The players redrew for seats for the second half of the two-week Poker After Dark cash game, creating a somewhat different dynamic that would lead to some very interesting play. Todd Brunson sat in seat one, followed, in order, by Mike Matusow, Phil Hellmuth, Brandon Adams, Antonio Esfandiari and Chris Ferguson.
With the blinds and antes still at $100-$200-$25, the players put on the live straddle quite a bit more frequently during the second week. In an early hand, Hellmuth had the straddle, and Esfandiari raised to $1,100 with . Matusow, who had played very few hands the first week, then three-bet to $4,500 with pocket jacks, and Esfandiari called. When the flop came 8-Q-2, Matusow put out a somewhat smallish bet of $3,500. Esfandiari accurately put him on a middle pocket pair and decided to call, hoping to steal the pot later. When another queen fell on the turn, Matusow checked and Esfandiari fired out $8,100, which Matusow called. When a second eight showed up on the river, Esfandiari followed through on his turn play by putting out a river bet of $21,500, and Matusow laid down the winning hand!
As occurs almost every time when Phil Hellmuth is involved in a televised poker game, much of the attention focused on him, either through his incessant whining and crying or the other players needling him into further displays of bad poker and bad behavior. The hand that began to set Hellmuth, who was profitable in the first week, on the road to meltdown, began when Hellmuth limped with pocket fours on a hand where the $400 straddle was in play. Adams, who had been the aggressor during the first week, and had noticed how passively Hellmuth was playing his hands, decided to raise to $2,000 with 8-7 offsuit. Hellmuth called, and the two saw a flop of 2-6-9, with two hearts. Hellmuth checked in the dark (which he had been doing consistently) and Adams bet $3,500. When the hit the turn, both checked. The river was the , and after a Hellmuth check, Adams bet $7,500 and Hellmuth folded. Adams showed the bluff, and Hellmuth began to steam, whereupon Brunson brought out a crying baby doll that had a little hat with the “PH” logo that adorns Hellmuth’s clothing. Commentator Ali Nejad started calling the doll “mini-Phil”, and said “Mini-Phil, you complete me!” while heading into commercial.
Hellmuth had said that he was waiting for a hand with which to trap, and seemed to get it when he limped with pocket aces under the gun. Esfandiari raised to $800 with , Brunson called with and Matusow also came along with . Hellmuth, however, then raised to $10,800, causing everyone to fold, and leading to Esfandiari derisively commenting that Hellmuth had played the hand “like a genius.”
The hand that put Hellmuth over the edge began with Matusow raising to $625 with A-J. Helllmuth smooth-called with pocket tens. Adams, sensing weakness in Matusow, then tried a squeeze play, making it $2,800 with ! Matusow folded, but Hellmuth said out loud that his instinct said to re-raise, and he made it yet another $4,000 to go on top of Adam’s bet. Adams found that bet suspicious, with his logic being that, with a big pair, Hellmuth would call and let Adams bluff off his chips later in the hand, and so he five-bet to $18,000! Hellmuth called, and the flop brought Q-5-8, with two clubs. Hellmuth checked, but Adams pushed in a bet of $56,925 that would put Hellmuth all-in if he called. Hellmuth folded, and Adams showed his bluff once more, with Esfandiari goading him into doing it. Esfandiari said “What does it feel like to bluff the best player in the world?” while Hellmuth raged against the injustice of it all.
A big change in the dynamic of the game now occurred, as Chris Ferguson, not happy with the way the table was playing, decided to cash out (he ended up even). The irrepressible David “Viffer” Peat, who immediately went to work further targeting Hellmuth, replaced him. Peat raised to $700 with K-9, only to have Hellmuth re-raise to $3,000 with A-K. Peat called, and seemed to be in a world of trouble when the flop brought K-7-3. Hellmuth went right after the pot, betting $7,000, which Peat called. Peat’s prayers were answered when an offsuit nine showed up on the turn! Hellmuth bet $17,000 into the $20,300 pot, whereupon Peat pushed all-in and Hellmuth insta-called, not even thinking that he could possibly be beaten. The river was a blank, and Peat scooped the $107,200 in the middle. Hellmuth ranted and raved, and then decided to leave the game. In the post-mortem roundtable discussion, which neither Hellmuth nor Ferguson attended, the players detailed how Hellmuth lets himself get into a situation where he calls off all his chips with just a pair, as he did in that hand.
When Hellmuth left, he was replaced by Dennis Phillips, who was introduced to the game by yet another successful bluff by Brandon Adams. With Esfandiari in the straddle, Phillips limped with pocket fives, only to have Adams make it $2,000 with , which Phillips called. Adams fired out a continuation bet of $3,500 on the flop of 4-6-2, and Phillips called once again. Both players checked the turn of an ace, but Adams fired out another bet of $7,000 when the river produced a ten. Phillips folded the winning hand, and Adams showed his hand once more.
With Peat as the straddler, Phillips raised to $1,200 on the button with . Peat raised to $4,400 with J-5 (!) and Phillips called. The flop came 2-A-J, Peat checked, and Phillips bet $8,500, which Peat called. The on the turn changed nothing, and both players checked, however, the on the river, which not only gave each player two pair, but also put a third club on the board, figured to bring some action. Sure enough, Peat bet $13,000 and Phillips, fearing the flush, called and took down the pot. That hand was enough to book Phillips a small win for his limited participation on the show.
The big winner was Brandon Adams, who played an imaginative, aggressive game throughout. Peat, mostly due to the hand in which he stacked Hellmuth, was the second biggest winner. The others, other than Phillips, all came out on the losing end. The action showed a lot of deep thinking and creative play, particularly from Adams, who outplayed a table of very fine pros.
Next week: A new lineup of players go at it. See you then!
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