You’re playing poker for the biggest stakes of your life. On the river, your well-dressed opponent throws a massive bet into an already-massive pot. This one is going to take a moment to mull over. So, how long do you feel comfortable tanking in poker?

If you are Nik Airball, the answer is about 22'ish minutes. He spent a never-before-seen amount of time for a river decision, torn between two options. The pot held over $350,000 and would hit $475,000 if Airball put in the call.

Let’s talk about what happened on the late-March Lodge Livestream, give our verdicts, talk about why this amount of tanking is problematic.

Nik Airball’s Record-Breaking Tank on the River

After a big river bet, players and stream viewers sat back and waited. And waited. And waited.

But let’s rewind. We need to see what happened leading up to the river. Here’s a very condensed replay of the $50/$100/$200 hand, starting with the preflop action.


From the Highjack, Nik Airball raises to $500 with . Tesla and Brown Balla both call the $500, but Stache makes a 5x raise to $2,500 with .

Brown Balla is out of the hand, but Tesla hangs in there with .

There’s $8.350 in the pot already.

Flop :

Everyone picked up some kind of draw, though nothing better than a gutshot or backdoor flush draw.

After three checks, we are off to a turn.

Turn :

You couldn’t ask for a better turn card to create action. The comes, as if sent by the gods of content creation. Stache and Tesla both have straights, but only one is to the nuts. Nik Airball is open-ended with a straight flush draw.

Stache leads for $5,000, Airball raises to $16,500, and Tesla makes it $31,625. Both opponents call and the pot is now over $100,000.

Tesla says, "Taste the rainbow", and puts in a chip of each color

River :

Action checks around to Tesla with his nut-straight, and he overbets $125,000 into $103,000.

Stache calls quickly, but he can’t be loving the spot. He’ll only beat sets and bluffs, as it doesn’t seem likely Tesla would play this way with anything like two pair, especially in a 3-way pot.

And now, the action is on Airball. There’s no doubt he’s got a tough decision here, but with two other hands to beat, his three to seven straight doesn’t feel like a winner. He could also chop against a hand like , , or similar holdings. Just like Stache, he only beats sets, weaker combinations, and bluffs (like missed draws).

Let the Tanking Begin!

Yes, this is a tough spot. There is $350,000 in the pot, and that’s enough to buy a new home, a new Lamborghini, or diamond encrusted iPhones for you and several friends.

The river bet from Tesla was $125,000 and Airball clearly has no idea what to do.

Tesla knows what to do. He heads off to read a book by the fireplace; a perk of high-stakes poker games.

Meanwhile, Airball stares blankly into space, sits or stands, and talks through his thought process.

To Stache, Airball questioned, “Would you ever just call with 98 here to trap me in? No, right? You’d just want to be all-in.”

Then Airball and Tesla got into a brief discussion:

Nik “What you got Tesla?”

Tesla “A hope and a prayer man, a hope and a prayer.”

Nik “Last time you had a hope and a prayer you f***ed on me”

Tesla “I mean, you said you weren’t going to fold anything…”

Nik “Yeah, I don’t know buddy, this is a weird hand.”

Tesla “Yeah I thought I was going to get Stache to fold and I was incorrect.”

Nik “Yeah this is a weird hand. I feel like we are about to give Tesla a lot of money.”

These next quotes show just how torn and undecided Airball was:

“I don’t think I have it in me to fold.”

Then a little later, “I’m super close to calling and super close to folding.”

And then, towards the end of the tank, “I think I’m going to pay it Tesla.”

However, he couldn’t choose from the two options (raising makes no sense). About 19 minutes into the hand, Doug Polk enters the room and let’s everyone know that “We are getting dangerously close to being caught up to live”. A little while later, he started a 60-second countdown, letting Nik know his hand would be dead at the end of it.

“Fold” says Nik, with two seconds left on the clock. “Sorry guys, that took way too long.”

We’re very thankful that nobody can tank this long in online poker games. Sure, there’s a time bank available, but you’ll never get more than a couple minutes to think over a tough call. It would make the games ridiculously slow, when we expect to see tons of hands per hour. Fast-fold players expect to see even more, ‌up to 250 hands per hour.

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Why Did Nik Airball Tank for So Long?

It’s clear that having two opponents made this hand extra confusing for Nik Airball. More players, more complicated, right? We aren’t so sure about that.

In heads-up play, it’s clear that Tesla would have a lot more bluff combinations, giving Airball a way easier decision on the river. When Tesla has to get through two players, and one of those players calls a massive overbet, is the decision more complex – or more simple?

As we correctly heard from other players at The Lodge table, it’s way more likely that one of them has 89, or some strange combo of suited. Tesla could easily have here, that’s been established, but don’t forget that Stache could have made a loose call with suited in the big blind. There are just too many ways for Nik’s straight to be beaten or chopping the pot in best-case circumstances.

It just seems too dicey to call and hope to win this pot. That’s before we even talk about how comfortable Tesla looks throughout this hand, chatting with Nik and reading a novel by the fireplace.

So, Nik folds correctly (or gets folded by the countdown), but was that too long to tank?

Was Nik Airball’s Tank Unreasonable?

Watching this hand was like witnessing some kind of psychological torture. If you made it through the full 22'ish minutes of tanking, you must have a Buddha-like level of patience. In these high-stakes games, players are usually given extra time in difficult spots, within reason.

This amount of time probably isn’t within reason, for any hand and any player. Here’s why:

  • Everyone at the table sees fewer hands as a result of the 20+ minute tank.
  • The stream viewers, giving up their time to watch the game, have it wasted away.
  • Airball potentially gets more of an advantage the longer he thinks.

If you don’t know what to do after 5 minutes, you should probably choose the option that feels best. If you are exactly 50/50 on the decision, then flip a coin, or fold and hang on to your chips.

Out of respect for the players at the table, in the hand, and everyone watching, don’t tank for this long in your home games. If you set them up online, this kind of tanking will never happen.

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How Did the Poker World React to Airball’s Tank?

After the hand, viewers expressed their feelings about the tank. Can you guess what they said?

In general, most felt that it ‌was, way, way too long, despite the stakes and action in the hand. One YouTube commenter even joked that they would have “Called the Calendar” on Airball instead of the clock.

Others pointed out Nik Airball’s whale status, saying that a bad player with deep pockets should get leeway.

Some hypocrisy was quickly pointed out though. Just three weeks before this stream, Airball got very frustrated at Mariano on the Hustler Live Stream for tanking with preflop after a 6-bet jam. How long did Mariano tank for? About 3 minutes, eight times less time than the tanking we are talking about today.

It seems like Airball is fine with tanking, as long as he isn’t the one waiting around. You can’t ask for extreme patience and spend almost half-an-hour thinking if you aren’t going to extend the same courtesy to others. If anything, Airball’s hypocrisy is the most unreasonable part of this super long tank.

So, perhaps The Lodge and other poker streams will have a cap on tanking in the future. The viewers will certainly hope so.