Four high-rollers who have propelled online poker’s highest stakes losing a lot of money

Have you ever seen any whale on the online poker table? Nowadays, high rollers are not as dominant in online poker as they were in the past. Some legal issues hit the online poker world and frightened off those whales.

But, some whales are still active on the tables though they had to lose a lot of money to fuel the biggest games. Today, we are going to talk about four poker whales whose losses essentially kept the largest online games afloat for years.

Guy Laliberté

Guy Laliberté, the former CEO of Cirque Du Soleil, is one of the biggest gaming whales in online poker. His net worth is over $1 billion and unfortunately he had lost around $30 million playing online poker.

At the end of April 2007, Laliberté reached the final table of the World Poker Tour main event at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. He finished fourth and won $700,000 in prize money.

In July 2012, Laliberté organized the world’s most expensive poker tournament, The Big One for One Drop, as part of the World Series of Poker. The buy-in was $1 million per player. The One Drop Foundation benefited $111,111 from each buy-in. Laliberté himself reached the final table of this tournament and received $2 million for his fifth place.

The tournament was also held as part of the WSOP in 2014. In October 2016, the event was played in Monte Carlo. With its one million euro buy-in, it became the most expensive poker tournament in the world.

Laliberté also played online poker on the Full Tilt Poker platform under the nicknames lady marmelade, Zypherin, patatino and noatima, but lost around $30 million there.

Despite his huge loss in the online game, Laliberté is not completely turned off from the poker world. In fact, he is still found behind some of the biggest WSOP high rollers.

Gus Hansen

Once upon a time, Gustav Hansen was the face of many poker advertisements and was known as one of the world’s most respected poker pros. He is a professional Danish poker player. He is a three-time World Poker Tour title holder and won a World Series of Poker bracelet.

As part of the 50th World Series of Poker, Hansen was named one of the 50 best players in poker history in June 2019.

Hansen started playing poker when he attended the University of Santa Cruz, California in 1993 as an exchange student. He is known for his decidedly aggressive style of play and his high betting frequency. His total tournament revenue is over $10 million.

Hansen is one of five players who have won at least three open World Poker Tour (WPT) main events. He also won the first WPT Bad Boys of Poker.

Hansen won the first edition of the $1 million Poker Superstars, beating some of the world’s most famous poker players. In the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, Hansen was 61st, and earned $154,159. In the same year he narrowly missed the final table of the first WSOP Europe in London.

In 2006, Hansen was a member and captain of the victorious Danish team at the Football & Poker Legends Cup. His teammates were Theo Jørgensen and Kim Christofte.

On 2nd January 2007, he appeared on NBC’s new American poker after dark show and in late January 2007, he won the Aussie Millions Poker Championship main event with a buy-in of A $10,000.

Despite his poker skills, he has learned a very expensive lesson over the course of several years, losing around $22 million on the virtual poker tables. He played over 1.6 million hands in online games.

Chun Lei Zhou

Chun Lei Zhou is another online poker player whose luck at the poker table has not worked out. In 2014, Zhou was interviewed by PokerNews where he said-

“I played a bit, lost some and changed nickname to “samrostan “”.

From January 2012 to February 2013, he lost 165,037 hands under his nickname “patpatman”. During this time he lost over $2 million. Then he started playing with a new name. This new name is “patpatpanda” and he lost $2.6 million in 122,725 hands under this name.

He changed his name several times but he could not change his luck. He has lost nearly $15 million in total through online poker games.

Paul Phua

Paul Phua is a multi millionaire who doesn’t have to think much about his high-stakes losses. Phua grew up in his hometown of Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. At 15, he moved to Singapore to complete his graduation. There he became a passionate bowler and finally came to the casino business. From then on, Phua worked as a so-called “junket” for various casinos in Macau.

Phua played the seven-card stud poker variant as a teenager and switched to Texas Hold’em when he was in his early 20s. And since 2012, he is playing live poker tournaments.

In 2012 and 2016, he participated in the Big One for One Drop, which was sold with a buy-in of one million US dollars but he failed to secure any place for the prize.

At the end of April 2014, he reached the final table of the European Poker Tour’s Super High Roller in Monte-Carlo and finished the tournament in sixth place, which was paid with 385,000 euros.

In October 2016, Phua won an event in Monte Carlo as part of the Big One for One Drop Extravaganza with a prize of more than 750,000 euros.

In March 2019, he played in the Triton Super High Roller Series in Jeju-do, South Korea, and made three money placements. And at the beginning of August 2019, he took down the second place at the Triton Series main event in London and received his lifetime best prize money of more than $3 million due to a deal with the winner Wai Yong.

Phua has earned more than $16 million in poker at live tournaments and lost around $5 million in online cash games. He played online from May 2013 to May 2014 under the nickname MalACEsia.

Why Did They Continue to Play and Lose Big?

We have found several reasons that keep these whales playing in such a huge losing effort. There is no question about their experience and skills. Gus Hansen and Chun Lei Zhou have finished so many events and live tournaments. They have won several prizes and poker awards. Therefore, they have become confident to dominate the online poker tables.

But, online poker is a different game with different types of challenges, especially when played with the masked sharks. Maybe those whales have come to know about this fact after losing a big fortune over the span of several years.

Zhou have won a lot in live tournaments, most notably in Macau’s big events. But he never tried to adapt his live tournament skills with online games.

Laliberté has lost $30 million which was unexpected to him. As a result, he blamed Full Tilt for freerolling the pros who beat him. Phua has lost around $5 million in online games. But, his life time earning from live tournaments is more than $16 million. Moreover, his net asset is $400 million. Maybe that’s why his $5 million loss could not make him sweating.


Online poker world will likely never return to its former glorious days. One of the major reasons behind this change is that now online poker is focused on the recreational players rather than worrying about the high rollers.

Another big reason is that those high rollers have now turned their eyes from the online cash games. Maybe those whales will never come back to the online poker rooms, but the way they have fueled up the high stakes in online poker will be remembered for years to come.

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