Game thrown by Hustler Casino Live.
The likes of Doug Polk and Nik Airball decided to sit this one out, as Wesley was pit against poker legend Tom Dwan.
The hand started with Hank raising it up to $7k and Wesley coming over the top to $30k with his A♦K♥, a very standard play indeed.
Wesley even slid his cards over to Doug to have a peak, demonstrating the friendly nature of this game. Unlike the rest of them, Tom seemed in a bit less of a friendly mood, as he raised it up once more to $100k holding two black Queens, a powerhouse hand in Texas Hold’em.
While Wesley could have opted for the safer route and just called, he decided to bump it up to $275k, leading in big part to the decisions Dwan made after the flop.
After deciding to call the preflop re-raise, Tom would not be deterred by the 8♦8♠3♦ board, which certainly didn’t connect with any of the hands in Wesley’s range.
With $1.3 million still behind in Tom’s stack, Wesley continued for a small $125k bet, one he might also make with a hand like AA or KK.
The 5♥ turn was equally as harmless, and Wesley once again fired, this time for $350k, and Dwan took a while before calling this bet, clearly contemplating the likelihood of his opponent holding an overpair.
The 6♣ hit the river, and Wesley announced he was all-in for just under $800k to complete his punt, which would turn into the biggest pot in TV poker history.
At this point, Tom started talking about his concern at Wesley holding an 8, which certainly seemed quite unlikely considering the fast preflop action.
Nevertheless, he ended up making the call, and Wesley was forced to turn over his bluff and send the $3.1 million pot the way most pots in these high stakes games seem to go, the way of Tom Dwan.
Wesley may have lost a mansion in a matter of minutes, but Nik Airball’s consoling words were surely worth it, as the self-proclaimed “King of LA” praised his bravado and guts and gave him a big tap on the back.
1. Eric Persson vs. Patrik Antonius – High Stakes Poker
What a year it’s been for TV poker! For the first time ever, we have seen poker games with a million dollar buy-in on TV, and it was High Stakes Poker that made it happen first.
The game brought together some of the very best poker players around, with Andrew Robl and Patrik Antonius to name a couple, along with some top-tier businessmen like Rob Yong and Eric Persson.
With blinds at $1k/2k, Persson decided to raise to $7k from his million dollar stack, holding Q♥9♥, a reasonable starting hand in a short-handed game.
Yong went along on the button with A♣2♣, before the Finnish pro looked down at A♥K♥ and bumped it up to $30k.
Back over to Persson, the Maverick Gaming owner quickly made the call, giving Rob Yong great odds to also make a call in position and try to make a big hand.
The flop came 8♥3♥3♣, giving both Partik and Eric a flush draw, and Antonius continued for $40k. Not one to waste time, Persson almost immediately raised it up to $110k.
While most players would respond to this with a call, Antonius realized his hand had value against a lot of other drawing hands, and pumped it back up to $250k.
It was Eric who made the call now, and the dealer rolled over the A♠, the card that gave Patrik Antonius the checkmark and locked the hand up.
He bet out for $150k, hoping to get called, but instead saw Eric push in the rest of his million dollar stack, which came as quite a surprise.
Yet, it took no more than a few seconds for Patrik to make the call. Seeing the hand, Eric said “Queen or a nine,” not realizing he was already drawing dead against the Finn.
The inconsequential J♠ completed the board, and Patrik took home one of the biggest pots in TV poker history, although Tom Dwan would soon take that record right out of his hands.
These are just some of the top punts we saw during the past 12 months or so, but there are many more that didn’t make this list, and there will certainly be many more to come. And we, as poker fans, are looking forward to seeing them!