Matt Berkey Defeats Nik Airball for $1,000,000 in Heads-Up Grudge Match

Matt Berkey Defeats Nik Airball for $1,000,000 in Heads-Up Grudge Match

Whether it be in the world of sports, politics, and even poker, the best rivalries are often the ones that pit two polar opposites against one another. In poker, we have witnessed on multiple occasions how match-ups between vastly different players can elicit a truly special spectacle. The timid Greg Raymer facing off against the vocal Mike “The Mouth” Matusow. Tenured pro Sammy Farha playing heads-up against recreational satellite winner Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event. YouTube king Doug Polk and poker legend Daniel Negreanu settling their beef by playing on PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel. The poker world loves a good rivalry, and with an assortment of accusations, call-outs, and of course tweets, the recently concluded high stakes poker match between Matt Berkey and Nikhil “Nik Airball” Arcot captured the entire industry’s attention.

How We Got Here: Nik Airball Accuses Matt Berkey Of Scamming

Since first appearing on the popular Hustler Casino Live (HCL) stream, Nik Airball has quickly become a prominent villain in the live-streamed poker space. While the source of Nik Airball’s funds may never be fully confirmed (he has labeled himself the beneficiary of a trust fund while also saying he is an investment banker), he always comes with the money necessary to splash around and cover every player at the table.

Taking on all challengers in high stakes cash games streamed on HCL as well as The Lodge Poker Club in Austin, Texas, Nik Airball has made a point of taking shots at some of poker’s best. Bluffing Dan “Jungleman” Cates while calling him “his b*****”, accusing high stakes cash game legend Garrett Adelstein of using his standing to keep him out of lucrative games, wherever Nik Airball goes he seems to find a way to make enemies out of long-established poker players. Recently, Nik Airball has set his sights on another accomplished pro, leading to a high stakes, heads-up showdown currently unfolding in Las Vegas.

The calm before the storm. Matt Berkey (left) and Nik Airball (middle) seen playing high stakes cash
at The Bellagio days prior to their heads-up match

Unlike Nik Airball, high stakes cash game player Matt Berkey is not usually one for the trash talk at the poker table. Although he is certainly vocal and quick to give his opinion, Berkey taps into his years of experience as a professional poker player when weighing in on topics via his Twitter account and the popular Only Friends podcast.

Yes, it is not uncommon for Matt Berkey to have public rows with players and personalities in the poker space, but even the most casual poker fan can easily see the differences between the Pennsylvania native and Hustler Live’s resident villain. The poker pro who grinded his way to the top versus the boisterous bully who leveraged his wealth into becoming a presence in the space, you could not pick two better characters to have a heads-up grudge match.

Although Berkey and Nik Airball’s paths into the poker industry greatly differ, recent statements from Airball have caused said paths to cross. Airball had been campaigning for a heads-up match against Berkey for some time, but it wasn’t until he called out the pro during an appearance on Doug Polk’s YouTube channel that the HCL regular finally got his foe to take the bait. Accusing Berkey of being a “scammer” who “runs a training site but can’t beat the games”, Airball said just enough to make the high stakes pro take him up on his offer to play heads-up. Not only did both poker players continue to exchange words online in the lead-up to their match, they also had somewhat of a physical altercation at Bobby’s Room in the Bellagio.

Video courtesy of @Darrrkus

Clearly, both of these poker players do not like each other in the slightest. Stepping in to serve as a mediator for the intense, high stakes showdown, professional poker player Phil Galfond brokered the following stipulations for the match-up…

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball Stakes and Stipulations

Location: Resorts World in Las Vegas, Nevada
Buy-In: $100k minimum (no maximum)
Session Schedule: 3 sessions each week, taking place on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays
Session Length: 6.5 hours each session
Total Match Length: 100 hours
Quitting Stipulation: Either player can quit if down $1,000,000
MIA/Quitting Stipulation $10,000 penalty for missing a session or quitting early

While we have detailed all of the drama that has led to this match-up, readers are surely here to read about the action that has taken place thus far. As the poker world anxiously awaits the next chapter in the Berkey vs Airball grudge match, get caught up on what has happened so far below!

Editor’s Note: While the entire poker community wishes this heads-up match was live-streamed, unfortunately the spectacle will not be available for public viewing. Due to the reliance on a variety of second-hand source, certain details from various hands may differ between sources and from what actually occurred. Regardless, we will be doing our due diligence to provide the most accurate updates as possible. Enjoy the article!

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #1

On Saturday, April 1st (of course this match began on April Fool’s Day), Matt Berkey and Nik Airball rendezvoused in the Resorts World poker room to begin the first session of their high stakes, heads-up grudge match.

The biggest hand of the first session took place later in the day. Despite buying in for $100,000 compared to Nik Airball’s $500,000, Matt Berkey had been playing well and had evened the stacks to about $400,000 each. With both players playing incredibly deep, the stage was set for a massive hand to take place.

Nik Airball Rivers A Flush Against Matt Berkey

With both players sitting approximately 500 big blinds deep, Berkey raised $2,000 first-to-act and was three-bet $7,000 by Nik Airball who held 7-5. Berkey made the call taking it to the flop.

Preflop Action – Playing Suited Gappers Heads-Up

While it may seem strange for Nik Airball to three-bet with low, suited gappers, it is important to remember that heads-up preflop ranges are vastly different from the ranges you would use in a full-ring poker game. Hands like suited gappers have much more strength when facing only one opponent. While a seven-high flush has the potential to be beat by a better flush in a nine-handed poker game, the odds of being bested by a better flush go down drastically heads-up.

Flop Action – Continuation Betting With Draws

Flopping a flush draw, Nik Airball led out with a $4,800 bet and was called by Berkey. 

With his flopped flush draw, Nik Airball was in a fine position to lead out with the small continuation bet. Even if he was raised by Berkey, he would have been in an okay position to call the raise and pursue his flush draw on the next street.

Turn Action – Considering Your Opponent’s Raising Range

Despite the 2 serving as a brick on the turn, Nik Airball continued firing making a $15,000 bet. Although Airball had yet to hit his flush, he was in a fine position to continue betting as he had a good draw and could have forced hands ahead of him to fold.

Facing the $15,000 bet, Berkey responded with a $50,000 raise. Even though he held the flush draw, Airball should have considered folding in this spot as not only was Berkey likely ahead, but he had plenty of better spade flush draws in his range. Being the loose, action player he is, Airball made the call.

River Action – Does Nik Airball Have The Better Flush?

Hitting his flush on the river, Airball executed a polarized $150,000 overbet, showing no fear of his veteran opponent. Despite the fact he should likely be checking almost every hand in his range, Airball got the call from Berkey. Seeing that his nemesis had the better hand, Berkey mucked his hand as Airball collected the largest pot of the session.

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 1 Recap

Despite taking down the biggest pot of the day worth $424,000, Nik Airball would still be behind at the end of Day One. Along with losing $133,500 over the course of the session, Airball would also garner much speculation when it was reported by Matt Berkey and Team Solve For Why that Airball had been making frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the course of the session.

Although Airball claimed the frequent bathroom trips were due to hydration, when Berkey happened to use the bathroom himself, he recounted that Airball was on the phone discussing the match with ally Eshaan “BrownBalla” Bhalla. While Berkey is the only source reporting the alleged “secret bathroom meetings”, it can be confirmed Airball took frequent breaks away from the table, often after losing big hands.

The continued controversy and accusations did not shock poker fans as they anxiously waited for additional updates on the grudge match via social media. Regardless of who went to the bathroom when and if there were actually “secret meetings” taking place, Berkey was the clear victor in the first session.

End Of Day One

Total Hours Played: 6.5
Overall Results: Matt Berkey +$133,500

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #2

On the second day of play, both poker players returned to Resorts World to continue the action-packed weekend. Up well above six-figures after the first day of play, poker’s biggest yinzer, Matt Berkey, was surely feeling confident as he sat across from Nik Airball.

Despite frequent bathroom breaks continuing to take place throughout the session, both players found a way to create some exciting moments in between each “secret meeting”.

Matt Berkey Stacks Nik Airball With A Rivered Straight

Early in Day Two of the grudge match, chips started flying as both players looked down at premium hands preflop. Holding J-J, Nik Airball raised $1,200 preflop and was met by a $6,000 three-bet from Matt Berkey who held A-K. Not afraid of aggression, Airball four-bet $16,000 and was met again with another raise, with Berkey five-betting $40,000. Following a call from Airball, both players witnessed an action flop.

At these stack sizes, the aggressive bets from both players was perfectly standard for heads-up play. With how shallow the stacks became prior to the flop, both Airball and Berkey could have even considered moving all-in preflop. Holding A-K offsuit and facing a “LAG” opponent, Berkey could have strategically elected to simply move all-in preflop to avoid having to play the postflop out-of-position. Along with not having to play out-of-position, moving all-in would have kept Airball from realizing his equity if Berkey happened to pair his ace or king.

Flop Action: Nik Airball Gets Coolered By Matt Berkey

First to act on the flop, Berkey led out with a tiny $10,000 leaving just under $60,000 behind. 

Holding a flopped set, Airball jammed his $70,000 remaining stack and got the call from Berkey. Well ahead of his opponent’s top pair-top kicker, Airball declined when Berkey asked if they could run it twice. Nik Airball would regret declining Berkey’s offer for two boards when the 10 arrived on the river.

Being sucked out by Berkey’s rivered straight, Airball Nik was down an additional $110,000.

Considering both player’s play on the flop, one made an interesting play while the other made a straightforward one. Leading out with a tiny $10,000 bet with top pair-top kicker, Berkey’s bet sizing was certainly a unique one, and could have been motivated by being short stacked with only having $70,000 left behind.

Flopping a set and having a stack less than the pot, Airball’s all-in move was the correct, standard play. While he would be crushed by the Q-Q and K-K in Berkey’s range, he was also ahead of ace-king and pocket aces as well. In spots like this, yes, sometimes your opponents are going to have you beat, but if your hand is strong enough you must be willing to put all of your chips in the middle when necessary.

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 2 Recap

Despite being down over $200,000 at one point during day two of the grudge match, Nik Airball would claw his way back and finished the day even with his adversary Matt Berkey. Although Airball may have attributed his comeback to his natural ability and poker skills, Berkey’s pupil Landon Tice alleged he may have received some assistance from others. At the end of the day, Berkey’s overall lead remained at $133,500, and Tice’s “secret meeting” counter stood at roughly 6.

End Of Day Two

Total Hours Played: 13
Day Two Results: Even
Overall Results: Matt Berkey +$133,500

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #3

It was Monday, April 3rd, and both Matt Berkey and Nik Airball were ready to continue battling on the felt before the match recessed for four days. Wanting to further his lead before Airball had a chance to study heads-up strategy through the week, Berkey was ready to let the chips fly. Despite his best intentions, Berkey would eventually realize Lady Luck had different plans for him.

First to act preflop, Matt Berkey raised $1,000 and was met with a $5,000 three-bet from Nik Airball who held Q-J. Berkey made the call.

While Airball’s three-bet may have seemed large, when playing super deep stacked such raise sizes are perfectly fine, especially when playing with a linear range out of position. 

