PokerStars Big Game
|PokerStars Big Game|
|Directed by||Jason Wald, Brian Lockwood|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||115|
|Executive producer(s)||Mark Mayer, M&M Productions|
|Original release||June 14, 2010 –|
July 22, 2011
The PokerStars Big Game, also known as the PokerStars.net Big Game or simply the Big Game, is a poker television program sponsored by Pokerstars.net originally airing on Fox Network. The program had a tie-in to the Pokerstars North American Poker Tour (NAPT), which was shut down by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York after the second, 2011, season had been filmed. The PokerStars.net Big Game did not return after the second season.
The Big Game pits an amateur, known as the "loose cannon," who plays 150 hands of no limit Texas hold 'em poker against five other players, each of whom stake their own money. These five players are mostly professionals although well-heeled amateurs have also played occasionally. The game consists of thirty hands per day over the course of five weekdays.
To become a contestant, the would-be loose cannon must be a citizen of the United States or Canada. He or she must first make it through three free qualifying rounds on PokerStars.net, placing in the top 300 in a daily tournament, then in the top 1000 on Saturday, and finally in the top 200 on Sunday. The remaining 200 send in video auditions, from which the producers select the contestant for the week.
Loose cannons are staked $100,000 and keep all winnings in excess of this initial amount. To prevent the loose cannon from simply going "all in" (betting everything) immediately, betting is pot limit (raising restricted to what has already been bet) before the flop and no limit afterwards. The minimum buy-in for the professionals is $100,000 and the maximum is $500,000. Players may rebuy up to a $500,000 limit. The blinds are $200/$400 with a $100 ante which is paid for all players by the player on the designated dealer "button".
The top loose cannon at the end of the season wins an additional prize, a North American Poker Tour (NAPT) "passport" valued at $50,000, consisting of entry fees and expenses for various NAPT tournaments. In season one, a loose cannon, if he or she shows a profit after 150 hands, was given the option of forfeiting the winnings and returning the next week, with an eye toward trying for the grand prize.
In the conclusion of the first season, on the last day, Bob Ferdinand won two all-in hands and doubled his money twice to take the grand prize. He first went from losing over $30,000 to winning over $40,000 when he made a straight on the flop, which improved to a straight flush on the river. A few hands later, he was dealt pocket aces and was lucky enough to have another player pick up pocket kings, leading to a gain of over $140,000 when the flop came A66, giving him a full house. His final total profit of $181,500 easily exceeded the $129,600 won by David Fishman, who was in attendance.
In all, four loose cannons came away with some money, with Nadya Magnus in third position with $63,600, followed by Ernest Wiggins with $50,300.
Among the professionals who played were Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Tony G, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Jason Mercier, Daniel Negreanu, and Barry Greenstein. Most (but not all) of the professionals are sponsored by Pokerstars.
Season One Loose Cannons
Week 1: Ernest Wiggins from Washington D.C. He became interested in poker while he dated a professional player, and now he competes in local home games where he has been somewhat successful.
Week 2: William Davis from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He spends most of his time playing poker in medium stakes home games and online. He is now trying to make a living playing poker.
Week 3: Nadya Magnus. Magnus has had the poker fever ever since she visited Las Vegas in 2008. She now regularly plays in the U.S, and has won a ladies event in the 2009 World Series Circuit Event.
Week 4: Troy Howard. He is a music producer from Lansing, Michigan. Howard started playing poker with his friends. They started their own amateur league, where Troy has become a regular player.
Week 5: Aaron Jensen. Jensen is a competitive poker player from Seattle, Washington. He has had a good amount of success at the poker table, where he has picked up five-digit winnings at several live events.
Week 6: Andre Capella. He has been an amateur poker player for many years. He has placed in several events in places such as Reno and Lake Tahoe.
Week 7: Russell Harlow. Harlow is a delivery driver from Manchester, Connecticut, where he resides with his wife and three kids. He aspires to own his own farm one day, but for now he intends to use his twenty years of poker experience to provide for his family.
Week 8: Russell Harlow. Harlow became the first and only repeat loose cannon.
Week 9: Elizabeth Houston from British Columbia, Canada. She spends a lot of time in a casino perfecting her game, which she claimed to have learned from her hero, Doyle Brunson.
Week 10: David Fishman. Fishman is a cancer survivor from Tempe, Arizona, where he teaches mathematics. He considers his ability with numbers to be his biggest advantage at the poker table.
Week 11: William Given. Given is from Lincoln, New Brunswick and has also lived in Germany. He enjoys sports and poker, and planned to put any winnings into a store that will sell hobby gear that will include poker.
Week 12: Bob Ferdinand. He is a bus driver from Revere, Massachusetts. He has two kids, and is recently retired. His focus is now on becoming a full-time poker player.
The rules were changed so that loose cannons no longer had the option to come back for another week of play.
Season Two Loose Cannons
Week 1: Gonzales Cannon II, an online qualifier from Sacramento.
Week 2: Courtney Gee. Based in British Columbia, Canada.
Week 3: Jared Huggins. A native of Manhattan Beach in California.
Week 4: Massimiliano Martinez. A medical student at university in Rome.
Week 5: Cari Bershell from Las Vegas and works as an Admissions Officer at DeVry University.
Week 6: Ken Hrankowski. A retired police officer from Maple Ridge in British Columbia.
End of The Big Game
A key feature of The Big Game had been a NAPT passport to the season champion Loose Cannon. The NAPT passport, valued at $50,000, consisted of entry fees and expenses for various NAPT tournaments.
On April 15, 2011, along with similar competitors' sites, Pokerstars.com was seized and shut down by U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which alleged it was in violation of federal bank fraud and money laundering laws. The company subsequently stopped allowing players from the United States to play real money games.
The NAPT immediately ceased operation, eliminating the main prize for The Big Game's loose cannon. The second season had been filmed prior to the charges against Pokerstars, so this final season was able to run in the months after dismantling of the NAPT.