Everything Is Set for Matt Berkey & Nik Airball Grudge Match
Whether it’s the time of year or something else, the poker world has been filled with drama over the last couple of weeks.
Things kind of started with Nick Vertucci discussing Garrett Adelstein’s half-ban from the HCL stream, and this started a huge snowball effect. Polk invited Nik Airball to his podcast, during which Nik mostly talked about Garrett.
However, for a few minutes, the podcast took a different direction as Nik Airball issued a public heads-up challenge to Matt Berkey, stating that he was ready to play him pretty much whenever and for any stakes.
The whole thing was further heated by Polk openly stating his opinion that Berkey’s coaching site was not a real deal and that he pretty much had no business selling poker training.
At first, it seemed like Berkey was avoiding Airball’s challenge, but then the two took it to Twitter (as it is common in the poker world), with Nik taunting Berkey into playing him.
While the whole thing seemed more like something you’d see on a school playground, the taunt strategy apparently worked, as Berkey tentatively agreed to play Airball. But…
Setting Up Match Conditions
Given that there is clearly no love lost between the two, both parties felt like they needed an arbitrator to help them agree upon the match rules and make sure both players abide by them.
That “honor” eventually went to Phil Galfond. It’s not hard to understand why Galfond was an easy choice as someone who enjoys an excellent reputation in the community. Why Phil accepted this ungrateful role is a bit of a mystery, but I digress.
I’m sorry to report that @nikairball and @berkey11 were reasonable & civil and decided on terms quickly. https://t.co/LwE0MRnL3G
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) March 26, 2023
So, with Galfond’s help, the terms for the match were arranged, and both players agreed on the following key aspects:
- The match will last 100 hours in total
- It will be played live
- $200/$400 ($400) blinds
- Min. buy-in $100k, no max buy-in
- There will be three sessions every week, with each session lasting 6.5 hours
- There is a $10k penalty for missing a session or quitting early
- Either player can quit the match if they are stuck over $1,000,000
It seemed like everything was set, and the poker world would get the grudge match it so much desires (and deserves?), but there had to be at least one more twist.
One Final Hurdle
Just as the two were finalizing all the details, Nik Airball came up with a request that didn’t seem all that outrageous, but Berkey was completely against it and made it pretty clear that this wasn’t open for debate.
More clarification for you all 🙂
Nik wants his friend Eshaan in the room, who he says is not his coach, and he offered stipulations that would prevent in-game discussion & note-taking of any kind.
Matt feels this is against the spirit of the 1 on 1 bet.
Nobody budging. 🙂🔫
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) March 29, 2023
And just like that, it seemed like the match was dead in the water before it had ever started. Nik’s supporters accused Berkey that he was just using this as another excuse to avoid playing, but this time around, taunts didn’t work.
Matt wasn’t going to agree to Airball’s request, and that was that. But, to the joy of the entire poker world, the two were able to resolve the issue in a cordial and amicable manner and get things back on track.
Arbitration is back on track and going smoothly. pic.twitter.com/MKrJN1c5CR
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) March 30, 2023
Up to this point, all the discussion was pointing to the fact that the match would be played in a closed environment, meaning no live streaming. Just two poker players, chips, and cards – the old fashion style. But then Doug Polk entered the pitch once again, throwing a nice curveball.
Polk Offers $100k to the Winner to Host the Match at the Lodge
Doug Polk is one hell of a poker player, no doubt about that, but he might just be as good of an entertainer.
Understanding what it is that makes the poker world tick, he’s gotten involved with many controversies in the past, and seeing how his podcast gave wing to the whole thing, he clearly wants to be a part of what’s likely the biggest grudge match we’ve seen since his battle against Negreanu.
And to make that happen, Polk is willing to put his money where his mouth is.
I cant believe I am going to offer this, but this is my best and final offer.
I am willing to pay $100,000 to have Berks vs Airball on the stream, ill pay it to the winner and I will also agree to not make fun of Berks for the entire challenge. https://t.co/9VJp7PbcQn
— Doug Polk (@DougPolkVids) March 30, 2023
Not only is Doug willing to pay $100k to the winner if the match takes place at his club, but he’ll also agree not to make fun of Berkey’s play, which just might be harder for him than parting with a six-figure amount.
It seems unlikely Matt will agree to this, though. The potential downside of having 100 hours of his live heads-up footage for Nik and other opponents to analyze later on could be much bigger than $100,000. At least that’s the general vibe we’ve been getting from the poker media.
Additionally, there is the feeling that Nik Airball would do much better in a streamed environment where he can put on the show for the audience, whereas playing in a closed-off and isolated setting could put him on tilt.
All of this is speculation, but there is certainly some truth to all of these arguments.
For the fans, it would be great if the two agreed to do it on the live stream, but either way, it’s high time to end the Twitter wars and move over to the felt. Let’s get those cards in the air and see what happens.
With both players keeping to themselves and rarely posting on social media, it might be hard to get regular updates from the game, but I’m confident some information will be leaked.