Flop Action – Nik Airball Has Nothing But Air

Nik Airball’s preflop three-betting range connected incredibly well with the king-high board, making the $3,300 continuation bet he made perfectly fine and standard. 

Witnessing the call from Berkey, Airball should have considered the wide calling range Berkey would have on this board. With only queen-high and noting Berkey’s wide calling range, Airball should have been prepared to fire multiple streets and bluff. Having potentially received some insights in the Resorts World bathroom, Airball was ready to keep firing on fourth street.

Turn Action – Airball Continues To Barrel

Much like the king on the flop, the ace on the turn connected incredibly well with Nik Airball’s preflop range. Only having queen-high, Airball’s range connectivity with the board may suggest he was in a proper position to keep barreling and bluffing, but that was not the case.

On the flop, a lot of the junk in Berkey’s range was removed when he called Airball’s continuation bet. Despite having more aces in his range on the turn, it was important for Airball to consider that Berkey likely had a decent hand at the least. Airball should have had some checks in his range, but was he in a position to properly continue barreling on the turn?

When looking for hands to bluff with, it was important for Airball to consider bluffing with hands that could improve to the nuts on the river or lacked showdown value. Only having queen-high but also drawing to the nut-straight, Airball was in a reasonable spot to keep firing, and did so with a $18,000 bet.

After getting called again by Berkey, Airball should have recognized his opponent had a strong hand. A-3, A-6, and a set of sixes were well within Berkey’s range, meaning Airball should have considered proceeding carefully if he did not improve on the river. Fortunately for him, he improved a lot.

River Action – Nik Airball Shoves With The Nuts For Five Times The Pot!

Nailing the absolute nuts on the river, it was time for Nik Airball to do whatever he could to get some value out of Matt Berkey. While some poker players may have elected to go for a medium size in hopes of attracting a call, Airball had other plans, deciding to make the 5x pot raise for his whole $248,700 stack. Some people may think this was an absurd move by Airball, but I like the play! On the river, Airball should be going all-in with the nuts or with hands that block the nuts. Obviously, Airball had the nuts, and sent Berkey straight into the tank with his massive river shove.

Contemplating his options on the river, Berkey was surely considering all of the footage he had seen of Nik Airball making wild plays at the poker table. The board represented a spot that most players drastically under bluff, but what bluff catchers could Berkey have that could rationally call such a large bet?

Berkey was in a terrible spot, and after thinking for some time, called revealing pocket sixes for a flopped set. Despite having a nutted hand on the flop, Berkey would be runner-runnered by his opponent.

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 3 Recap

Matt Berkey had been up nearly $400,000 on the session, but after Nik Airball capitalized on his runner-runner straight scooping the massive $550,000 pot, the high stakes veteran lost much of his momentum and took a major hit to his overall lead. Berkey’s mood would only get worse when his flopped straight flush lost to Airball’s rivered royal flush. Luckily for Berkey, it was reported that he only had approximately $30,000 behind at the time.

Photo Courtesy of @The_Brownballa

As the dust settled and play concluded for the week, Berkey lost six figures on the day but still maintained the overall lead in the heads-up grudge match.

End Of Day Three

Total Hours Played: 20
Day Three Results: Nik Airball +$100,000
Overall Results: Matt Berkey +$33,500

April 10th Update: Play Canceled Due To Nik Airball’s Illness

To the dismay of many poker fans who were awaiting further updates from the Twitter accounts of Landon Tice and Eshaan “Brown Balla” Bhalla, the high stakes, heads-up match between Matt Berkey and Nik Airball did not resume this past weekend. On Friday, April 7th, Nik Airball reported from his Twitter account that he was sick and would not be able to compete unless his symptoms subsided. With Nik Airball continuing to be plagued by flu-like symptoms, no further action took place this past weekend.

Phil Galfond Institutes New Stipulations For The High Stakes Showdown

Although no further actions took place this past weekend at Resorts World, updates were offered in the form of added stipulations made by high stakes grudge match moderator Phil Galfond. 

In response to the frequent “bathroom breaks” made by Nik Airball throughout the first three sessions of the high stakes showdown, a cap was placed on the total amount of time either player could spend on break. During each remaining session, both players cannot exceed 20 minutes in total break time throughout the course of a session. Each break taken counts as 4 minutes spent on break, regardless if the total 4 minutes was utilized. If the 20 minute break time cap is exceeded by either player, $40 is charged for every minute that exceeds the cap.

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #4

After a substantial break, action resumed in the Matt Berkey-Nik Airball high stakes showdown this past weekend. Playing only one session on Saturday, April 15th, not only did the lead change between the two players, but far less bathroom breaks were taken to account for the new stipulations put in place by mediation Phil Galfond.

Prior to the recent heads-up session, it was a surprise to no one that more words were exchanged between the two camps via tweets, messages, and podcast episodes. Taking advantage of their ongoing beef, both Berkey and Airball made sure to promote some high quality content at each other’s expense.

With updates being provided by poker player and Airball associate Eshaan “BrownBalla” Bhalla, poker fans were able to keep up with some the action that took place at Resorts World. Despite significantly less updates being shared compared to recent sessions, some interesting hands were still able to find their way to the Twittersphere. 

Editor’s Note: As mentioned earlier in this piece, while the entire poker community wishes this heads-up match was live-streamed, unfortunately the spectacle will not be available for public viewing. Due to the reliance on a variety of second-hand sources, certain details from various hands may differ between sources and from what actually occurred. Regardless, we will be doing our due diligence to provide the most accurate updates as possible.

Featured Hand of Day 4: Nik Airball Gets There On The River

Resembling their starting stacks from previous sessions, Nik Airball bought in big with a starting stack of $560,000 while Matt Berkey stuck to his usual $100,000 buy-in. A few hours into the session, Nik Airball benefited from a favorable flop when he got loose with offsuit connectors.

