As poker players, we’re often used to playing long past when we said we’d quit for the night, but have you ever been in a game that lasted eight years straight? Well, that’s exactly what happened at the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona!
While the theatre hosted a variety of entertainment acts, including the “Female Hercules,” Irish comedic duo Burns and Trayers, and famous opera singer Cary Delmar, the real entertainment could be found in the basement, as that’s where they hosted their poker game.
This poker game ran for a total of eight years, five months, and three days without breaking once, with only the occasional pause for bathroom breaks.
However, you needed deep pockets if you wanted to sit at this table – each player had to pony up at least $1000 upfront; no credit allowed! That works out to around $30,000 in today’s money, so it was certainly a game for the high rollers. While it’s not known exactly what game was played or what the stakes were, it’s likely to be a version of 5-card draw. Poker was certainly a different game back then, with hands like a straight only recently being introduced to the hand rankings!
If you had the cash to sit down at buy-in to this game, you’d find yourself rubbing elbows with some of the most famous names in the Wild West. It’s reported that Wyatt Earp, George Hurst, Adolphus Busch, Jim Brady, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holiday all passed through the game at various points during the game’s run. Who knows how many other famous faces made an appearance over the eight years the game was running?
While we don’t have a profit/loss sheet like you do when watching your favourite stream, it’s rumoured that over $10,000,000 changed hands during the course of the game. However, there was a 10% rake in the game, meaning that the players actually shared around $9,000,000 between them, with $1,000,000 going to the Bird Cage Theatre. Talk about more rake being better!
The Bird Cage Theatre Today
If you want to visit a part of poker history, you can take a tour of the Bird Cage Theatre, where you can see the room where the game took place, as well as a museum featuring an original bar, their original 1881 rosewood piano, the staircase to the box seats, and much more! Tours of the area start from USD14 per person, so if you’re in the Arizona area, make sure you check it out!
While many people consider the game at the Bird Cage Theatre to be the longest-ever poker game, players were chopping and changing so much that it could be argued that it wasn’t the same poker game from start to finish (the poker game of Theseus perhaps?). There is a Guinness World Record for the longest recorded poker session, achieved by Phil Laak back in June 2010.
He played at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas for 115 hours straight, only being allowed to take a five-minute break every hour. The game was live-streamed and watched by over 117,000 people. By the end of his session, Phil was up $6,766 and donated half of his winnings to a children’s charity.