Pokers Biggest Losses

3 years ago
The Biggest Losses in Poker
02 Oct

If I lost $100 per week at poker it wouldn’t really affect my life. If I lost $1000 then I’d have some explaining to do and… if I had it to lose! – I spewed $10,000 I’d be in serious trouble with my girl, my bank manager and countless others! For some players, however, even that $10k is simply pocket change – enough to pay for a weekend away somewhere or even fuel for their private jet!

With Daniel Negreanu recently explaining how losing $1million would be “like, whatever” and David Williams laughing about his $5k to almost a $million and then back to -$250k all in the space of one ‘degen’ weekend at the tables, I thought we should take a look at the top 5 of poker’s biggest losers – and then laugh or cry depending on your take!

Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom

Let’s start with the smallest of our losses, a paltry $4.2 million give or take a few dollars! The loser? None other than Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom, the Swedish online sensation who had ruled the nosebleed stakes in the late noughties, crushing the likes of Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan for $4million .

As Phil Galfond describes it:

"Isildur went on to challenge himself in ways that we still have never seen in online poker. Seared in my memory is the image of him nine-tabling $500/1000 against Dwan, Ivey, and Antonius all at the same time.”

All well and good, but when Blom finally crashed it was horrible to watch and sparked huge controversy in the poker world. In December of 2009 he played a match against Brian Hastings and had almost his entire bankroll wiped out in the space of five hours on Full Tilt poker, a $4.2million downswing which was unthinkable for the all-conquering Swede.

And then it hit the news – Townsend had collaborated with both Brian Hastings and Cole South, exchanging and discussing hand histories against Blom and new strategies to wipe the Swede out. Blom was devastated and didn’t play for several months after this. Hastings may have been over $4million richer but to this very day is looked upon with disgust by many poker fans and players for his unethical play.

Back to Galfond for a final word from when he eventually met Blom in person:

"My impression from talking to him was that he genuinely doesn’t care about the money. I know some people say they don’t care… but they care. I’m not sure Viktor does. He plays poker because he has fun playing and he enjoys the competition.”

Phil Ivey

There can’t be a single poker player on the planet who doesn’t know about Phil Ivey and his gambling excesses, although to be fair to the man these excesses have brought him a fortune estimated by some at $100million!

In recent years, however, his one-time legendary skills on the virtual felt – basically a licence to print money for Ivey – have failed him and in 2014 and 2015 he was the biggest online loser in the game.

Hundreds of sessions and hundreds of thousands of hands brought nothing but woe and misery to Ivey as he dropped $2,481,266 on PokerStars and $1,250,806 on Full Tilt in 2015, to add to his $2.3milliondownswing the previous year.

Now when you have $100million to your name and can still rake in money from the endorsements, live tournament winnings and big Macau cash games – not to mention the sport betting, baccarat and other loves of Ivey’s life – then a few million might not mean so much to you. But even so, it must have hurt Phil’s pride if not his wallet to be known as the year’s biggest loser!

Gus Hansen

Moving up the losing stakes a bit we find ourselves at the door of the Great Dane, Gus Hansen – a firm favorite of the fans and unfortunately a man who would become a firm favorite of the other high stakes kings!

His amazing run on Full Tilt prior to Black Friday in 2011 had seen Denmark’s long-time number two amass over $8million – but this turned into a horrible $20.7million loss over the next two and a half years. His online play never seemed to recover after the Black Friday shutdown, his re-appearance resulting in massive losses, while his live play was good but unspectacular during the same period.

The reason? Well according to the man himself:

"If you should rate my table selection it would be about the worst that has ever been seen. Also, my tilt factor is about the worst in the world and my stubbornness is about the worst. It's obvious that some of these factors have weighed in a led to bad my results."

Never a good combination – even less so when you’re facing some of the all-time greats of the high stakes community. Gus is back on the comeback trail now, but the memory of this massive loss still haunts him. He stated honestly:

"One has to be honest and say that sometimes somebody catches up to you and sometimes somebody surpasses you."

Guy Laliberte

When a ‘whale’ comes along, the sharks sharpen their teeth in anticipation! This is what happened to ‘poor’ Guy Laliberte, the Cirque du Soleil founder who managed to spew a phenomenal $28million on the online tables.

Of course the term whale is only relative – Guy being a decent poker player by most standards – but pitted against the world’s best he was shark-food. The billionaire appeared under a variety of names on Full Tilt back in 2008 and 2009 - including 'noatima’, ‘patatino’ and ‘LadyMarmalade’ - but word soon got out and he was ruthlessly targeted by the big boys.

In an interview he confessed to having been “bent over” but “provided the Vaseline himself,” adding that:

"I should have remembered that I am a dinosaur on the internet. The story of Full Tilt is clear. I have been totally ripped off. And by people I knew personally. They played with uncovered bank accounts and paid no money.”

Laliberte claims there would often be two or three “scam artists” playing against him at any one time, finding himself “squeezed out of pots” by the alleged collusion of his opponents. He said:

"I was an idiot. I was drawn like a school boy.”

Andy Beal

Even Guy’s enormous poker losses are nothing compared to those of Andy Beal, the billionaire banker, businessman and mathematician. Beal not only lost $16million in his challenge match against ‘The Corporation’ but also allegedly lost up to $50million in private home games!

The famous and riveting book - ‘The Professor, The Banker and The Suicide King’ by Michael Craig - chronicles the first of the matches between Beal and the Corporation (a pool of the world’s best players including Jennifer Harman, Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson and Ted Forrest) which Beal emerged from over $13million ahead. However, in a later ‘rematch’ Phil Ivey “proceeded to embarrass Beal and emerged from the tables having won $16.6 million”.

The other, even bigger, losses which Beal is alleged to have accrued were in games with Tobey Maguire and Beal’s fellow billionaire Alec Gores. Although undocumented, Maguire is known for his love of high stakes private games and was one of the prime movers behind Molly’s Game, which will soon begin filming as a Hollywood movie.

So, my $100 or thousand bucks pales into significance when we see just how much these players have spewed over the years, but I’m not sure it’ll work as a defense with my girlfriend next time I bust out my local cash game 2 or 3 buy-ins down however!

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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