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Ten Players Poker Fans Want To See in HCL’s Million Dollar Game

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It’s going to be tough to top the iconic record-setting $3.1 million cash game pot from 2023, but Hustler Casino Live is going to give it a try. From May 28-31 the popular cash game livestream is bringing back its Million Dollar Game, an event that will almost assuredly generate some of the most preposterous pots of the year.

But if there’s one thing diehard poker fans have learned – high stakes with huge stacks is simply not enough. Sure, the money is important but if we don’t know or care about – love or hate – the people playing for those stakes, more often than not it doesn’t elevate that show into a “must-watch” event.

Hustler Casino Live and its showrunner/co-founder Ryan Feldman knows that as much as anyone. Just take a look at the initial announcement for the 2024 Million Dollar Game – it’s loaded with action personalities. From Alan Keating to Doug Polk, Tony G to Nik Airball there’s going to be plenty of star power to root for (or against). But with four full days of pressure-packed poker, there’s going to have to be a bullpen. Players waiting in the wings with the hopes of getting the call, dropping a million-dollar stack, and finding a fortune at the end of the session.

Sure, there are probably plenty of multi-millionaires (Stanley Tang) who are high up on the list – but here are a few other names of notables we hope Feldman has on speed dial to bring them into the million-dollar mix.

Where in the world is Tom Dwan? No idea. But let’s get him to Los Angeles in late May. There are a lot of cash game superstars in poker out there but few compare to the legendary status that Tom Dwan still holds with poker fans around the world. Whatever may or may not be going on with Dwan off-the-felt doesn’t mean that much to the fans who remember Dwan putting poker heroes in the blender on High Stakes Poker a decade-plus ago. Or even new fans who watched him make history last year with the aforementioned record-setting $3.1 million pot. Over the years, it’s been harder and harder to have the opportunity to watch Dwan look up into the lights while he slowly drops his chips across the betting line, and whenever we’re given the chance to do so again, best believe we’ll be tuning in.

On the flip side of that $3.1 million hand was crypto investor, and action player Wesley ‘Wes Side’ Fei. 2023 was a rough year for Fei who in addition to being on the losing end against Dwan, saw his on-stream high-stakes earnings dip to more than $1.2 million in losses. After a completely separate issue where he was allegedly cheated in a private nosebleed game for a rather large sum, Fei essentially stepped away from the game altogether with his last appearance taking place in November of 2023. Regardless of whether he’d have the opportunity to battle against Dwan again, the return of Fei would inject another level of chaotic energy into the field.

Last year, Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau was admittedly punching above his weight class when he sat in the 2023 Million Dollar Game and ran one of the biggest bluffs of the year (and the biggest of his career) to the astonishment of the poker community. In the time since, Yau has taken more shots at the biggest livestream Games to mixed results, including a few, more recent, six-figure losses. He’s a fan favorite representing the poker dream of $1/$2 grinders everywhere – a game he was playing just a few short years ago. Yau doesn’t play scared, he’s proven that even though one gets the feeling that every dollar matters just a little bit more to his bankroll than it does some of the other nosebleed regs. Provided Yau can drum up the million dollars, and has the desire to play, Feldman has already indicated he’d love to have Yau return.

A fellow vlogger that we didn’t get to see last year is Mariano Grandoli. Since the departure of Garrett Adelstein, Mariano has slotted into the role of the consummate pro that fans root for. Another fearless, aggressive player who is always willing to give action, Mariano has quickly risen to be one of Hustler Casino Live’s most prominent stars, often playing 2-3 times per week and battling at the highest stakes they have. The question of whether he can get a seat in the Million Dollar Game will be answered by if the rest of the lineup thinks he’s too good – according to Highroll Poker, he’s a top 10 winner on HCL of nearly $900,000 and gives plenty of action. It’s time to let Mariano take the next step.

Of course, when it comes to crushers, Phil Ivey would be at the top of any list. Especially a motivated Phil Ivey, but in lieu of the WPT ambassador, another nosebleed cash game legend who would be an amazing fit in this lineup is Andrew Robl. Over the course of the past 15 years or more, Robl has carved out a reputation as “the best of the best.” An end boss of the private Games if you will. He’s not flashy with the table talk, letting his play do his talking for him. Robl has appeared on five seasons of High Stakes Poker and sits second only to Dwan in total earnings on the show with more than $1.5 million. He’s the all-time winner on PokerGO’s No Gamble No Future with another $1.4 million in winnings. That alone might keep him out of any potential lineup, but for fans having the opportunity to watch a player at the top of their game do what they do best is always something special.

Someone who has been known to make a scene at the table is Martin Kabrhel. Often cast as a “poker villain” of sorts, Kabrhel’s polarizing personality has been known to set off fellow players and the public alike. However, Kabrhel also has fans out there – the viewers who appreciate sharp speech play if you will. Kabrhel has been known to fire big, especially in tournaments where he’s amassed more than $12.6 million in earnings according to The Hendon Mob. Kabrhel likes to play fast early and capitalize on it later in a session, but when it comes to keeping things lively with his table talk he’s always loose-aggressive which often makes for good TV.

Jennifer Tilly would not only make for great TV with her off-the-charts charm (and mildly chaotic energy), but it would be great for a woman to battle against this lineup. Tilly is a PokerGO mainstay, routinely appearing on episodes of both High Stakes Poker and No Gamble No Future with a well above average VPIP in nearly every game she sits in. She’s clearly got the guts and presumably has the bankroll to drop a stack in the Million Dollar Game. And while she’s run into it a bit on her PokerGO appearances, perhaps a debut on Hustler Casino Live could turn her poker fortunes around and give the show a different energy for a few hours.

Action was never really an issue on the first edition of the MDG, however, if you want to turn it up another notch then perhaps reaching out to hedge fund manager turned high-stakes semi-pro Bill Perkins would be a good idea. The “Die With Zero” author has proven time and time again that whether he’s at the poker table or placing a high-profile prop bet, he’s looking to put people in uncomfortable situations in order to reap the rewards. Perkins is mercurial and often unpredictable and ever since making his debut on PokerStars’ The Big Game he’s been an action player who believes in himself to battle with the best in the world. Perkins is the kind of player who shoves his stack in the middle on a massive bluff and then leaves the table before this opponent can make a decision so he can catch a flight home. If he’s got the time, hopefully he’ll get a seat.

All or any of the above would be a stellar addition to the Million Dollar Game…but it’s not what we really, truly want, right? Picture, in classic WWE fashion, the glass-shattering theme song drops, the doors open and Garrett Adelstein returns to the stream, striding in, stone cold, with $1,135,000 in chips – just like old times.

But that’s not going to happen, of course. The public discourse between Adelstein and Hustler Casino Live went from bad to worse recently and with Bally Live Poker launching a new studio in Los Angeles (in which it appears that Adelstein is “part of the team”) the potential time that’s going to be required to “heal all wounds” between HCL and Adelstein in the wake of Jack-Four currently looks closer to eternity.

Stay up-to-date with the real money poker news and updates for the World Poker Tour (WPT) by following Global WPT’s official channels on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

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