First to act holding 7♠-6♣, Airball opened the betting and was faced with a three-bet from Berkey. Making the call, Airball saw almost the perfect flop. While heads-up ranges greatly differ from full-ring cash game ranges, Airball’s play with 7-6 offsuit was somewhat loose, but strategically permissible taking into account game dynamics and the opportunity to make straights. That being said, the self-proclaimed investment banker should have recognized he likely had the worse hand preflop.

Flop Action – Nik Airball Sees A Favorable Flop

Flopping the open-ended straight draw but not blocking and hearts for the flush, Airball bet $3,500 and faced a massive $18,000 check-raise by Matt Berkey. Drawing to the potential nuts, Airball called hoping to hit his straight on the turn.

Despite having the open-ended straight draw, Nik Airball should have proceeded cautiously after being raised by such a large amount. Raising preflop and leading on the flop showed nothing bit strength, if Berkey was still willing to continue firing huge raises, it was important for Airball to consider how strong his opponent may be. 

On the somewhat junky board, Berkey had strong overpairs as well as some nutted flush draws in his range (like A-K and A-Q). Even if Airball hit his straight, if a third heart was what completed it there was no certainty he would have the better hand. Regardless, Berkey could be betting this big to protect overpairs as well, making Airball’s call strategically sound.

Turn Action – Matt Berkey Slows Down

With the 2 serving as a blank on the turn, both players checked.

With Berkey showing such aggression preflop and on the flop, Airball was wise to check to his opponent. If Berkey continued firing, Airball could have soundly check-called in hopes of hitting his open-ender on the river, although he should have been cautious of the second flush draw now on the board.

As reported by Brown Balla, Airball’s patience would pay off.

River Action – Nik Airball Hits His Straight And Gets Paid

Out of position on the river, Berkey fired out a large $40,000 bet. Despite the runner-runner diamond flush completing, Airball had too strong of a hand to fold holding a river’d straight. Despite having the straight, Airball was wise to just call Berkey’s big bet just in case the high stakes pro happened to have the diamond flush. Upon reveal, Airball’s straight would prove better than Berkey’s set of fours.

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 4 Recap

While Day 4 of the match between Matt Berkey and Nik Airball did not provide as much excitement and controversy as previous sessions, it did offer intrigue as Airball not only won the session but claimed the overall match lead. Along with his rivered straight hand, Airball would also pull off a successful bluff catch against his Berkey for another lucrative pot worth around $55,000.

At the end of the day, the nearly two week break in action proved to benefit Airball’s play, as one of poker’s rising personalities took the lead in the high stakes grudge match.

End Of Day Four

Total Hours Played: 27
Day Four Results: Nik Airball +$123,700
Overall Results: Nik Airball +$90,200

Editor’s Note: As mentioned earlier in this piece, while the entire poker community wishes this heads-up match was live-streamed, unfortunately the spectacle will not be available for public viewing. Due to the reliance on a variety of second-hand sources, certain details from various hands may differ between sources and from what actually occurred. Regardless, we will be doing our due diligence to provide the most accurate updates as possible.

April 25th Update: Play Continues At Resorts World

In the first full weekend of play since their “headsup4rollz” match began earlier this month, momentum would swing once again between high stakes cash game pro Matt Berkey and rising poker anti-hero Nik Airball. It will come as a surprise to no one that the online spat between both players’ camps continued leading up to and during the recent three days of action. While both players and their supporters would talk brazenly online, “Twitter fingers” could only do so much as the beef was taken back to the felt.

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #5

Resuming action on Saturday, April 22nd, Team Airball was in high spirits as his overall lead in the heads-up match neared six figures. Hoping to further his lead, Airball would need to bring his A-game to fend off a motivated Matt Berkey. While Airball was confident, confidence would not be enough to keep Berkey at bay.

Matt Berkey Nails A Flush On The River

First to act preflop, Matt Berkey raised with A4 and called Nik Airball’s three-bet. 

Berkey’s play preflop was perfectly standard with his suited ace. Even if Airball had him crushed with premium holdings like pocket kings or queens, Berkey would still have a live ace and could potentially “get there” with a nutted flush. Especially when in position, suited aces can play incredibly well heads-up.

Flop Action – A Flush Draw On The Flop For Matt Berkey

Following a check from Airball, Berkey elected to check back his nut-flush draw.

While this was certainly a conservative line from Berkey as he was drawing to the nuts, the poker pro could have very well done this to account for his opponent’s splashy nature. If Berkey bet this board, he would have likely tipped off Airball to the fact that he was drawing to a flush. By checking, Berkey could have convinced Airball the flush wasn’t in play, inspiring him to start betting heavy. If Airball were to start applying aggression, Berkey could simply flat and profitably get money into the middle while drawing to the nuts. Better yet, if Airball was drawing to a worse flush and the third spade arrived, Berkey would likely stack his opponent.

Turn Action – Berkey Turns Some Additional Outs

With the 2 on the turn, Berkey picked up some additional equity as he not only still had a flush draw, but he had a straight draw as well. Taking a stab at the pot, Nik Airball led out with a $6,600 bet and got the call.

By picking up additional equity with a turned straight draw, Berkey could have elected to raise the initial bet from Nik. However, Airball had already built the pot with a 3/4 bet. If Berkey were to nail either one of his draws on the river, there was a chance Nik could continue firing into a nutted hand. Rather than apply aggression on the turn, Berkey would remain patient and see what the river brought. Turns out, Berkey’s patience would be rewarded.

