The regulars in this professional poker game include legendary players such as Doyle Brunson , Chip Reese, Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman , Sammy Farha, Minh Ly, David Grey, Eli Elezra, Gus Hansen, David Benyamine, Chau Giang, Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein , Abe Mosseri, Todd Brunson, and Lyle Berman. When poker tournament time rolls around, a few other players can be seen taking a shot at legendary status. Often times after a big score, or perhaps just when they happen to be in town, these players can be seen in the game. They include Allen Cunningham, Aaron Katz, Tim Phan, Freddie Deeb, Phil Hellmuth , Paul “Eskimo” Clark, Hasan Habib, Jeff Lisandro, Ted Forrest, Lee Salem, David Oppenheim, John Hennigan, MGM/Mirage President and C.E.O. Bobby Baldwin and a few others that have are an occasional drop in. So contrary to popular belief, the game isn’t played with the same 8 poker players passing the chips back and forth. Quite a few players have taken a stab at this game, but only a dozen or so can be considered regulars.
The stakes in this game have risen quite a bit in recent years. It was only a few years ago that the Big Game was regularly spread with stakes of $1000-$2000. Now, on a regular basis, it is common to see the stakes at $4000-$8000. That said though, if you were to look at the Big Game on a random day, the players would probably be playing $2000-$4000. When the stakes do get up 4k-8k though, there is usually a big bet game (pot-limit or no-limit) in the mix also. A no-limit Holdem game for example would be played with a $1000-$2000 blind plus a $500 ante.
When the big bet poker is being played, there is usually a cap of $100,000 on the game. This means that a player isn’t allowed to put more than $100,000 into the pot in any given hand. Occasionally, I have seen the game with no cap, but that is rare, and only a very few players will play it this way. If you have ever heard the Big Game players talking about a one million dollar winner and loser in a single day, these are the stakes it takes. It just doesn’t happen very often. So, to keep it clear, the stakes of this game could be anywhere from $1000-$2000 all the way up to $4000-$8000 with the higher stakes being played usually around tournament time.
Almost without exception the game is always a mixed game. What this means, is that every eight hands, the game is changed to something else. The list of games that might be played include Limit Holdem, No-Limit Holdem, Omaha, Omaha 8/b, Pot Limit Omaha, Stud, Stud 8/b, High Low Regular, Razz, 2-7 Triple Draw, No Limit 2-7, and A-5 Triple Draw and on some days when the game starts ‘short’, Chinese.
Depending on who is in the game, the list of games played changes drastically. Each player has certain games that they are more skilled at, and they try to make sure that those games are in the mix. For instance, if Sammy Farha is in the game than you could be certain that Pot Limit Omaha is being played. Or when Lyle Berman is playing, this is when you are most likely to see No Limit 2-7 or No Limit Holdem. David Grey is a Stud specialist, and likes to have as many of those games in the mix as possible.
Every once in a while, a celebrity such as Gabe Kaplan will show up and the game that is played will be limit Holdem. However this is rare, so if you see The Big Game being played, you can assume that it is a mixed game.
Where the Game is Played
The home of The Big Game is at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in a place called Bobby’s Room (named after MGM/Mirage president Bobby Baldwin). But when the players all travel to a big tournament somewhere else in the country/world, it is common for them to get the game started at that casino as well.
I hope this answers everyone’s questions about The Big Game. In future articles, I will share some interesting tidbits that go on with the game.