Steve Aoki is more than just an iconic music DJ and record producer. He is also an avid poker player and an ambassador of World Tour of Poker (WPT).
On Wednesday evening, from inside her Las Vegas “show room”, the 44-year-old celebrity hosted a WPT-sanctioned home game for five lucky winners of the contest where PokerNews caught up with him for an exclusive interview. Christophe Ossea recreational player from Germany, took a 15-hour flight to defeat a table that included poker big names Phil Ivey, Maria Hoand Vince Van Patten. In doing so, he received a $10,000 WPT passport.
Discover Christophe Osse’s victory here!
Dan Bilzerian’s Poker Skills Assessment
After Osse’s win, we spoke with Aoki to discuss his music career, and also a controversial poker topic – how good his friend is. Dan Bilzerian really in poker?
“A lot of people don’t realize it, but (Dan Bilzerian) is a great poker player,” Aoki said of his longtime friend.
Bilzerian is a GGPoker Ambassador and claims to have won over $50 million playing poker throughout his life. Much of that money, he says, went to the billionaire Alec Goreswho he offered a $100 million one-on-one challenge, but that still hasn’t been accepted.
“Before (Bilzerian) was a celebrity, he was a poker player,” says Aoki. “He was always at the tables playing big games, like in 2006 when I first met him. When I got into poker I didn’t know him very well, but I knew he was was a high stakes poker player.”
Bilzerian’s poker skills with mainstream poker audiences have long been questioned, but Aoki, who said he started playing cards in 2004, says the social media playboy has game. Aoki’s passion for this industry, it did not come when the WPT hired him last month. He competed on felt for many years.
“One of my very close friends in 2004 was an avid poker player,” the WPT ambassador said. “He was kind of a DJ guru, and I looked up to him a lot when it came to advice. He was kind of my big brother, and he played poker all the time. So he brought me in in the world.”
“We would DJ together and after our sets we would go to the Commerce Casino and play.”
Aoki is the son of Rocky Aokia wealthy restaurateur who founded the famous chain of Japanese cuisine restaurants Benihana. Although it came from wealth, the money was not simply handed over to the musical genius. In his early days as a DJ, Aoki took his daily salary to Shopping casino in Los Angeles to play low-stakes gambling.
“I was grinding it at the $1/$2 and $2/$5 table, that was my game at the very beginning because back then when I was a DJ in 2004/2005, it was like a few hundreds of dollars.”
Musicians with whom Steve Aoki enjoys collaborating
Aoki rose to prominence thanks in large part to his career surge in the late 2000s. Known for his acrobatic stunts and cake-throwing fans, the American DJ has toured the world, s performed in the hottest nightclubs in Las Vegas and collaborated with international superstars such as BTS and Snoop Dogg. Who would he like to work with in the future?
“It was a dream to work with ChesterI would like to work with Linkin Parkin the 2000s, I was talking about it, and I ended up doing not just one but two songs with them,” Aoki replied. “As far as singers are concerned now, working with Post Malone, I love what he does. Work with Duck, The weekend, I love what they do. Work with Thomas Yorke would be amazing.”
“There’s so much in the hip-hop world, I’ve done a record with Snoop before, but I’d like to continue making bangers with him. It’s not just about new names, he’s is about building with those I already have great friendships with and a smooth relationship with.”
Aoki continued to say that he would like to collaborate with the Korean pop sensation. BTS again. The two music industry icons have produced three songs together and more may be in store in the near future. In 2017, the duo released the single “Mic Drop”, which now has more than 1.1 billion views on YouTube.
Music is more than just a career for poker enthusiasts, it’s a lifestyle. Aoki said he knew music would lead him to a life of satisfaction and wealth when he was 14.
“The music grabbed me by my soul, and it pulled me in and it never let go, like no joke,” Aoki explained. “When I discovered punk and hardcore, which was the first type of music where it became my lifestyle. When I say lifestyle, I mean everything. The food I ate was about what everyone in that scene was eating, how I dressed, the clothes I wore, the friends I chose, the activities I did.”
Respect the grind
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Aoki has spent countless hours over more than 25 years doing what he calls “contributing to the scene,” meaning he devotes time and effort to improving the music industry.
“That’s where you get your social points and that’s where you get your respect,” Aoki said of the hard work he put into music at a young age. “And that’s all I cared about when I was a kid.
Growing up, he only thought about music. Every great musician has someone or a group of talented individuals who inspire them. When Aoki started learning the ropes, he found inspiration from a single source.
“Some of the biggest inspirations were kids my age doing the same thing.”
He fell in love with music in his youth and attended his first concert at age 8. Who did he see? None other than the “King of Pop”, michael jackson.
“I looked up from the nosebleed seats and said, ‘One day, I’ll be there one day. “”
He now plays “over there” in venues around the world and regularly in Las Vegas.
*Images courtesy of WPT/Joe Giron.