It is common knowledge that poker games can demand a high level of endurance and focus. But at the end of the night, you turn your screen off and go right to bed. There are only a few players who could imagine playing poker games for several days without a stop.
These are the longest poker games ever played, including individual marathons that lasted as long as 115 hours, as well as insane high-stakes cash games that ran for several years.
Olmsted and Zimbler – former official and unofficial record holders
Larry Olmsted held the previous official record for the longest poker marathon. Olmsted set the record back in 2004 after playing poker for 72 hours straight at the Foxwood Casino Resort in Connecticut. That’s three days straight of Texas Hold ‘em!
It seemed like it would be a long time before anyone beat Olmsted’s record, but a few years later Paul Zimbler stepped up to the mark. Zimbler played for 78 hours at the 2009 WSOP Europe event in the UK, beating the previous record by six hours. Although the record was never made official, Zimbler’s poker session was widely recognized by the poker community as the new unofficial record.
Phil Laak steps up to break the record
If there was ever any confusion over which of these players, Olmsted or Zimbler, held claim to the title of longest poker marathon, Phil Laak was soon to put the debate to rest. His time to shine came at the Bellagio in Las Vegas during the 2010 WSOP.
Laak’s target for the individual poker marathon record was 80 hours, with the aim being to beat Zimbler’s unofficial record by two hours. Laak got in the zone and, streaming live to a daily web audience of around 130,000 people, made it over the mark to claim the title. This wasn’t enough for Laak, who knew that he could continue for longer (and apparently wasn’t yet hallucinating). Laak carried on, eventually retiring a ridiculous 115 hours after he started.
This set the new official Guinness World Record for the longest poker marathon by an individual, a record that Laak still holds to this day. The fact that he finished the five-day-long session $6,766 in profit, half of which he donated to charity, makes the whole feat even more impressive.
If anyone is wondering about the practicalities, Laak prepared for his mammoth poker session months in advance, sticking to a strict no sugar, low-fat diet. During play, he had a nutritionist prepare his meals and even had a shower set up near the table. Laak was allowed a five-minute break every hour, as is standard for records of this nature. He was allowed to bank this time, which he often saved up for showers, stretching and yoga, and even a 30 minutes nap.
So, anyone fancy a pop?
Bird Cage Theater’s 24/7 cash game
Phil Laak’s 115-hour cash game session is officially the longest poker marathon by an individual player, but there have been poker games running continuously for much longer, sometimes years, with players entering and leaving as they please.
The longest, most famous, and most well-documented of this multiple-year-long cash game took place at the Bird Cage Theater, a small venue in Tombstone, Arizona. The venue opened its doors in 1881 to provide entertainment to the silver miners in the area.
The entertainment started out sophisticated, but the owners soon found that the audience appeal lay in a more raw and smutty style of the show. Popular acts included Fatima the topless belly dancer, and Mademoiselle De Granville, who’sacts of strength got her the name “the woman with the iron jaw”. The venue was also known for drinking, gambling, and all-night parties.
To top off the fun, The Bird Cage also ran a high-stakes poker cash game in the basement. Players allegedly needed $1,000 just to sit down at the table, a hefty fee back in 1881. Industry giants like George Hearst and Adolphus Busch are said to have rubbed shoulders with Wild West legends like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. The game ran 24/7 until 1889, a total of nearly 8 ½ years. An estimated $10 million changed hands, with the Bird Cage taking a 10% rake.
Anyone who wants to learn more about history can still take a tour of the museum and poker room at the Bird Cage.
What about poker tournaments?
Tournament poker is a bit different. Someone has to finish first in a tournament. Prize money is given out according to where you finish. So it makes little sense to run a poker tournament for 80+ hours or to have a continuous tournament running for several years. The biggest poker tournaments at PokerStars run for multiple days, but usually, break after 8+ hours of play and continue the following day to give players the opportunity to rest and regroup. Major live events like the EPT take the same approach.
The world record for the longest poker tournament ever played was set at the 2013 Asian Poker Tour at Resorts World Manilla. Dubbed the Iron Man Challenge, the tournament ran for an incredible 48 hours 55 minutes. Damon Schulenburger from the USA endured the event to earn himself $18,240 and the title of winner of the longest ever poker tournament. Manilla is the city-based of several poker online providers like the idn poker.
It’s difficult to imagine matching Laak’s 115-hour stint at the tables or Schulenburger’s 48-hour tournament victory. For those who can’t stay focused for even the duration of a hyper turbo MTT, it’s time to get back to those Spin N Gos!