Logic Vs. The High Roller Ego: When Seven-Figure Earnings Equal Six-Figure Losses

January 6, 2018
Logic Vs. The High Roller Ego: When Seven-Figure Earnings Equal Six-Figure Losses


Daniel Negreanu‘s recent admission that he cashed for almost $2.8 million in tournaments last year and still lost money should be a revelation for members of the ultra-high-stakes poker community. However, most of their egos aren’t likely to let it be.

The Team PokerStars Pro first took to Twitter, running a poll asking if people thought he spent more or less in buy-ins than the $2,792,104 he cashed for in 2017. The poll saw more than 22,000 votes. A total of 65 percent said he spent less. They were wrong.

In a post on his popular Full Contact Poker blog, Negreanu ultimately revealed he actually spent $2,874,164 in buy-ins on the year. That put him $86,140 in the red.

Negreanu said his 2017 statistics represent a good illustration of the illusion that players cashing for $2 million in a single year is a great accomplishment. He said before the introduction of super high rollers to the poker calendar, cashing for $2 million would almost guarantee a player had a winning year. Now, the Nevada resident says a player that plays a full schedule of high roller events and cashes for $2 million will almost certainly post a losing year. Even before considering expenses outside of the buy-ins. Of course, he’s absolutely right.

The illusion of high roller sustainability

However, even Negreanu may be missing the big picture point. It’s not just about the illusion of success. It’s about the illusion of sustainability.

If high rollers who cash for almost $3 million in a single year still lose money, how long can they really keep it up? One year? Two? Three?

How long can the high roller scene really sustain itself?

Logic would dictate that most players will ultimately look for a way to stop the bleeding and drop out of the scene. At the very least, they will drop down in stakes. Fewer players buying into high roller tournaments would mean smaller prize pools. Eventually, even the most successful players would come to the realization the risk is hardly worth the reward.

The five or six player high-roller sit and go scene isn’t one that’s likely to last too long. Ultimately, these high roller tournaments would become a thing of the past.

Only logic and high-stakes poker tournament players make strange bedfellows.

Chasing the ghost of Fedor Holz

In 2016, German Fedor Holz cashed for an incredible $16.4 million in tournaments. The overwhelming majority were of the high roller variety. Holz appeared to be wisely taking the money and running when he announced his retirement before the end of the year. However, he didn’t stay away. He certainly played less poker but was still a presence in most high roller events across the globe in 2017. Ultimately Holz cashed for another $6,380,187 in 2017, and was likely profitable, although significantly less so than the year prior.

If Negreanu’s 2017 serves as the illusion that cashing for $2 million is a great accomplishment, Holz 2016 serves as the illusion that cashing for upwards of $16 million in a single year is possible for most players.

There can only be one Holz. The success he had in 2016 isn’t likely to ever be repeated by him, or anyone else. In fact, the top high roller in 2017 didn’t even come close. US poker player Bryn Kenney cashed for $8,505,897 to lead the nosebleed buy-in community last year. The New York native had a great 12 months by all standards, except the one set by Holz in 2016.

Logic and level heads will prevail

However, most players in the high stakes community continue to share the undying belief they can match Fedor’s feats. In fact, that appears to be the single idea keeping the entire community going. The ego of the average high roller has them convinced they will be next, and who can blame them for following it? After all, it was that same ego that helped make them one of the best poker players on the planet to begin with.

However, the only real hope is they can make the magic happen before the party is over, when logic and level heads prevail, the majority of players posting seven-figure earnings that equal six-figure losses simply give up and the high roller scenes dry up.

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