Nik Airball Reacts to $1 Million Poker Loss in the Best Way Possible

Date IconLast Updated : Aug 17th, 2023
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Nik Airball Reacts to $1 Million Poker Loss in the Best Way Possible

This week’s Twittertainment sees a rare moment of contrition in poker, even if it did follow a $1 million defeat. Only time will tell if it’s temporary or a true change of heart, but Nik Airball has addressed his recent controversy and his now infamous heads-up match with Matt Berkey. 

Regular readers of the Twittertainment column will be aware of Airball’s antics in recent months. 

From his time on Hustler Casino Live to an endless barrage of comments on Twitter, the hedge fund manager has certainly made his mark. That mark earned him a match with poker pro and coach, Matt Berkey.

Agreeing terms took an eternity but, after engaging the services of poker sage Phil Galfond, the $200/$400 match got underway last month. Ups, downs, tactics, and drama unfolded over a period of three weeks. Eventually, Berkey rallied after an early setback to win the match and $1 million. 

It was a win for the man himself, any backers he may have had, and the poker community. Airball, although skilled, is an amateur and a vocal one at that. So, to have a pro come out on top is a win for those who believe poker is a game of skill. 

Nik Airball Reflects on Seven-Figure Loss

The result, of course, was the talk of Twitter this week. However, the bigger talking point was Nik Airball’s recap and subsequent reaction to the match. 

His May 9 tweet (see above) not only gave props to Berkey but offered a reflective and remorseful breakdown of comments he’d made. 

“I want to apologize for the comments I made about Matt being a scammer and the negative comments I made about his business. That was out of line, and I regret making those comments. I got caught up emotionally in the heat of the moment and said some things I shouldn’t have said, and for that, I apologize. Matt showed during this match that he is a true professional,” Airball wrote. 

Airball has promised to learn from his recent experience and become not only a better poker player but a better person. If he can do that, the responses to his tweet suggest he’ll win a lot of fans. Indeed, even though he enjoys being a “polarizing character,” there are right and wrong ways to spark debates. 

We’ve seen over the years that colorful characters get airtime. Phil Hellmuth has made a career out of going on tilt, while pros such as Mike Matusow and  Shawn Sheikhan were must-watch TV during the poker boom (see video below). 

Even though poker has changed since the early noughties, controversy still gets attention (rightly or wrongly). Nik Airball tapped into this trend, as have others, including Eric Persson. Now, however, he’s been humbled. 

Positive Response to Negative Situation

Joey Ingram is among those who are happy he’s dialing down the bravado.

Jeff Boski was less forgiving and took the opportunity to remind people of what Airball said before his match. 

Hristivoje Pavlovic, aka ALLinPav, said that most people knew Airball was playing a role, even if it did cross the line at times. He also thinks Airball was unlucky in his match against Berkey. 

“I think I speak for the entire poker world when I say you ran incredibly under EV in this HU match. As for your shtick, we all know it's for fun and you're a humble guy. We're afraid to admit that poker needs these characters, Pavlovic tweeted. 

Poker Needs Characters that Walk (but don’t Cross) the Line

Pavlovic’s final point is a valid one. Poker wouldn’t be as popular as it is without characters. Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event win lit the touchpaper, but pros with a personality kept it burning long enough for the industry to catch fire. 

That fact often gets lost when people debate the merits of featuring certain players on TV and the role of table talk poker. There are times when people cross the line. However, as long as vocal players refrain from personal attacks and stay just the right side of common decency, they remain an essential part of poker. 

It took a $1 million loss to teach Nik Airball the error of his ways but, at this point, it seems as though he’s learned his lesson. Will he continue to polarize opinions? Almost certainly. Will he do so in a slightly less offensive way? We hope so.