Poker is the kind of game where good players spend a lot of time bailing out of their likely losing hands, so much so that they can get repetitive stress injuries from continually tossing cards in the dealer’s direction.

That’s an exaggeration and a lame joke. But it has some truth to it.

The idea, of course, is to keep from throwing good money after bad, which necessitates a lot of folding.

But when promising hands and promising situations come their way, poker sharks who compete at the highest levels for the most money clean up like it’s nobody’s business. 

How big can the pots get? Ante up for the situations recounted below and get ready for your jaw to drop over some of the game’s most impressive hauls.

Considering that a poker hand could take ten minutes to complete, the hourly rate on a big win is at least six-figures.

Read ‘em and weep – with envy.

A Three-Person Hand with Two People in the Pot

This hand occurred in a high-stakes cash game in the Hustler Casino. Before anyone knew what had happened, poker pro and instructor Doug Polk happened to see the cards of Wesley Fei seated on his right.

Gentleman that he is, Polk made this clear before even looking at his own cards. He wound up folding to what proved to be Fei’s Ace, King off-suit.

Polk maintained a poker face throughout the hand.

Three Biggest-Ever Poker Cash Game Wins  - Doug Polk
Three Biggest-Ever Poker Cash Game Wins  - Doug Polk

Ignoring the weird exposure, Fei bet $30,000. Tom “Durrrr” Dwan, one of the game’s most notoriously tricky players, made it $100,000 with a pair of pocket Queens. Fei raised $175,000, and Dwan called.

Before the flop, there was $560,000 in the pot, which, needless to say, is massive.

The two hands were basically a race, with Fei having over-cards to Dwan’s pair. But that did not slow down Fei.

  • When 8-8-3 materialised on the flop, Dwan checked. Fei bet $125,000.
  • Dwan considered things for a moment and called.
  • An inconsequential five landed on the turn with an $812,000 pot.
  • Fei put in $350,000, and Dwan called into a pot that swelled to more than $1 million.
  • When a six dropped on the river, Dwan checked once again.

Having not made much of a hand on that poker board, Fei presumably knew that the only way to win was to push all-in and hope Dwan would fold.

The bet for Dwan was a gargantuan $768,000.

Dwan confirmed that Fei said all-in. After that was made clear, Fei put his head down into his hands, hiding his face.

Polk remained stock-still and betrayed no emotions.

Dwan went for a bottle of water before verbally talking through the streets. He mused that it was an “interesting hand.”

Finally, he called, pushed his chips forward, revealed the winning pair and raked in $3.1 million in chips.

Ever the cool cat, Dwan seemed to laugh a little, marvelled over the sum and asked his opponent if he was okay.

Fei assured that he was fine, and the cards continued to roll. 

Biggest Cash Game Win - Turned to Crumbs

In another nosebleed stakes game in the PokerGo studio, there was $94,000 in the pot before the flop.

Three players were in on the action, but after the flop bet, it was down to two: Eric Persson and Patrik Antonius.

  • Antonius, an old hand at Big Game Poker, had Ace, King of hearts.
  • Persson had Queen, 9 of hearts.

But with the flop 3-3-8, containing two hearts, neither guy would fold a flush draw.

Raises and re-raises jacked the pot up to $594,000. When an Ace of spades hit on the turn, Antonius had the hand locked down with top pair and a nut flush draw.

He riffled chips and grimly mulled the situation before betting a relatively modest $150,000.

Up against it, Persson could have folded and called it a day with no loss of honour.

Instead, he pushed in all $700,000 of his chips. The pot reached $1.4 million.

Antonius wondered what it would cost him. He seemed to consider every option. Then, wisely, Antonius made the call.

He brought the pot to $1,978,000.

Before the cards were turned over, Persson announced his Queen, 9. Then, he quickly discovered he was toast as Antonius showed his cards.

Persson muttered, “I’m dead.”

Which in poker lingo meant he had no way to win the hand!

The announcer summed up the situation by stating, “We have just witnessed something extraordinary: An Eric Persson left with crumbs.”

He had $67,000 worth of crumbs stacked in front of him. Lucky for Eric this was not a strip poker game!

But when you gamble with this crowd, tens of thousands are irrelevant.

Tom Dwan Mixes It Up Again!

Tom Dwan ranks among the most audacious players in the game. He is fearless when it comes to putting money at risk.

This fact became all too clear when he got into a months-long match against a poker pro with the online handle of Isildur1.

When the smoke cleared, Dwan had dropped nearly $5 million. It was most of his bankroll at the time. Soon after the drubbing, he said he didn’t regret it.

Even with the dropped fortune, Dwan insisted that “based on what he knew about his opponent, playing him for that kind of money was the right thing to do”.

So, nobody was surprised when he did not back down in a hand against the Asian whale Paul Phua. Dwan had Ace, Queen, but Phua had him dominated with a pair of Aces - unbeknownst to Dwan.

Before the flop, Phua casually ran the pot up to $431,100. As Dwan mulled a massive raise, Phua aimed to get under his skin by asking, “What’s so complicated?”

  • Dwan announced, “All-in” after considering and considering Paul’s possible poker combos.
  • Naturally, a madly smiling Phua snap-called.
  • The pot totalled $2,353,500.

Dwan had a two-percent chance of winning by the river, and his cards failed to come through. Dwan got up and walked away from the table.

Another player commented, “I thought his hand would be much worse than that. I thought he would take seven minutes and then push all-in.”

Counting his chips, Phua declared, “In 200 hands, he folded only five times.”

Nobody at a table full of hardened gamblers wagered on whether or not Dwan would return to the action with a fresh infusion of cash.

Michael Kaplan is a journalist based in New York City. He has written extensively on gambling for publications such as Wired, Playboy, Cigar Aficionado, New York Post and New York Times. He is the author of four books including Aces and Kings: Inside Stories and Million-Dollar Strategies from Poker’s Greatest Players.