River Action – Matt Berkey Gets His Flush On The River

Nailing his nut-flush on the river, Berkey was likely seeing money signs. Checked to by Airball, Berkey had to figure out the proper size to not only get called, but potentially inspire his opponent to execute a bluff. After making a decently sized $15,000 bet, Berkey was surely elated when Airball made the $60,000 check-raise. From here, Berkey had an easy decision, moving all-in for his remaining stack worth $100,000. Getting called by Airball, Berkey showed the nuts as his opponent mucked his hand.

Simply put, Matt Berkey played this hand perfectly. In essence “slow playing” his flush draw by checking the flop, Berkey likely convinced Nik Airball that either he wasn’t on a draw or that the worse flush draw he potentially had was good on the river. Whether or not this was a cooler or a punt from Airball, Berkey masterfully played his flush draw as he scooped a huge pot.

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 5 Recap

Despite still being behind in the overall totals, Matt Berkey played incredibly well in Saturday’s session and took a heavy chunk out of Nik Airball’s lead. With play resuming the following day, Berkey surely saw that the lead was well within his reach.

End Of Day Five

Total Hours Played: 34.5
Day Five Results: Matt Berkey +$76,500
Overall Results: Nik Airball +$13,500

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #6

Within striking distance of the overall lead, Matt Berkey returned to Resorts World on Sunday, April 23rd in hopes of overtaking the boisterous Nik Airball. Accompanied by Hustler Casino Live Stream owner Ryan Feldman, the Nikasso of HCL had the support he needed to protect his lead. With one of the best game runners at his side supporting him, could Nik Airball finish day 6 as the overall match leader?

Matt Berkey Bluffs Nik Airball With An Overbet

Mixing it up with his heads-up ranges, Matt Berkey raised $1,200 first to act preflop holding J5♣. Defending the big blind, Nik Airball made the call.

As mentioned previously in our updates, it is important to acknowledge how preflop raising ranges in heads-up play greatly differ from raising ranges in full-ring cash games. Junky, offsuit hands containing “big” cards are mixed with raises and folds when playing heads-up. Being an experienced player, Berkey not only knew to mix in raises with hands like J-5 offsuit, but could play them in position.

Flop Analysis – Nothing But Air

Despite completely missing the flop with his junky holding, following a check from Airball Berkey made a small $700 bet. Nik called.

Even though he completely missed on this flop, Berkey could still represent his strong preflop raising range with the Ad coming into play. The small continuation bet was perfectly in line with what he would do with a paired ace, allowing Berkey to keep firing and potentially bluff on later streets.

Turn Analysis – Continuing To Bluff When Turning Additional Value

Still having nothing but jack-high, Berkey had to keep firing if he was going to have any shot of taking down this pot. After another check from Nik Airball, Berkey sized up with a $3,500 bet. Airball again called.

Picking up a gutshot straight draw, Berkey was in a proper, strategic position to continue firing and set up the triple-barrel bluff. Whenever you are executing a bluff and pick up additional equity on the turn, it is in your best interest to keep firing. Not only will this set up a proper spot to bluff on the river, but when you hit your made-hand you will have built up a lucrative pot.

River Analysis – Berkey Goes For The Bluff

Still owning nothing but jack-high on the river, following a third and final check from Airball Berkey knew he had to bluff if he had a shot of winning the pot. Not only did Berkey bluff, Berkey bluffed big, throwing out $18,000 for the over-bet bluff. 

Due to the size of the bet, Airball could have potentially picked up on the fact that Berkey was bluffing. If Berkey had a strong hand, wouldn’t he want to be less than pot to extract value? Perhaps, but the important factor to consider is the flush came in on the river. In some spots, Berkey would execute this same bet if he did have the flush. When the runner-runner flush comes in, some players will strategically overbet with both bluffs and made-hands to “balance”. Such big bets will help pull-off successful bluffs, and will help made hands get paid when opponents attempt to bluff catch. In this instance, Berkey was bluffing, but could he fool Nik Airball?

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 6 Recap

Perhaps scared of the runner-runner flush, Nik Airball conceited the pot to Berkey who showed him the bluff. Obviously, this did not help Airball’s mood, as he was still recovering from a previous all-in shove from Berkey for $241,000.

It was clear to poker fans keeping up with the action on Twitter that Berkey was locked-in playing A-tier poker. To the dismay of Eshaan and Lynne, Berkey not only booked a big win in the 6th session of the match, but established a prominent overall lead. Booking a win worth nearly $400,000, Berkey left Resorts World as the big dog, and hoped to bury Nik Airball the following day.

End Of Day Six

Total Hours Played: 42
Day Six Results: Matt Berkey +$379,000
Overall Results: Matt Berkey +$365,300

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #7

Yesterday in the early afternoon, both Matt Berkey and Nik Airball met once again to wrap up an action-packed weekend of poker. Losing his lead and then some, Nik Airball looked to scratch his way back to the top after two days of unprofitable poker. 

While both players had kept their cool through the weekend, eventually words were exchanged when Berkey revealed his hand on the river thinking Airball was calling his bet. However, Airball was reaching for chips and had not yet called, an action that drew controversy based on the fact Airball clearly had his “big” chips behind his stack and out of view. Regardless of how Airball had his chipped assembled, the floor ruled he had “raised” and Berkey tabling his hand would be treated as a fold.

Although Berkey lost the pot, he was still able to provide some quality footage of his opponent, who later complained to staff that Berkey had his phone out…

Despite the momentary drama, it was a relatively calm day at the Resorts World poker room, with both players locked in with limited distractions. Although the day was deemed “boring” by Matt Berkey, we were still provided with a quality heads-up hand to analyze.

