Top Stories of 2023, #7: Hustler Casino Live Continues to Dominate
For the third straight year, Hustler Casino Live dominated the poker live-streaming game, and yet again, it wasn't even close.
There are many great live-streams in poker these days, including one hosted at The Lodge Card Club, co-owned by a few high-profile pros Doug Polk, Andrew Neeme, and Brad Owen. That show has consistently hosted action-packed games and entertaining players. As such, The Lodge's YouTube channel has over 155,000 subscribers and gets excellent viewership.
But Hustler Casino Live, since first launching in August 2021, has taken the live-streaming game to unthinkable heights. The show has over 300,000 YouTube subscribers, and often more than 20,000 concurrent viewers tuned in especially on a super high stakes Friday night.
Over the past year, the most popular show in poker live-streaming history has given the poker world more memorable moments than we can count. But the following should suffice as a 2023 refresher course.
First Ever 24-Hour Poker Live-stream
In December, the poker show from Hustler Casino in Los Angeles hosted the first 24-hour live-stream in poker history. And it wasn't easy to pull off.
The logistics of streaming for so long are difficult because the show needed to find players willing to play at all hours of the day, commentators to call the action for hours on end, and many other challenges that co-owner Ryan Feldman was able to pull off seemingly with ease.
The show began in the afternoon on Dec. 1 and ended the following day right about the same time. No player stuck it out for the entirety, but Matt Hanks did clock 19 hours of play, while Alan Keating, who was making his first appearance on the show in months, played for 16.5 hours before calling it a session. The biggest winner was Charles Yu ($689,009), and the biggest loser was Santhosh Suvarna, who got steamrolled to the tune of a $1,139,000 deficit.
The $1 Million Buy-In Games
As the 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) was just getting started in Las Vegas in late May, over in Southern California, Hustler Casino Live was hosting a series of $1 million minimum buy-in games, the first time ever in US live-streamed poker history.
The first couple of sessions brought about some mostly tight action as the players weren't about to just dump millions of dollars. But the action picked up when Polk, Tom Dwan, and Wesley Fei joined the game, and poker fans were treated to a few of the most epic pots ever.
Dwan won a $1.13 million pot with 77 against Polk on a board of 27K66, but some felt he nit-rolled on the river when he tank called $420,000 bet with a full house. Polk was bluffing with 54 and had missed his open-ended straight draw. The online poker legend once known as "durrrr" also won a record-setting $3.1 million pot that same night against another bluff, this one versus Wesley.
In that hand, Wesley three-bet to $30,000 with AK and Polk folded after having seen Wesley's cards. During the hand, Polk was in an awkward position as he had to do his best to not give off any tells to either player in the hand.
Following the three-bet, Dwan then raised to $100,000 with QQ and his opponent five-bet to $275,000 and was called to see a flop of 388. Dwan would check-call a $125,000 bet and the pot was already over $800,000. The turn was the 5 and Wesley was still stuck on ace-high, but he fired out another massive wager, this time for $350,000, which put "durrrr" into a brief tank. He'd eventually call and then the 6 would appear on the river.
Knowing he could only win if he bet, Wesley put Dwan to the test for his remaining $786,000 stack. The former Full Tilt Poker pro again tanked as he faced a difficult decision for a seven-figure pot with nothing but one pair, albeit an over pair. After some thought, he made the gutsy call and took down a $3.1 million pot, the largest in live-stream poker history.
Phil Hellmuth Loses Big, Then Spoils Outcome Early
Phil Hellmuth is quite the poker player, but also quite the entertainer. When he's playing on any stream, it's must-see TV.
The "Poker Brat" has appeared on Hustler Casino Live a few times, including the legendary MrBeast game in 2022. Earlier this year, the 17-time WSOP bracelet winner had a brutal session on HCL, but he was too quick to tell everyone about it.
Poker live-streams are delayed at least 30 minutes, and on Hustler, it's typically a full two hours. So, viewers don't want the players to go on social media and spoil the outcome before they've tuned in to watch. Hellmuth, however, just couldn't wait to tell his massive Twitter following that he got thrashed for over $140,000 in a February 2023 game before the audience saw it all unfold.
The biggest pot he lost that night was against DoorDash co-founder Stanley Tang, a billionaire investor and friend of Hellmuth. Tang, with pocket aces, put the Poker Hall of Famer all in and received a call from pocket 10's. The best preflop hand held up and the recreational high-stakes player took down the $154,000 pot.
Garrett Adelstein No Longer Welcome on Hustler Casino Live
There's no doubt that the drama and controversies that surround Hustler Casino Live bring attention to the show. In 2023, Garrett Adelstein didn't play a single hand on the stream. But he still made headlines early in the year when co-owner Nick Vertucci announced the Los Angeles high-stakes poker legend, who helped build the show into what it is today, is no longer allowed to play on Hustler Casino Live.
Adelstein accused Robbi Jade Lew of cheating him out of a six-figure pot during a Sept. 29, 2022 HCL stream, perhaps the show's most infamous session ever. He never returned to Hustler and has continued to stick to his guns that Lew cheated, although she has adamantly denies the accusations.
Vertucci and Feldman took issue with how "G-Man" handled the situation and questioned the security of HCL's stream. As such, the relationship between the show's owners and one of the most popular players in poker is now strained to a point where it's anyone's guess as to if it can be repaired. Adelstein finally made his return to poker 15 months after the J4 scandal, but he did so first on Bally Live Poker at Tropicana in Las Vegas earlier this month.
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