High Stakes Poker returned last night for its sixth season, with AJ Benza no longer in the broadcast booth with Gabe Kaplan. Instead, Kaplan was handling all of the play-by-play himself, with Kara Scott down on the floor available to interview players after critical hands. The lineup of players to begin the season was a formidable one. High Stakes veterans Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen, Phil Hellmuth, Antonio Esfandiari and Dario Minieri were joined by newcomer Andreas Hoivold in a mix of styles that promised big pots, wild swings and creative play. Blinds were set at 400-800, with an ante of 200.
Most of the early play revolved around Phil Hellmuth, who was involved in pots early and often. After losing a hand with A-J to a bluff from Hoivold with 10-9 suited, he folded A-Q in a hand where Dwan had raised with Q-J and Minieri had re-raised with K-10, only to see Dwan win the hand with a lower flush than he would have had. Hellmuth then found A-Q again on the button, and just limped in with it. Phil Ivey called with 10-6 in the small blind and Hoivold checked his option with J-8. The flop came 3-K-4 rainbow. Ivey led out with $2,000, Hoivold folded and Helmuth called. When a 5 fell on the ‘rainbow’ turn, Ivey fired out another bet, this time $6,000, and Hellmuth folded the better hand.
Next, Hellmuth raised to $4,000 with A-J, but Ivey made it $15,000 with pocket queens. Seemingly tired of being bullied, Hellmuth then made it $55,000, but Ivey went all-in, and after long thought, Phil Hellmuth threw his hand away. Although Dwan offered Ivey $2,000 to show jacks or better, Ivey decided to keep his cards a mystery. Hellmuth was already down over $50,000 with the game still very young.
Esfandiari started the action on the next hand by calling with . Minieri also called, with pocket threes, as did Hellmuth, with . Ivey then threw his hand away, saying “Same thing I had last hand!” and Negreanu (K-10), Dwan (7-4) and Hansen (6-4) all decided to play. When the flop came 7-6-5 with two spades, Dwan led out with $3,800. Esfandiari just called, as did Hellmuth, as the others folded. When the came on the turn, Hellmuth was in a world of trouble. After Dwan checked, Esfandiari bet $11,100 into the $18,600 pot, which Hellmuth called, only to see Dwan fold. The on the river changed nothing at all, and Esfandiari bet $32,000 into the $40,800 pot. Hellmuth managed to keep his losses down by only calling, rather than raising, as many players would have done.
Hellmuth seemed so off his game that he actually live straddled a hand, which commentator Kaplan said was the first time he had ever seen Hellmuth take that action voluntarily. It didn’t change his luck, as after a raise and two calls, Esfandiari made a huge raise to $25,000 with suited big slick (), taking down the pot without seeing a flop.
Dwan limped into the next hand shown with 5-2, Hellmuth raised to $2,000 with , Ivey called with , and Hoivold called with . When the flop came 6-4-7 with two hearts, Ivey bet $6,000 into the $9,600 already in the middle, and Hellmuth raised to $26,000. Ivey just called this bet, and then hit the on the turn. Ivey checked, and Hellmuth went all-in, which Ivey called. When Hellmuth saw that he was dead to 6 outs (his open ended straight draw, as long as a heart didn’t come), he asked to run it three times, but Ivey refused. The on the river gave both flushes, but Ivey’s was better, and Hellmuth was felted. He decided to leave rather than buying back in at least once more, which Kaplan said was the first time he could remember that ever happening in High Stakes Poker.
Esfandiari started the action on the next hand with a raise to $2,600 with , which Ivey called with pocket fours and Hoivold also called with A-Q. Negreanu then made a play at the pot with a raise to $16,600 with 9-6. He got Esfandiari to fold, but the other two called, and Ivey hit his set when 5-4-J came on the flop. Negreanu followed up his pre-flop aggression with a $25,000 continuation bet, which Ivey called, with Hoivold getting out of the way. When a 10 came on the turn, Negreanu checked, and gave the hand up when Ivey bet $60,000.
Ivey continued his rampage soon after, when he called Hansen’s raise - - to $3,500 with . The flop was 5-3-7 with two clubs. Hansen bet $5,600 into the $9,600 pot, but Ivey raised to $23,000 and Hansen folded.
Ivey then raised to $3,000 with 10-9, only to have Esfandiari call with . Both caught some of the flop when A-10-5 fell, but Esfandiari decided to check his top pair, and Ivey checked behind him. Ivey then hit his second pair when the came on the turn, and after Esfandiari checked, he bet $5,000, which Esfandiari called. The on the river changed nothing, and this time Ivey bet $15,000, and Esfandiari paid him off. As Kaplan stated after the hand, “Phil Ivey. Hard to bet into him, hard not to pay him off.”
The final hand of the night saw Ivey once again hit a big hand. After Hoivold raised to $2,600 with pocket fives, Negreanu called with and Ivey followed suit with a pair of sixes. With the pot at $9,600, the 4-K-6 rainbow flop gave Ivey yet another set, and this time he checked. Hoivold bet $4,600, which Negreanu called. Ivey now raised to $20,000, but Hoivold, mistakenly believing that Ivey was just making a play for the pot, decided to RAISE to $56,000. After Negreanu folded, Ivey went all-in, ending the hand when Hoivold folded.
As you can see, this first episode was all about the contrasting fortunes of the two Phils. While Hellmuth busted and went home early, Ivey ended the session ahead by over $330,000! With Eli Elezra scheduled to join the table next week, we can expect more fireworks, and with Dwan and Ivey scheduled to be in every episode, we can assume the action will last all season. See you next week!
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