Matt Berkey Continues To Be Creative With His Preflop Raises

As we have seen frequently throughout the match, Matt Berkey continues to mix in junky, offsuit combo hands into his preflop raising range. Raising with 7-4 offsuit preflop, Berkey got the call from Airball and saw a favorable flop.

Flop Analysis – Matt Berkey Sees A Favorable Flop

Despite essentially bluffing preflop with his raise, Berkey benefitted from an equitable flop giving him an open-ended straight draw. Following a check from Airball, Berkey made a somewhat large $1,500 continuation bet and got the call. 

With the straight draw and being the preflop aggressor, Berkey was in a fine spot to make a continuation bet and potentially take down the hand on the flop. Although we do not know if he blocked a spade (suits were not provided in the update from @AirballajiTV), if Airball happened to not have a spade himself he could have very well folded the better hand.

Turn Analysis – Matt Berkey Nails His Straight

Receiving his straight on the turn without the flush completing, Berkey was in a beautiful spot to scoop a decent pot if he could dodge another spade. Checked to, Berkey continued his aggression with a large $4,500 bet. Nik Airball called.

A lot of novice poker players make the mistake of slowing down and “getting cute” when they hit their draw on the turn. Especially when better draws are on the board, you want to protect your strong yet vulnerable hand from getting outdrawn. Even if Berkey did not have the effective nuts, he would make this same play with a bluff, showing how he properly balanced his range. 

Getting another call from Airball, Berkey was in a prime spot to get some sweet value with his 7-4 offsuit if he could dodge a scary river card.

River Analysis – Matt Berkey Hits Nik Airball With Another Nutted Overbet

Witnessing a safe river card, Berkey prayed Airball had hit a rivered top pair. Checked to, Berkey yet again executed an overbet with the nuts. Not flinching at the sizable $25,000 bet from Berkey, Airball made the call and saw the bad news.

Although we cannot confirm what Airball had, if he had called with a king it was certainly a tough hand to get away from. Unless Berkey had had a flopped flush draw, the flop did not align with his perceived preflop raising range. If Berkey had missed his flush draw on the river, he would have likely played the spot the exact same way making the $25,000 overbet. Showing his years of experience, Berkey displayed how having a balanced range can provide opportunities for substantial value when you happen to have the best hand.

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 7 Recap

Despite winning some sizeable pots throughout the day, Matt Berkey was unable to book another win in what was mostly an uneventful session. As both players racked their chips and totaled their wins and losses, Airball would stand as the Day 7 winner despite still being well behind his rival.

End Of Day Seven

Total Hours Played: 48.5
Day Seven Results: Nik Airball +$58,500
Overall Results: Matt Berkey +$306,800

Matt Berkey, Nik Airball, Doug Polk, and Lynne Ji Faceoff On High Stakes Poker

Even with a four day break in the action, Matt Berkey and Nik Airball would find themselves face-to-face not within the Resorts World Poker Room, but at PokerGO Studios. Anyone who had been following the Berkey-Airball saga knew that the two high stakes poker players weren’t the only ones involving themselves in poker’s latest high profile beef.

Perhaps one of the leading catalysts for the heads-up match, YouTube poker king Doug Polk made himself involved in the ongoing feud when he hosted Nik Airball on his YouTube channel for an interview. Having a well-publicized beef with Matt Berkey, Polk not only provided Airball a big platform to besmirch Berkey, but also continued his own criticism of the Only Friends Podcast host. Taking his involvement a step further, Polk even instructed Airball in heads-up play at the beginning of the match (although he has since stepped down as Airball’s heads-up coach).

Contributing to the flame-stoking of the Berkey vs Nik Airball feud, Airball associate Lynne Ji has also been a major part of the “anti-Berkey”  collective. Speculating on Berkey’s success as a poker player, business owner, and his overall net worth, the conflict between the former couple came to a head when the two had a verbal spat in a Twitter Spaces hosted by poker pro Will Jaffe.

In an ongoing conflict including scam accusations, former love interests, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, it all came to a head when Matt Berkey, Nik Airball, Doug Polk, and  Lynne Ji took part in an episode of High Stakes Poker on PokerGO. As if this High Stakes Poker line-up wasn’t already intriguing enough, popular poker players Jennifer Tilly, Jean-Robert Bellande, and Eric Persson also joined in on what was an explosive poker game.

Matt Berkey Gets His Pocket Aces Cracked By Nik Airball

Less than 30 minutes into their game on High Stakes Poker, it did not take long for Matt Berkey and Nik Airball to get it all-in. Having pocket aces, Berkey would have to decide if his loose, aggressive opponent was bluffing on the river.

Preflop Action – Matt Berkey Plays Pocket Aces From The Small Blind

Folded around to in the small blind, Matt Berkey was in a dream spot holding AA with Nik Airball in the big blind. With no players yet to act, both players greatly benefited as they both had plenty of recent experience playing one another heads-up.

Limping into the pot, Berkey played off of Airball’s loose, aggressive style and also protected his small blind limping range. At varying stack sizes, you will see pocket aces mix in limps from the small blind in cash games as well as poker tournaments. 

Having 84 in position, Airball elected to check making it heads-up heading to the flop. While he may have been tempted to raise, checking it back allowed Airball to potentially flop well with the added advantage of being in position.

Flop Action – Nik Airball Sees A Flush Draw

Despite having the A acting as a blocker, Berkey was at risk with Airball flopping a junky flush draw. Checking to his foe, Berkey witnessed a $1,000 bet from Airball. Ready to put his pocket rockets to good use, Berkey check-raised $3,500 and got the call.

Holding pocket aces, it was prime time for Berkey to check-raise Airball and start pursuing some value. Even though his flush draw was junky, heads-up Airball was in a strategic spot to execute a proper bet. Regardless of the strength Berkey displayed with his check-raise, Airball’s flush draw had too much equity to back down or be scared.

Turn Action – Matt Berkey’s Pocket Aces Stay Good

After his check-raise on the flop, Berkey was well positioned to keep firing, doing just that with a big $10,000 overbet. Not backing down with his flush draw, Airball made the call.

To pursue value and properly balance his overbetting range, Berkey’s overpot bet was well executed and put Airball in a difficult spot trying to assess what Berkey may have. To Airball’s credit, he was unphased by the aggressive play by Berkey and stuck around with his flush draw.

River Action – Nik Airball Gets There, Berkey Pays Him Off

Not knowing his aces had officially been cracked, Berkey led out again with another bet, this time for $15,000. Knowing his flush was likely good, Airball peeked at Berkey’s lesser stack and raised him all-in.

Even though he started the hand well ahead, Berkey was now in an incredibly tough spot on the river. He blocked the nut flush, his opponent was capable of bluffing, and he had the best starting hand in poker. Considering all the variables of the hand, Berkey was in a spot where he had to call. Although he would be behind sometimes, folding here would likely mean Berkey would be overfolding when faced with similar spots against loose opponents. Unable to get away from it, Berkey made the call and paid off a vocal and boisterous Airball.

Nik Airball The Big Winner On High Stakes Poker

Stepping up and buying in big against some of the best high stakes players in poker, Nik Airball quieted his haters by not only stacking Matt Berkey, but ending the High Stakes Poker session as the biggest winner ($387,900). Making up for some of his losses in the high stakes duel, could Airball continue his momentum into the weekend?

Editor’s Note: As mentioned earlier in this piece, while the entire poker community wishes this heads-up match was live-streamed, unfortunately the spectacle will not be available for public viewing. Due to the reliance on a variety of second-hand sources, certain details from various hands may differ between sources and from what actually occurred. Regardless, we will be doing our due diligence to provide the most accurate updates as possible.

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #8

Only one session of play took place this past weekend, but it did not stop Matt Berkey from furthering the gap between himself and Nik Airball. While Airball was surely in high spirits after winning $387,900 in his recent appearance on High Stakes Poker, he would need more than a positive headspace to outmaneuver Berkey. Perhaps still feeling some of the liquid courage he benefited from on HSP, Airball showed he was willing to “windmill” some bluffs at his opponent.

Nik Airball Throws Another Bluff At Matt Berkey

Up $100,000 so far in the session, Matt Berkey looked to further his lead with some suited connectors. Peering down at 76, Berkey raised $1,000 and faced an immediate three-bet from Nik Airball who held K8. Not backing down, Berkey executed a four-bet only to face a $37,000 five-bet from Airball. Holding a hand that could flop incredibly well, Berkey made the call in what was already a lucrative pot.

With the equity many suited hands have in heads-up play, the aggression displayed by both players was strategic and sound. However, Berkey had the slight upper-hand equity wise, considering he held a hand capable of making a straight and had position. With K-8 suited, Airball would likely benefit from being slightly less aggressive preflop, but would more than make up for it on later streets.

Flop Action – Matt Berkey Receives An Open-Ender

Having flopped an open-ended straight draw on a “rainbow” board, Berkey did not flinch after he faced a $15,000 continuation bet from Nik Airball. Getting incredible odds with plenty of equity, Berkey made the call.

After the aggressive play he had displayed preflop, Airball almost “had” to keep firing on the flop to properly represent a premium hand. Although the flop missed his range entirely, he could still place a bet as not only did this flop miss Berkey’s range as well, but he may also take this line with pocket aces or kings.

Turn Action – Berkey Gets A Brick

Despite the fact he still had the better hand, Nik Airball likely thought his only path to taking down the pot was by bluffing. Refusing to let up, Airball sized up with a $52,000 bet and got the call.

With the flush draw failing to materialize and his open-ended straight draw still live, Matt Berkey was in a fine spot to make the call and hope for a favorable river. Facing continued aggression from Airball, Berkey likely thought his opponent was stronger than he actually was.

River Action – Nik Airball Bluffs With Air

Even with the board pairing, both players had nothing but air, although the air quality was much better for Nik Airball than for Matt Berkey. Despite having the better hand, Airball knew it was time for bluff, forcing his adversary all-in. With only seven-high after missing his straight draw, Berkey knew he had the worst of it and made the fold.

Not yet knowing he actually had the better hand, Airball flung his K8 down on the table and began needling Berkey. The King of Los Angeles Poker assumed he got the better of his least-favorite yinzer, but was provided context when Berkey retrieved his hand from the muck and showed him he had seven-high. Regardless, Airball had picked up a sizeable pot with only king-high, but despite the momentary victory, it would prove to be another rough day for Nikasso.

Nik Airball vs Matt Berkey Day 8 Recap

While his K8 hand cushioned the blow a bit, Nik Airball would sustain another day of losses after being outplayed by Matt Berkey. As both players wrapped up their chips, the totals would show that Airball’s overall deficit had nearly doubled.

End Of Day Eight

Total Hours Played: 55
Day Eight Results: Matt Berkey +$353,000
Overall Results: Matt Berkey +$659,800

Matt Berkey vs Nik Airball High Stakes Duel Day #9

As play in the high stakes, heads-up match between Matt Berkey and Nik Airball resumed over the weekend, many speculated whether the end of the contest was near. Down nearly $700,000, Airball’s back was to the corner and he had a lot of ground to make up against his foe. With the stipulations of the heads-up match, either player had the option to concede if their total losses reached $1,000,000. Nearly $360,000 away from being down one million dollars, Nik Airball would have to bring his A-game if he were to make it to another session.

Within striking distance of victory, Matt Berkey and his camp were excited to see whether the high-stakes veteran could finally close out the match.

