Ethan Yau on the Rampage in the “Million Dollar Game,” Firing a $618,000 Bluff

  • The “Can’t Help Myself” art installation demonstrates the futility of life
  • As in life, poker can be both profound and absurd at the same time
  • Yau ended the big hand with busted flush and straight draws
  • “Handz” led the entire way, but seemed worried that Yau had flopped Broadway
Ethan Yau
Ethan “Rampage” Yau wowed the table on Hustler Casino Live’s “Million Dollar Game” when he pulled off a massive $628,000 river bluff to win a million-dollar pot. [Image: / World Poker Tour]

Can’t Help Myself

In 2016, the Guggenheim commissioned an art installation piece called “Can’t Help Myself.” A poignant visual treatise on the nature of life and of mortality, artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu found extraordinary beauty in an anthropomorphized robot arm which repeatedly swirled around and scraped up the hydraulic fluid which was leaking from within itself.

splashing fluid all over the walls of the polycarbonate wall that contained it

At first, the leak was slow, and the robot was programmed to use its spare time to perform movements that resemble dance, but as time went by, the flow of hydraulic fluid (which was colored blood red) increased and the robot had less time for these “happy” exercises. Eventually, it only had just enough time to keep up with the spill, splashing fluid all over the walls of the polycarbonate wall that contained it as it frantically tried to replenish itself.

The robot’s movements increasingly became more violent, more desperate as it entered into its final phase, a never-ending and ultimately un-winnable battle for its own survival. In 2019, the robot arm finally ran out of hydraulic fluid, slowing down momentarily before its movements ultimately ceased.

Dragged, stacked, lost, and won again

The Sisyphus Myth in contemporary art form, “Can’t Help Myself” successfully captured the futility of life. Its allusions to the human condition are clear. However, when I saw it, maybe because of the shape of the arm and the way that it scooped up its life-giving fluid, I immediately thought of poker.

I thought of poker players pulling in pots. I thought about chips being dragged across the felt, stacked, lost, and won again. I even thought about the rake eating away at all the stacks, chips going down the chute until eventually there were no chips left on the table.

I’m not exactly sure why, but “Can’t Help Myself” came into my mind while I watched last night’s Hustler Casino Live (HCL) “Million Dollar Game” Stream. I think it’s because a game like that reminds me that poker is both profound and absurd. A table of players gambling for millions of dollars is both a celebration of our transience and a denial of it, the “happy dance” of the robot arm.

Rampage takes seat in the “Million Dollar Game”

One hand stood out for both its profundity and absurdity and it involved Ethan “Rampage” Yau, a relative newcomer to the nose-bleeds. Two years ago, he was playing mid-stakes, but his rise has been stratospheric, propelled initially by a Venetian DeepStack win in October 2021 and more recently by victories in a Poker Masters $10,000 Event and the WPT $25,000 High Roller, both in late 2022.

The “Million Dollar Game” has been heavily promoted in recent weeks and months, the brainchild of Ryan Feldman and Hustler Casino Live. The lineups across five nights were teased with big names like Tony G, Doug Polk, and Rob Yong taking seats alongside some of HCL’s regulars and other VIPs. Having secured a seat for the Sunday night stream, Rampage sold some action on Stake Kings:

Rampage’s investors were treated to an exciting night of big-pot poker action. Rampage is one of the game’s great content creators and he created a moment of truly great content when he took an audacious line versus a player known as “Handz.”

Power poker from Rampage

With blinds at $500/$1,000 and a $2,000 straddle in play, Rampage raised to $9,000 from the small blind with A♣️7♣️. Handz just flatted with Q♠️Q♥️, under-repping his hand, and a player going by the name “Pav” also called in the straddle with K♥️8♦️.

After the flop came Q♦️J♦️T♣️, Rampage checked, as did Handz, inducing a bet of $15,000 from Pav. Rampage snap-raised to $50,000, Handz called, and Pav folded. With the pot at $142,000, the turn came the 2♣️, bringing Rampage the nut-flush draw to go with his gut-shot straight draw. A great card with which to continue, Rampage turned up the heat with an over-bet of $175,000 (1.23x the pot). Handz called.

representing Ace-King with his line thus far

With the pot having bloated to $492,000, the river came the 5♠️. Rampage had missed his big draw, but more importantly, he understood that was uncapped, representing Ace-King with his line thus far. Given that Handz had just flatted pocket Queens pre-flop, it’s reasonable to assume that he might also have flatted Ace-King on occasion, but from Rampage’s point of view, that would be massively discounted.

After a moment’s pause, Rampage decided to empty the clip, going all-in for $618,000, again an over-bet (1.25x the pot). Handz went into the tank, occasionally staring at a stoney-faced Rampage, trying to extract a read on his aggressive and capable opponent. He ultimately decided to let it go, folding top set and immediately getting shown the bluff. It was power poker at its finest from Rampage.

Fighting for another day

Dragging its sweeper arm across the floor in calculated, almost rhythmical movements, the robot brings the liquid back into place. Cleaning up as it bleeds out, it is relentless despite its ever-worsening predicament, fighting for another day.

Systems enslave us, robbing us of our happiness and passion, suffocating us with more responsibilities, rewarding us with less for more until we can help ourselves no longer. Life is the meaningless labor and perpetual hardship that comes from living in a capitalist society.

Rampage bet $618,000 with nothing to win $492,000. In an altogether different sense, he couldn’t help himself. Moments later, he dragged in pieces of clay worth over a million dollars and for just a moment, the pointlessness of existence was forgotten, or maybe illuminated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *