That Time That Kobe Bryant Put a Poker Bad Beat on Me in Atlantic City

By Robbie Strazynski
September 28, 2023

It has been almost 10 years since I first wrote about taking a poker bad beat in Atlantic City. At the time, I bemoaned how a $500 high hand jackpot slipped away from my grasp, with my qualifying hand (four jacks) having been BARELY beaten (four jacks… with a higher kicker, ARGH!) with minutes to spare on the hourly giveaway clock.

Well, it seems that the time has come to tell of another poker bad beat I took, also in Atlantic City, courtesy of none other than Kobe Bryant. The impetus? Well, frankly, I want to try and win a €2,000 package to the next Unibet Open. So, the story below will constitute my official entry into contest that they announced recently on Twitter/X.

The Setting: Atlantic City, Late 2010

Back in the day, Caesars Entertainment owned four properties in Atlantic City, all of which had poker rooms: Caesars, Harrah’s, Bally’s and Showboat. Nowadays, by contrast, there are only three active poker rooms in the city, but I digress. Anyhow, they had a pretty fantastic promotion running, too, which attracted plenty of recreational players, like me: the Total Bad Beat Jackpot. All four rooms were linked, and any qualifying bad beat that occurred (aces full of kings being beaten) would trigger that jackpot, of which any player actively competing in any of the four rooms would be eligible to receive a share.

I had decided to fly over from Israel to see my brothers in NY/NJ, and managed to squeeze a two-night mini trip to Atlantic City into the itinerary. I enjoy a good gamble, but rather than patronize the best online slots or poker rooms, I prefer playing live poker, and that aforementioned six-figure jackpot was alluring and had me dreaming of poker riches. So, instead of visiting the legendary Taj Mahal or the Vegas-esque Borgata, I decided to take a seat at Harrah’s poker room, where I was staying.

The Team: My Beloved LA Lakers

One thing I’ve always missed since moving to Israel from Los Angeles back in 1998 has been the ability to watch and follow Laker basketball games more closely. The time difference just makes “proper fandom” impossible, and I’m usually stuck just reading game recaps and watching highlight clips.

It just so happens that on the first of those two nights I was in Atlantic City, my Lakers were playing. These were the Lakers that had just won an NBA championship. Kobe Bryant was in his prime. I couldn’t not tune in to watch him play!

Kobe Bryant poker

Seeing that the game had just tipped off at 10:30pm, I quickly decided to cash out my chips and head over to one of the bars on property to fully enjoy the Lake Show.

I remember that it was a hard-fought contest, and I’m pretty certain it was against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, and Pau Gasol played well, but Kobe was, per usual, the star of the show. He managed to guide the team to victory, as they won by a few points, pulling away in the fourth quarter. I even made $10 off the guy seated to my left, who was a fan of the other team and dared to bet against my Lakers.

Elated and having had a wonderful time, I headed up to my room a happy guy.

The Dagger Strikes, Hard

The next morning, at around 10:30am, I headed back down to the poker room only to find that it was completely empty. Not “there’s one table of $1/2 still running from last night” kind of empty. I mean COMPLETELY empty! The only two people there were the floorperson and one dealer. I asked “Where is everybody? What’s going on?” And they looked at me like I was from Mars:

Floor: “You didn’t hear?”

Me: “Hear what? What happened?”

Dealer: “The Total Bad Beat Jackpot hit last night.”

I could barely pick my jaw up off the floor. All I could manage to ask was:

Me: “What time?”

Dealer: “Around 11:30pm or so, I think.”

Floor: “Yeah, there were like 75 players of so across all four rooms; it hit at Caesars. Took us a couple hours to get everyone paid out.”

Completely crestfallen, I had just one more question:

Me: “What was the player share?”

Floor: “$1,149”

And that, my friends, is how Kobe Bryant gave me one of the worst poker bad beats I’ve ever taken.



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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