In the same room Day 1 of the $100,000 Super High Roller played out, the high stakes games have been running. It is a place that only the biggest players and super rich can enter, let alone play within. As I linger outside, garnering several suspicious looks from the policeman who guards the entrance with a sidearm strapped to his right thigh, Nick Schulman emerges in white vest and board shorts. There may be a press embargo on what goes on inside that room, but once you’re outside you’re back in the land of the mortals. You are fair game. Inside, chips on the table, you are a breed apart, protected like an endangered species.
On one side of the – frankly terrifyingly large – security detail is a clean white board with a single piece of A4 paper attached to it, which reads, “HIGH STAKES POKER”. On the other (firearm) side is the entrance to the poker promised land. Through the doorway two barman can be seen standing attentively behind a heavily stocked bar, waiting to mix a cocktail, fill a wine glass or supply a mineral water. One wears a pressed short-sleeved white shirt, the other the dazzling multi-coloured uniform of the Atlantis serving staff. Both look ever so slightly bamboozled, a look of ‘are these guys crazy?’ occasionally flashing on their faces. It’s little surprise given the amount of money that’s changing hands in front of them. It’s a sentiment I can share. Annual salaries are on the table, normal people’s monthly mortgage payments the pre-flop antes.
Another man walks into the room wearing smart shoes, expensive dark jeans and a suit jacket. I don’t recognise him. Fresh meat being fed into the high stakes maw? Only time will tell, but unlike players in the main event his fortunes will not be recorded for prosperity. It will be between him and the other players in that dark and quiet room. For the rest, the mere mortals such as you and I, the cash games are situated in the main tournament room.
Out in the light your entry level punt can be for as little as $40, the 20 big blind minimum allowed at the $1/$2 tables, or you can be the big fish in that same little pond with a $400 bullet. The buy-ins grow all the way through to the mid-stakes and the juicy $25/$50 no-limit Hold’em and PLO games. Only beyond that can you say you’re playing high stakes poker.
A smaller, tidier white board shows the action currently spread in that secluded room: $200/$400 and $300/$600 mix games are running as are $50/$100 no-limit games, which are, I’ve been told, soon expected to shift up to $100/$200, possibly more, as the night draws in. I crane forward over the desk but I can’t see any names: there are none on display for public consumption.
“Taking notes? Taking names? Keep me out of it,” said Shelly working behind the cash waiting list.
There’s no privacy for you, Shelly. If you want the world shut out then you have to play with the big boys in that room round the corner past the upside down triangular mass of muscle with the firearm. Me? I’ll stay out here drinking the coffee left after the Canada Cup.