Stan’s Lists – High Roller Poker Tournaments

[SS] “Do you guys remember a TV game show called High Rollers in the 1970s?” Stan the Stat wondered.

[RR] “Sure, that was with Alex Trebek before he became famous for Jeopardy!“, Roderick the Rock offered. “Big dice, Shut the Box rules with a bonus roll for doubles.”

[LL] “I was a bigger fan of The Joker’s Wild, but I watched it a few times”, Leroy the Lion acknowledged. “I like anything with trivia, but their questions were a bit too easy.”

[RR] “Especially for the size of the prizes. By the standards of the time, the players were definitely high rollers. I remember one episode where two contestants combined to win over $30,000 and a new car.”1

[SS] “But even though they were rolling dice, they weren’t the kind of high rollers casinos are looking for. Casinos have entire departments of employees whose job is to bring in whales to gamble and lose, not win. Slot machines may bring in a steady rake of profit, but high rollers can dump hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars during each visit, so they’re comped free rooms, food, drinks, and entertainment as long as they keep gambling.

For many of these players, the thrill of gambling requires betting large enough amounts to make it exciting. Table limits and poker buyins keep going up. At one point, a poker tournament was considered to be a High Roller affair if the buyin exceeded the $10,000 of the World Series of Poker Main Event. The threshold went from $15,000 to $20,000 to $25,000 to $50,000. Then the Aussie Millions claimed the first A$100,000 buyin ($73,290) in 2006. By 2011, when they added a A$250,000 buyin ($247,256) event Down Under, six-figure buyin events were set to explode. The number of $100,000 buyin events2 jumped from one in 2010 to five in 2011:

$100,000+ Buyin Poker Tournaments by Year

Year Events
2006 1
2007 1
2008 1
2009 1
2010 1
2011 5
2012 8
2013 10
2014 13
2015 10

The following year, the World Series of Poker set the current high-water mark with the biennial one million dollar buyin for the Big One for One Drop.

Since then, the next biggest buyin event has been the Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl in 2015, which returns this year with a $300,000 buyin.

The various Aussie Millions A$250,000 events come next, peaking at a converted worth of $263,925 in 2013, mixed in with the two million Hong Kong dollar Macau High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller in 2012, which worked out to $257,854.

The $100+K buyin events with the most players have been the two $111,111 One Drop High Rollers with 166 players in 2013 and 135 players in 2015. No other field has topped 100, even counting rebuys.

Top High Rollers

Unfortunately, no official records exist for how many rebuys players have made, so we don’t know if players who cashed even made a profit. We also don’t know who sold off pieces of their action or how much. But we do know who the winners are. Daniel Colman was the first player to win three of these events, all in 2014, and Phil Ivey and Erik Seidel3 matched the record in 2015. Brian Rast, Dan Smith, Fabian Quoss, Fedor Holz, Jason Mercier, Philipp Gruissem, Sam Trickett, Steve O’Dwyer, and Tom Marchese have each won two. Here are the resumes of these dozen big-time high rollers, roughly sorted from best to worst:

Erik Seidel

  • 1st 2011 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2011 WPT World Poker Classic $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2015 EPT Monte Carlo €100,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2007 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 2nd 2013 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $100,000 High Roller
  • 3rd 2011 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 3rd 2014 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 4th 2014 Bellagio $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Super High Roller
  • 5th 2015 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 6th 2015 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 7th 2015 Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl

Phil Ivey

  • 1st 2012 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2014 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2015 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2010 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 5th 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller
  • 8th 2012 Macau HK$2,000,000 High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller
  • 10th 2006 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge

Daniel Colman

  • 1st 2014 EPT Monte Carlo €100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2014 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop
  • 1st 2014 WPT Alpha8 London €60,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 3rd 2014 Aria Super High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 6th 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller

Jason Mercier

  • 1st 2011 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $100,000 High Roller
  • 1st 2014 WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 2nd 2013 EPT Monte Carlo €100,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2014 Bellagio Summer High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 3rd 2014 WPT Alpha8 Johannesburg $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 3rd 2016 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge

Sam Trickett

  • 1st 2011 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 1st 2013 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2011 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 2nd 2012 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop
  • 7th 2012 Macau HK$2,000,000 High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller

Fabian Quoss

  • 1st 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2016 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 3rd 2013 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 4th 2016 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 5th 2014 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller

Brian Rast

  • 1st 2015 Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl
  • 1st 2013 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $100,000 High Roller
  • 3rd 2014 WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 3rd 2014 Aria Super High Roller II $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max

Tom Marchese

  • 1st 2012 WPT World Championship $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2014 Aria Super High Roller II $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 3rd 2014 Bellagio Summer High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max
  • 6th 2015 Aria $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl

Steve O’Dwyer

  • 1st 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller
  • 1st 2016 Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller
  • 4th 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller

Philipp Gruissem

  • 1st 2013 WPT Alpha8 London €100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 1st 2013 WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 5th 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller

Fedor Holz

  • 1st 2015 WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em
  • 1st 2016 WPT Philippines $200,000 Super High Roller
  • 6th 2016 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge

Dan Smith

  • 1st 2012 Aussie Millions $100,000 Hold ‘Em Challenge
  • 1st 2014 Bellagio Summer High Roller $100,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em Eight Max

Honorable mention to Antonio Esfandiari, for having won the largest prize in poker history by taking down the 2012 WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop for $18,346,673, and to Jonathan Duhamel, for being the only WSOP Main Event champion to win one of these events, the 2015 WSOP $111,111 High Roller for One Drop.”

[LL] “I’m surprised that Daniel Negreanu isn’t on your list.”

[SS] “Amazingly, he has yet to win a six-digit High Roller. He’s come very close several times, notably placing second to Colman in the 2014 Big One for One Drop. He’s reached eight final tables, so it’ll happen soon enough.”

[FF] “Are there any female high rollers?”

Female High Rollers

[SS] “Only two women have had any real success in the high rollers, and only Vanessa Selbst has won an event:

Vanessa Selbst

  • 1st 2015 Aria $100,000 No Limit Hold’em Shootout
  • 3rd 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller

Kathy Lehne

  • 2nd 2014 WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts $100,000 No Limit Hold’em
  • 6th 2015 WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 No Limit Hold’em
  • 8th 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller”

[RR] “Who’s Kathy Lehne?”

[SS] “Lehne is a businesswoman, the President and CEO of Sun Coast Resources, a fuel distribution company in Houston that she founded in 1985. She had a few other small cashes a few years back, and her next cash should bring her over the $1,000,000 mark in career winnings. Of course, her next cash could alone be for over $1,000,000!”

Footnotes:

  1. The episode can be found on YouTube.
  2. “High Roller” events are defined here as $100,000 or higher buyin tournaments, with allowances made for currency fluctuations that technically dropped most of the A$100,000 Aussie Millions under the threshold (all but 2012 and 2013). The WPT Alpha8 London €60,000 No Limit Hold’em was also deemed “close enough” at $96,000. So far, all these events have been No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, but it wouldn’t be surprising if another type of poker, like Omaha, had a $100,000 buyin soon.
  3. Seidel was the first player to win two $100,000+ High Roller tournaments, back in 2011, two years before Sam Trickett and Philipp Gruissem. And for completeness sake, John Juanda was the first to win one, as he took down the inaugural A$100,000 Aussie Millions in 2006.
Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *