A MUG And A Chair: Poker Meetup Games Grow in Popularity

August 15, 2019
A MUG And A Chair: Poker Meetup Games Grow in Popularity

Poker in the US is on an upswing with numerous tours including the World Series of Poker reporting big fields and plenty of action. And one type of game is also earning some attention and accolades in the poker world – the meetup game (MUG).

MUGs often feature a well-known pro getting in the action at a player’s home game. Other events may feature several recreational players battling pros at a casino.

Phil Hellmuth recently announced he’d be involved in a MUG on Aug. 25 at the Bicycle Casino in California. There should be plenty of fireworks with some well-known players joining the fun, including:

  • Mike “The Mouth” Matusow
  • Brandon Cantu
  • Randall Emmett
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Battling the Brat at the Bike

Playing with well-known pros in an average cash game often requires a big buy-in. But the trend toward meet-up games usually involves lower “Average Joe” stakes.

The Bike game features some $5/$5 No-Limit Hold’em with buy-ins from $300 to $1,000. Those interested in playing can register the day of the event and then jump in the action.

Hellmuth told US Poker:

“I think meetup games are great for poker. It allows poker streamers and stars to connect with their fans. This also allows casinos to pay the streamers and stars to play.”

While the casino may pay a fee to players, the property brings in more players to check out the event. And in this case, that includes possibly playing.

The poker takes on a home game type of feel, Hellmuth says, with everyone enjoying the action and having fun. It seems a fitting style of event at a time when “putting the fun back in poker” has been a common theme.

Hellmuth thinks it a “win-win-win.”

“The casino gets more rake and press, the fans get to play with the stars, and the stars get paid. Usually, the atmosphere is very festive.  Everyone is happy to be there.”

More poker players, more fun

Hellmuth is no stranger to these types of games. He’s been involved in home games with recreational players in the past. He’s also played in games on shows like Poker Night in America with similar elements.

Love him or hate, the Poker Brat moves the needle in the poker world.

The event at the Bike has Hellmuth particularly excited. The property paid him an appearance fee, but the Poker Brat said he spread some of that around to make it a better event.

Hellmuth is investing some of his fees in the success of the event.

“Out of my own pocket, I hired Mike ‘The Mouth,’ Randall Emmit, and Brandon Cantu. For me, it’s not about maximizing the dollars for this meet-up game. If I’m involved, then I want it to be the best it can be. I want the best possible experience for the fans. I want a real event. I want 100 fans to show up.”

Poker vloggers and streamers have made use of meetups in recent years to connect with fans. That includes players like Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen.

Content creators like Neeme and Owen can add an extra level of connection to their fans. That includes even recording the action to add to their channels or streams.

Neeme and Owen create a party atmosphere at their meetup games with plenty of cocktails, interesting twists like deuce-seven, and bomb pots.

The waitlists are long and the laughter is loud and the fun doesn’t stop when the last card is dealt, either. You can usually spot the whole crowd heading to the bar for an after-party.

While the majority of Neeme’s MUGs happen in Las Vegas, Nevada, he and Owen have hosted MUGS all around the country, including:

  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Maryland

Peter Ivy, an attendee at one of Neeme’s MUGs said this on Facebook,

“Just an all-around enjoyable time. Can’t say enough about these meetups. Just have to experience it for yourself.”

Open seating, streaming, and plenty of fun

While it may not have been a meet-up game per se, PokerGO added some regular Joe action to Poker After Dark last week. A recreational player was featured both nights as part of “Open Seat” night.

Players qualified to play in the Open Seat by responding to a PokerGO Tweet. Those interested offered their motivations for wanting to be on the show. Players were selected based on their responses.

Poker Central/PokerGO senior editor Remko Rinkema says,

“We’re always looking to create a blend of the best personalities and players for our live cash game shows such as Poker After Dark and Super High Roller Cash Game. The first edition of ‘Open Seat’ was successful and very well received by both players and fans.”

Both nights featured Matusow, Cantu, Trevor Savage, Justin Young, and others.

Brandon Schaefer was one of those “Open Seat” players. He won the EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final in the tour’s first season in 2005 for $465,853.

Schaefer played on the show after a few years away from the poker world. He served in the military as a medevac helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. A second edition of “Open Seat” is planned for December.

On Oct. 22-23, PokerGO is also airing Showbound on Poker After Dark, in partnership with the RunGood Poker Series. That should have a similar meet-up game feel with two qualifiers from the RPS playing in a $5,000 sit and go tournament with their favorite pros.

A festive atmosphere planned

As the Bike event approaches, Hellmuth looks forward to playing and the atmosphere that comes with it. Does the “poker brat” in him ever come out in these games?

Maybe not quite as much as losing a big hand at the WSOP. However, fans are occasionally “treated” to a bit of what they might see on TV.

Hellmuth commented on is demeanor at the games,

“Sometimes I’ll take a bad beat. I’ll sit there for a second, and you can hear a pin drop. Then, with a sly smile on my face, I’ll say ‘Come on man!’ and everyone will laugh.”

Matusow, who recently launched a new podcast called The Mouthpiece, is also looking forward to the meetup. He doesn’t plan on letting Hellmuth get away with too much. He adds: “I will always needle Phil.”

While poker players in Pennsylvania are waiting to join New Jersey at the online poker table, they may want to explore a MUG nearby.

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