The recent Hustler Casino Live poker stream made stars of non-poker players and showed that even global legends like Phil Hellmuth and Tom Dwan were beatable over a short period of time at a lively table.
With online legends such as YouTube sensation ‘MrBeast’, chess superstar Alexandra Botez and cash game player extraordinaire Alan Keating all taking their seats, it would be easy to fade into the background. One player who was never going to do that, however, was video gaming legend Ninja, a.k.a Tyler Blevins.
Hitting the Heights in the Hustler Game
“It gave me a lot of confidence and I played better throughout the night.”
Sitting down in the $100/$200 no limit hold’em game, the Fortnite legend made a neat profit, running up a return of $144,300, including in this dramatic hand.
— Ninja (@Ninja) May 2, 2022
After the event, Blevins told us that the reaction to the hand, via Twitter, Tik Tok and other social media outlets has been incredible.
“I haven’t been part of a moment like this for a while!” he said. “I got really lucky that I was next to Hellmuth. He was helping me with some decisions I was making. I almost never called on a draw, and I was proud of myself. He was giving me a lot of positive reinforcement after some of my plays. It gave me a lot of confidence and I played better throughout the night.”
After the game, Blevins took to Twitter and offered up the most meme-friendly image of the year so far in poker.
New meme template. Twitter do your thing pic.twitter.com/iUmxu79E4X
— Ninja (@Ninja) May 2, 2022
Hellmuth and Blevins got on like a house on fire and the feeling was mutual as we found out when we reached out to Hellmuth this week. The Poker Brat confirmed to us that the two men will meet up again soon.
“We got to talking before we started – he told me about his charity events and I thought it was incredible,” says Blevins. “Then he told me what he was known for. I was like ‘Don’t worry about it man, I blow up all the time too!’ It was a match made in heaven being next to each other.”
Ninja’s Plan Works Out
“I’ve found a new passion because win or lose I was having so much fun.”
If the other players expected Blevins to arrive simply hoping to have fun, they would have underestimated the gaming legend.
“I was going there to not lose,” he says. “I told my friends I was trying not to be the first one out. In the back of my head, I was like ‘I could win this’. There were players who could throw off Phil, and Alexandra was one of those. Every time that happened, I thought I could do well if I got reads on people and played smart.”
It turned out that Blevins did exactly that. Winning six figures, he may have fallen slightly short of the $400,000 in profits that both Botez and Jimmy ‘MrBeast’ Donaldson took home, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless.
“Keating and Mr. Beast were going all-in [a lot]. I was sitting there thinking ‘One of these guys is going to bluff me.’ If I played an elite table of eight or nine other players, I’d probably get torn apart, but it would be a learning experience. I’ve found a new passion because win or lose I was having so much fun that night.”
Blevins and His Background in… Poker?
Blevins may be known by his hot-shot Fortnite nickname Ninja, but he actually played poker long before he picked up a game controller and slayed his way to notoriety. When he was a teenager, poker was on TV all the time. The boy who would become probably the most famous gamer in the world idolised Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson among others. However, his early plans to play the game ran into trouble.
“We took apart the ping pong table and bought legitimate poker chips,” he laughs. “We’d have $5 or $10 buy-ins with all of our friends. Back in the day, I’d make stupid calls for a straight or flush draw even if it wasn’t open-ended.”
Blevins showed none of that naiveté on the Hustler stream, perhaps because of the memories of his first experience playing poker as a youngster.
“There was a year or two when I was paying attention and I was never good at it!” he describes. “I was lucky and would always go for the draws. I’d need one club and call 500 chips – you don’t do that! I won one out of ten matches and thought I was good enough. I played online for a bit and got slammed.”
Back in the Game
“I don’t consider poker gambling.”
Over a decade may seem like a long time to take a break from the game, especially as it was during that era that poker experienced its biggest period of growth in poker. During that time, Blevins became ‘Ninja’, crushed Fortnite and changed gaming as an industry. Put simply, Ninja is the most popular streamer in history in the most definitive video game of recent times. It’s his competitive edge that he believes has drawn him back to poker.
“I’m well off, but I don’t not like losing money,” he admits. “I don’t like gambling that much. I have fun and don’t consider poker gambling. I’m definitely looking forward to playing more now.”
Blevins has a renewed passion for the game he moved away from as a youngster. In fact, he is already playing online, but you won’t be seeing his trademark blue hair and wide Detroit smile on any avatar…yet.
“I’m going anonymous for now,” he says with a smile. “I’ve already made an account on a poker website and I’m up like $2,500 right now. I bought in for $1,000 and I’m up to $3,500 playing some $10/$20. It’s so cool.”
Which Fortnite Players Could Play Poker?
“He probably plays a little bit like Phil Hellmuth.”
If you watch Fortnite, then you’ll know that Ninja is great friends with many other players on the hugely popular video game. In sheer numbers, Ninja’s followers are in the millions across YouTube and social media channels. His videos have piled up total 2.49 billion views on YouTube alone. But who else from his world could join the poker party?
“I think SypherPK and CouRageJD could play,” he says. “I know CouRage plays poker and Sypher is very analytical, although he might be an overthinker. He probably plays a little bit like Phil Hellmuth. I was watching [Hellmuth] all night and I don’t think he got in unless he was sitting very pretty. He was very methodical in the hands he played, and I could pick out a couple of Fortnite players who are like that.”
Blevins has had some great feedback from the poker community, with Hellmuth one of many looking for Blevins to bring his ‘Ninja’ skills back to the felt very soon. It very much sounds as if the gaming legend is just as passionate about doing so as his new poker peers.
“I’m very content and able to take the experience. I really felt like I did well because of my experience in gaming. Let’s say I’m very happy right now.”
Could Ninja play at the World Series of Poker? We wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen, and whether he wins or loses, one thing is guaranteed. The man known as Ninja will always play with a smile on his face.