After the frantic activity of the first six episodes, the eight new players in last week’s High Stakes Poker installment provided a game that was long on talk, but short on meaningful poker action, with the possible exception of a few nice plays by former World Series of Poker champion Joseph Hachem. The eighth episode provided a chance for Messrs. Antonius, Esfandiari, Laak, Negreanu, Simon, Cassavetes, Lederer and Hachem to redeem themselves. With the players now a little more used to the styles of those with whom they were unfamiliar, it was expected that play would open up a bit. Let’s take a look at this week’s action.
After an uneventful first hand, Daniel Negreanu raised to $2,500 with . He got one call from Patrik Antonius with A-10 offsuit. The flop came 8-4-3, with one spade. Daniel put out a continuation bet of $4,000 and Patrik called again. The turn was the , giving Daniel a flush draw to go with his open-ended straight draw. He bet $10,000 and Patrik called once again with top pair. The pot was now $35,800, and the river’s filled Negreanu’s flush. He checked, and Antonius bet $18,000, which Negreanu called, to take down the $71,800 pot.
After the commercial break, commentators Gabe Kaplan and AJ Benza reflected the collective consciousness of the audience, making it clear that they were not at all happy with the focus on prop betting, and would prefer more poker and less talk. AJ even went so far as to suggest splitting up Antonio and Phil, who tend to be non-stop talkers at the table, and the ringleaders of whatever prop betting is taking place.
The next hand highlighted the difference in play between this group and the previous one. After Negreanu raised to $2,500 with pocket nines, Antonius called with , and Laak re-raised to $16,000 with pocket aces. Lederer then threw away a pair of sevens, and Hachem, continuing his fine series of reads, folded A-K! It is likely that players at the previous table would have played both of those hands. Negreanu called and Antonius folded. The flop brought K-10-2 and both players checked. The turn was a 7, and Laak bet $17,500 into the pot of $37,300. Negreanu folded, and everyone at the table, led by Esfandiari, predicted that Laak had either a set of kings or pocket aces.
A bit of controversy ensued in the next hand. Negreanu raised to $2,500 with pocket kings, which Laak and Lederer called, with a pair of eights and respectively. Cassavetes then raised to $17,500 with A-J offsuit. Negreanu re-raised to $29,300, and Laak and Lederer folded, but Lederer’s hand became exposed when he folded! Nick finally wound up folding, and Negreanu ranted a bit about the exposed cards, thinking that Cassavetes had pocket jacks.
The next hand saw Antonius raise to $3,500 with a pair of sevens, which Negreanu called with . The flop of J-2-J gave Negreanu trips, and he check-raised Antonius’ $5,500 bet to $17,500, which Antonius called. The came on the turn, and Negreanu check-called the $27,000 that Antonius fired into the pot. The river brought a third heart, the nine, and both players checked, leaving Negreanu to rake in the $98,000 in the middle.
After another two uninteresting hands, prop betting took center stage once more, as Cassavetes bet Esfandiari that he couldn’t do 35 pushups. This led to arguments about proper push-up form, and three plates being placed under Esfandiari’s chest, which he had to touch but not break while doing each pushup. He easily did 47, and won the bet. Thus far, this was the most passionate the players had gotten about anything all evening.
After the prop bet had been settled, Esfandiari raised to $2,300 with pocket nines. Antonius called with , and Hachem then raised to $10,500 with A-8 unsuited. It turned out that Cassavetes ALSO had A-8, but he folded. Both Esfandiari and Antonius called. The flop of 7-J-5 gave no help to anyone, and Esfandiari bet $25,00 into the $34,300 pot. After the others folded, Kaplan commented that while the players have not been gambling much, they have read one another’s hands very well.
On the next hand, Lederer decided to slow play pocket aces with a call. After Simon called with 5-4, and Negreanu followed suit with , Esfandiari raised to $7,300 with 10-2 offsuit! Lederer then showed his true strength by re-raising to $28,000 and everyone folded, with Negreanu making a big show of faking exposing his cards.
In the hand of the night that most represented how cautious these players have been in contrast to the first group, Antonius raised to $3,500 with 7-5 and Laak called with A-K. The flop gave both players pairs, as it came J-7-K, with two diamonds. Both checked. The turn brought the , Laak checked and Antonius bet $5,000 into the $9,400 pot. Laak called, and the river was the . Both players checked, and Laak won the small pot.
The final hand of the evening was the most interesting of the night’s action. Laak raised to $3,600 with , and Hachem called with . The flop was 2-6-5, with one heart and no spades. Both players checked, and the turn was the , giving Hachem a pair. He bet $3,000, and Laak raised to $13,200, sensing that Hachem did not have a four, and representing an overpair. Hachem, in turn, read Laak equally well and called, creating a pot of $35,600. The river was the , and Hachem fired out once again, putting out a bet of $20,500! Laak announced to the table that he knew he was supposed to make it $63,000, but folded instead. To add insult to injury, Esfandiari said he knew that Hachem had a 4, and paid Hachem $500 to see his hand, which only cemented Laak’s frustration, knowing he could have taken the pot with a raise on the river.
Once again, aside from Hachem’s excellent reads and plays to back them up, the play this week was generally lackluster. However, next week figures to shake things up considerably, as the preview of the show revealed that Sam Simon will be leaving the game, to be replaced by none other than Tom “durrr” Dwan! See you then!
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