Poker Icarus Landon Tice Falls to Earth, Conceding His Heads-Up Challenge to Bill Perkins

  • Landon Tice has thrown in the towel on his heads-up challenge against Bill Perkins
  • Only 4,907 hands of the 20,000-hand $200/$400 match had been completed
  • Tice’s team decided that they could not overcome the nine big blind handicap given to Perkins 
  • Many in the poker community have been critical of the decision to quit the match early
  • Doug Polk plans to bring the participants together for a podcast about the challenge
Person waving white flag in surrender from behind a tree
Landon Tice has abruptly ended his heads-up No-Limit Hold’em challenge against Bill Perkins after only 4,907 of the planned 20,000 hands. [Image:]

Tice waves the white flag

When now the Boy, whose childish Thoughts aspire
To loftier Aims, and make him ramble higher

Up-and-coming American poker star Landon Tice has conceded his $200/$400 No-Limit Hold’em 20,000-hand heads-up challenge to hedge fund manager and high stakes poker player Bill Perkins. The 22-year-old waved the white flag on Saturday. 

The much-hyped event was not a straight-up challenge. Tice spotted Perkins nine big blinds per 100 hands, meaning that over the course of the match, Tice had to win $720,000 to break even. It was tall order for the cash game and tournament player who was not a specialist in the format. Ultimately, his “team” made the decision that it was too high a mountain to climb and they have bailed on the challenge early. 

the higher you go, the hotter it gets

Tice’s star has been rising consistently for the last couple of years. He was playing 2¢/4¢ just three years ago and now mixes it up in some $50/$100 games online. Last November, he won the MSPT Main Event at the Venetian for a career-best $201,529. Poker is a risky business, however, and the higher you go, the hotter it gets. A precipitous rise can also mean a precipitous fall. 

Criticism from the poker community 

Grown wild and wanton, more embolden’d flies
Far from his Guide, and soars among the Skies.

Tice has already received harsh criticism from members of the poker community, many of whom have bet on him. Throwing in the towel after only 25% of the 20,000 hand match was a surprise, especially when you consider that Tice was almost on pace to win just a couple of sessions ago. 

While several players have publicly given their support and well wishes to Tice, others have gone on the attack. Leaked discord messages by Jason Mo suggested that Tice was un-coachable and spent more time on social media than he did preparing for the challenge.

One suspects that there is perhaps more than meets the eye on all of this but in any case, the decision was made to end the match early and Matt Berkey, a long time champion of Tice and his work ethic, took to Twitter to defend that decision while also making it clear that it wasn’t his.

On Tuesday, Tice lost $28,000 in a 337-hand session versus Perkins, bringing his profit total down to $63,720 over 4,907 hands (3.25 BB/100 pace). It’s fair to say that this was an unremarkable session in the greater context of a long match, but it was the last bit of action the pair would see before Tice’s backers decided to pull the plug. 

Perkins took the match very seriously

The soft’ning Wax, that felt a nearer Sun,
Dissolv’d apace, and soon began to run.

Bill Perkins is a regular on the high-stakes cash game circuit and also has $5,449,472 in career live tournament winnings. Prior to March, there was much speculation around how seriously he would take a match of this nature. It turns out the answer is “very.” 

A magnanimous Perkins gave credit to his coaches and praised Tice. 

By conceding, Tice isn’t required to pay the entire $720,000 to Perkins. As per the terms of the bet, he owes Perkins a rebate of nine big blinds per 100 hands on the hands that they played, plus he forfeits an undisclosed side bet. That means his approximate losses are $112,932 (Perkins’ handicap less Tice’s winnings) plus the side bet.

Tice reflects on his journey 

The Youth in vain his melting Pinions shakes,
His Feathers gone, no longer Air he takes:
Oh! Father, Father, as he strove to cry,
Down to the Sea he tumbled from on high

According to sources close to Tice, the young pro wanted to battle on, believing that he could emerge victorious. The problem for him was that the vast majority of the money on the line was not his. That meant that Tice’s backers were the ones really pulling the strings. 

Being the caretaker of other people’s money came with another kind of pressure.

In that sense, Tice’s greatest achievement was, with a limited resume, pulling together the financial backing for such a challenge. That was perhaps the real peril in all of this. Being the caretaker of other people’s money came with another kind of pressure. The devastating thing is therefore not so much that he got beaten by Perkins in this challenge, but rather that his financiers lost faith in him. 

Cutting a forlorn figure, Tice posted a heartfelt video to Twitter, a “tough convo” with himself for all the world to see. 

There may be more tough conversation on the horizon as heads-up specialist and vanquisher of Daniel Negreanu, Doug Polk, hopes to interview all the participants in the coming days. 

It will be interesting to get more information and perhaps some behind-the-scenes details on how both players approached the match and why it was ended so abruptly. 

In any case, one must look at the bigger picture and while Tice’s wings might have been cruelly clipped this time, he remains a talented young exponent of the game and a potential star of the future. Even if he bit off more than he could chew, getting out-negotiated by the wily Perkins who ultimately brought his A-game, it is that ambition that o’erleaps itself that may drive him on to great things in poker. 

As Oscar Wilde said: 

Never regret thy fall, 
O Icarus of the fearless flight 
For the greatest tragedy of them all 
Is never to feel the burning light.

*Excerpts above from Ovid’s Metamorphoses

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