Nik Airball Fires A River Bluff Into Matt Berkey

Nik Airball may have been down $45,000 on the session, but that did not stop him from putting Berkey to the test with some aggressive play. Just $300,000 away from overall defeat, every pot was critical, inspiring Airball to go for it in this splashy hand. Flopping an open-ended straight draw and turning some additional equity, Airball picked his spot and went after his opponent.

Preflop Action – Airball Sees A Flop

Facing a raise from Matt Berkey preflop, Nik Airball looked down at K2 and made the call.

While Airball may have very well been behind and forced to play out-of-position post-flop, paying to see a flop with junky, suited hands containing a face card is not a bad strategy heads-up. If given a good flop, Airball could have profited handsomely with this hand.

Flop Action – Airball Is Open-Ended

Checking out of position, Airball executed a $4,000 check-raise following a $1,200 continuation bet from Berkey. Berkey made the call.

On this low, coordinated board, Airball was in a great position to check-raise as not only did the board connect more with his range than Berkey’s, but he also benefited from an open-ended straight draw. A lot of turn cards could greatly benefit Nik, putting himself in a strategic spot to keep firing.

Turn Action – Nik Airball Gets Even More Equity

With the turn bringing another diamond, Airball not only had an open-ended straight draw, but a king-high flush draw as well. Having executed a check-raise on the flop, Airball leveraged his additional outs and sized up with a $13,000 bet. Berkey called.

Any time you are firing “bluff” bets and pick up additional equity on the turn, it is in your best interest to continue the aggression. If you are drawing and happen to force your opponent out of the hand, you can take down a lucrative pot without having to win at showdown. Better yet, if your large turn bet is called and you nail your draw on the river, you are in a prime position to pursue major value in what is likely a large pot.

River Action – No Other Option But To Bluff

Getting nothing but air on the river, Nik Airball’s only path to talking down the pot was through a bluff. When contemplating making a bluff, it is important to consider the “story” you have told throughout the course of a poker hand. Airball had check-raised the flop, led out with a large bet on the turn, and was now first to act on the river. It is clear Airball had represented plenty of strength throughout this hand, creating an opportunity to bluff convincingly. 

Additionally, Airball had plenty of straight draw combos in his range that “got there” on the river. If he fired out a big enough bet, there was a chance he could convince Berkey to fold the better hand. Knowing it was his only path to victory, Airball fired out one last bet worth $25,000, but would it get through?

Airball Barrels Into Berkey’s Flopped Set

Unfortunately for Airball, Matt Berkey was not going anywhere on the river, having hit a set of fours on the flop. While Berkey could have potentially raised for value in this spot, it was important to consider what worse hands Airball had in his range that would call him. Based on Airball’s play throughout the hand, he either flopped a monster, or a draw that he was continuing to bet. Since Airball was bluffing in this spot, it is unlikely he would have called a raise from Berkey. The only time Nik would call was if he had better sets or flopped/rivered a straight. When your opponent lacks a lot of worse calling hands in their range, there is nothing wrong with simply calling a large bet with good hands. Berkey played his hand well, and dug Nik Airball deeper into a hole in the process.

Now down around $750,000, Airball’s back was against the wall with plenty of time still left in the session. While not wavering in confidence, Airball would need more than his bravado to make it to the end of the day.

Down Goes Airball! Matt Berkey Defeats Nik Airball In Heads-Up Match For $1,000,000

Later in the session on Saturday, May 6th, a set-over-set hand worth over $300,000 would officially bring Nik Airball’s total losses to over $1,000,000. Staying within the stipulations established by arbitrator Phil Galfond, Airball exercised his right to concede the match, making Matt Berkey the official winner.

While no one will likely ever describe the two as being friendly with one another, reports out of the Resorts World Poker Room claimed Airball was a gracious loser, shaking hands with Berkey and congratulating him on the win. After 60 hours of play taking place over the course of nine sessions, Matt Berkey proved his doubters wrong and won over $1,000,000 in the process.

Final Match Statistics

Total Hours Played: 60
Winner: Matt Berkey
Total Winnings: $1,029,700

Conclusion: What’s Next For Nik Airball and Matt Berkey?

Whether you were a fan of the grudge match or not, Nik Airball and Matt Berkey garnered the attention of the entire poker community over the course of the past month. When these two weren’t squaring off in the Resorts World Poker Room, they could be found debating in Twitter Spaces, appearing in episodes of High Stakes Poker, and almost coming to blows in Bobby’s Room. Although we sadly could not view this match on a live stream, the continued updates from the Twitter accounts of Eshaan Bhalla, Landon Tice, and Ryan Feldman kept us informed as well as entertained.

With their grudge match behind them, Matt Berkey and Nik Airball begin life anew as they move on to future games. Despite being on the receiving end of a very public $1,000,000 loss, Airball is set to take part in Hustler Casino Live’s highly anticipated $1,000,000 cash game. Regardless of how you feel about the young high stakes player, it is clear Nik Airball is here to stay as he pursues bigger action. If he “plays his cards right”, we may just see Airball make back his heads-up losses in what is set to be one of the biggest televised cash games in history.

As for Matt Berkey, while he made it clear he was willing to continue playing Airball, it is unlikely we see the pair square off again in the near future. As Berkey returns to the Only Friends Podcast set a million dollars richer, he also brings with him something perhaps more valuable: validation. Having withstood weeks of “scammer” labels and criticism of his play, Berkey ignored the noise, put his money down on the table, and came out the other side as the winner.

It is unlikely we see Matt Berkey in the heads-up arena for some time, perhaps opening up a spot for a new, intriguing challenger to make his poker return.

About The Author

Scroll to Top