It was “nicknames” week on Poker After Dark, and the action, as well as the table talk, figured to be highly entertaining. Many of the characters were very familiar to anyone who has been watching poker on television in recent years. Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari, Erick “E-Dog” Lindgren, Phil “The Unabomber” Laak and Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth were all in attendance, and they were joined by Annette “The Huntress” Obrestad, the Internet legend who won the World Series of Poker-Europe at the young age of 18, and who will finally be old enough to enter the WSOP in Las Vegas this year. Annette immediately took grief from Esfandiari for her nickname, which she said she made up just for this show. Since everyone knows her as “Annette 15,” why not just keep that name? Esfandiari was willing to bet that this new moniker would never stick.
Early on, it became clear that the poker was going to move along at a faster pace than in last week’s commentators’ showdown. The Magician raised to 600 with pocket queens, Lindgren called with , and Obrestad (small blind) came along with , as did Matusow in the big blind with 7-5 offsuit. The flop came J-5-4, with two spades. Both blinds checked to Esfandiari, who bet 2,100. Lindgren then raised to 5,400 with his flush draw and two overcards. Going against her reputation as an ultra-aggressive player, Obrestad then FOLDED her top pair and flush draw, and Matusow also got out of the way. Antonio now raised to 15,400 and Lindgren went all-in, which Esfandiari called. The nature of a winner-take-all tourney like this is that an early double up often leads to a victory, and both players were willing to get all the money in this early in order to try and make that happen. The on the turn and the sealed Lindgren’s fate, and he made a quick exit in 6th place.
From this point on, Esfandiari tended to push the action whenever he got the chance, taking advantage of his early chip lead to try and run over the table. In a confrontation with Matusow, Esfandiari called The Mouth’s raise to 1,200 (pocket eights) with K-J suited. Laak also called with a pair of nines, and the three players saw a flop of 4-2-K. Matusow led out with a bet of 1,600, which Antonio called. Laak folded, and when an ace fell on the turn, Matusow took one more stab at it with a bet of 2,200. Antonio called again, and then felt much better about it when another king came on the river. Matusow check-folded to The Magician’s river bet, and Esfandiari’s lead grew.
Phil Laak, sitting directly behind Esfandiari, began to get frustrated with his inability to counter Esfandiari’s aggression, and decided to try and amass some chips. He limped with K-Q unsuited, which Hellmuth called with A-3 suited. Obrestad, getting a bit impatient, but sensing some weakness, then pushed all-in with just . It was a good time for that move, but Laak had decided to make a stand with his second-best hand, and he called the bet. The flop of J-A-K put Obrestad in the lead, but Laak found the magical on the turn to make his straight, and a 5 on the river eliminated the young phenom Obrestad in 5th place.
It was a frustrating week for Matusow, who played tightly, but didn’t get any action when he was dealt big hands. Esfandiari kept attacking his blinds from under the gun, and Matusow took a stand when The Magician raised yet again from that position with pocket threes. Matusow went all-in with A-Q, and Esfandiari made the call, which engendered quite a bit of controversy around the table as to whether or not it was the right play. Antonio defended himself, saying that he was getting 14 to 10 on his money, but Hellmuth pointed out that most “great” players would never make that call, but wait for a better opportunity. Matusow was furious, since he had let his blinds be stolen numerous times, and couldn’t imagine being called by pocket threes. The board ran out with no help to The Mouth (in fact, Esfandiari rivered a boat when a third three came), and he was gone in 4th place.
Hellmuth adopted the strangest strategy of the remaining players, choosing to allow himself to be slowly blinded off by failing to respond to Esfandiari’s constant aggression. Hellmuth’s comment on the situation? In true Poker Brat style, he said “I’ve folded for four hours. I deserve to double up!” Of course, the poker gods don’t work that way, and instead, he was left with less than a big blind in his stack when the other two saw a board of 9-4-Q-2-8 against his remaining chips. Although Laak only had king high, it was good against Hellmuth’s 5-7, and he was gone, leaving the heads-up to be played out between the two best friends, Laak and Esfandiari.
Although Antonio started the heads-up with a 7 to 5 chip lead, Laak was catching better cards, and soon took the lead. Esfandiari, who has been on the losing side of many confrontations with his best friend for about ten years, began to get frustrated. In one key hand, Laak completed the blind with K-5 suited and The Magician checked his option with 4-3. The flop of 6-4-2 saw Antonio hit middle pair, and he bet out 1,800, which Laak called with his inside straight draw. Fireworks ensued when the 3 hit the turn, giving Esfandiari two pair but Laak his straight. Antonio bet 5,100 and Laak called once again. The river ace changed nothing, and Esfandiari bet out 11,200, whereupon Laak went all-in. Esfandiari folded, fuming over Laak’s luck, and the final hand occurred soon after.
After the match, Laak commented that he has seen that, in the past six months, for the first time to his knowledge, Esfandiari has been making big overbets on the river and showing bluffs after the hand was over. He was hoping to take advantage of that tendency, and got the chance when Esfandiari began a hand by completing on the button with 10-2. Laak decided just to call with A-J, and when the flop came A-5-4, he checked. Esfandiari followed suit, and Laak checked once more when a 7 fell on the turn. Esfandiari took the bait and bet out 2,525, which Laak smooth-called. When a queen came on the river, Laak checked once more and Esfandiari pushed all-in. Laak called, and won the match!
This week’s telecast was quite entertaining, largely due to the never-ending stream of needling that took place, particularly among Matusow, Esfandiari, Laak and Hellmuth. The styles of the players meshed very nicely, and provided for interesting television. See you next week!
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