Dec 11, 2014
5 Legendary Tales from Poker's Baller Era
By RTR Dennis
Poker has always held the reputation of being a game where you can get rich pretty quickly if you have the skills. And has history shows, some of the more-successful poker players truly embraced the baller lifestyle after making it big. Of course, this ideal baller image has died down somewhat in the aftermath of Black Friday. But the game is still filled with legendary figures who furthered their lore by spending big in the mid and late 2000s. That said, let's cover five of the best stories from this era where poker players were extremely liberal with their money.
1. Candy Land and the after-party Snoop Dogg wasn't invited to
Alec 'Traheho' Torelli, part of the 'Ship It Holla Ballas' crew, recalled when an unforgettable night at Candy Land, a party at Palms Casino featuring hundreds of women dressed in candy. The Ship It Holla Ballas spent $15,000 for a table filled with champagne and liquor, and they sat right next to famed rapper Snoop Doog at Candy Land. "There were a bunch of girls from the strip club Sapphire, dressed in lingerie and just having the best time," Torelli told PokerPlayer Magazine. There was also an after party that they went to, but surprisingly Snoop wasn't even invited.
2. Dwan offers $5k for somebody to jump in a shark tank
Back in 2006, Paradise Poker held their first land-based tournament dubbed "The Conquest of Paradise Island" in the Bahamas. Tom Dwan, another member of the 'Ship It Holla Ballas,' offered $5k to anybody who'd jumped in a tank full of sharks. An online player named 'sublime8700' took him up on the offer and made it out alive, only to quickly lose the $5k in a single hand of online poker to none other than Mike Matusow.
3. Torelli taunts opponent with new car
One time Torelli won $150,000 while playing David 'Perkyshmerky' Lerner in online poker. He then bought a new car with the winnings, personalized the license plates to read $150k, and sent Lerner a picture of the car and plates.
4. Antonio Esfandiari had the best seat in the house
Even before the Ship It Holla Ballas, there were plenty of poker players living the baller lifestyle. In 2004, Antonio Esfandiari, fresh off winning $1.4 million in the LA Poker Classic, formed the 'Rock and Rings' crew. The name was symbolic of how Esfandiari and his group were treated like rock stars around Vegas. "I never wait in line, I get bottle service, security guards, the best table in the house," he told PokerPlayer in a 2006 interview. "Everything is taken care of. At Tao you'll see me up on the moat, a raised stage where only girls are allowed to dance. I’m the one exception, and I can tell you that it’s pretty nice to be the only guy up there with a bunch of girls."
5. Ivey sends over 100 bottles of champagne
There may be no player who lives as baller (without trying) as Phil Ivey, with his private jet, lavish Vegas penthouse and epic craps sessions. And Ivey enters this discussion through a story where he got into a champagne-sending war with a rich businessman at the Wynn. As Daniel Negreanu verified, the "rich dude" sent 10 bottles of Cristal to Ivey's table, the poker pro sent back 20 bottles, the businessman sent 30 bottles, Ivey sent 40 bottles, the businessman sent back 50 bottles, and Ivey sent another 80 bottles - at which point the exchange ended. It turns out that Ivey's bottles were all comped thanks to his extravagant craps sessions at the Wynn.
End of the baller era?
The poker landscape is very different these days - with Black Friday and a global recession causing hits - so flaunting wealth is no longer considered as cool. Ivey and Esfandiari have largely moved on from these days, with the latter saying that he would never go back to times when he threw thousands of dollars off of nightclub balconies. "Anybody who makes it rain is simply an idiot," Esfandiari admitted while reflecting on his past.
About the only high-profile poker player who's living the baller lifestyle now is Dan Bilzerian. The 'King of Instagram' commonly offers pictures of himself surrounded by guns, women and celebrities. However, this is a guy who's worth around $100 million, something most poker players can't touch. That said, for the average pro, the poker baller days may be done.