For this week’s Poker After Dark winner-take-all, six-player tournament, the producers chose to focus on dividing the table into players from two nations, the United States and Italy. The former country was represented by Howard Lederer, Erick Lindrgren and Chris Ferguson, while Marco Traniello, Dario Minieri and Max “the Italian pirate” Pescatori played for Italy. Although the players ultimately would be competing only for themselves, as just one of them would walk away with the $120,000 prize, there was lots of talk at the table about the differing playing styles of the two nations, and it seemed as if, although there was no overt teamwork, the eliminated players were certainly rooting on their fellow countrymen.
If there was one style that stood out in this group of players, it was, from the very beginning of the week, that of Dario Minieri. Even though Erick Lindgren, traditionally an aggressive player, was sitting directly to his left, Minieri consistently put pressure on the other five players with a constant barrage of raises and re-raises, and with very tight players like Lederer, Traniello, Pescatori, and Ferguson at the table, and Lindgren doing much more than his usual share of limping and calling, the young Italian threatened to swamp the table with these tactics.
The first key hand of the week began with Minieri raising to 600 with Q-10, which Lederer called in the big blind with . The flop brought 3-4-3, with two hearts. Lederer checked his flush draw, and Minieri bet 800. Lederer raised it to 2,800, but Minieri came right back with another raise to 5,800! Lederer called, but both players slowed down when a third three came on the turn. They both checked, and then checked it down when the hit the river. Minieri was very surprised to win with his queen high, but Lederer felt he had played it like a flush draw, and didn’t think a river bluff would have worked.
The first player to be eliminated was Traniello, whose stack had slowly dwindled away. He pushed all-in with , and Lindgren went all-in over the top of him with pocket tens. Pescatori ALSO had A-J suited, but chose to fold. The flop brought Traniello a flush draw, but he didn’t hit on the turn or the river, and he was out in 6th place.
The next one to depart was Ferguson, who had played very few hands, and who had seen his stack being quickly blinded off. With a bit less than 10,000 in chips, and the blinds at 300-600, Ferguson felt he needed to make a stand, particularly against Minieri, who was raising continuously. When Minieri raised to 1,700 with , Ferguson pushed all-in with . Minieri called, and when the flop came , Ferguson was drawing completely dead to Minieri’s made flush. Ferguson was gone in 5th place, and there were two players from each country remaining.
Lederer had been getting increasingly frustrated by his inability to figure out Minieri’s tactics, as the young Italian had been keeping Lederer off balance and confused with his aggression. When Lederer called in the small blind with A-3, Minieri continued his pattern by raising to 1,800. However, he did it this time with a pair of nines in his hand, and when Lederer pushed all-in, it was an easy call for Minieri. The flop was a harmless 4-8-2. The turn of a 3 gave Lederer a few more outs, and he then hit an ace on the river to double up to almost 30,000 chips and put the first dent in Minieri’s huge chip lead.
The two butted heads again soon after when Minieri raised to 2,300 under the gun with 10-9 and Lederer called in the big blind with J-9. The flop of 7-9-8 gave each player top pair and a straight draw. Lederer checked, hoping to use Minieri’s aggressiveness against him, but Minieri checked right behind him. A deuce came on the turn, and Lederer bet out 2,800. Minieri, playing a bit more cautiously, just called. When a second deuce was the river card, Lederer checked, and Minieri, positive that he was ahead, bet 5,500, which Lederer called, and his higher kicker took the pot.
Sitting on the button, Lederer raised to 2,200 with J-9 and Lindgren called in the big blind with pocket deuces. Lindgren hit the jackpot when the flop brought 2-6-J. He checked, and Lederer bet 3,000. Lindgren raised to 7,800. In the post-mortem, Lederer said that he really had a feeling that he was beaten, but he didn’t trust his read and went all-in instead. Lindgren called, and the turn and river brought harmless cards that allowed Lindgren to double up.
With the blinds now at 400-800, Pescatori was becoming dangerously low on chips, with just 20 big blinds left. Minieri raised to 2,200 with A-10, and Pescatori found pocket eights in the big blind. He raised to 10,800, and Minieri went into the tank, talking out loud about his options, and trying to analyze his chances. Pescatori, sensing that Minieri might have a lower pair than his, or that the hand was, at worst, a coin flip, tried to goad Minieri into calling by reminding him that only one player gets paid off in the end. Minieri finally put Pescatori all-in, and was called. An ace spiked on the flop, and when Pescatori never caught his third eight, he departed in 4th place.
Lindgren now made a critical error in a hand with Lederer. Lederer raised to 2,200 with A-Q on the button, which Lindgren called with K-10 in the big blind. When the flop brought 5-3-Q with two diamonds, Lindgren checked, and Lederer bet 3,200. Lindgren now picked the wrong time to make a bluff check-raise, as he pushed all-in. Lederer instantly called, and when neither the turn nor the river brought a king. Lindgren was crippled and Lederer took the chip lead.
With the blinds at 600-1,200, Minieri raised to 3,000 with pocket queens, and Lederer called with A-8. Lederer checked the 7-7-8 flop, but when Minieri bet out, Lederer pushed all his chips into the middle and got called. The turn and river were harmless, and Minieri took the chip lead back. Once again, after the hand, Lederer stated that his feeling was that he was beaten, but that he couldn’t help but get his chips in. He stated that it was something he clearly needs to work on in his game.
With just seven big blinds left, Lindgren needed to make a stand, and he chose J-10 in the small blind to push with. Unfortunately Lederer had behind him, and he called. The flop of made Lederer a flush, but did leave Lindgren some outs. However, the turn of a queen and the river of a three pushed Lindgren out the door in third place.
Lederer and Minieri now engaged in a more than 50 hand heads-up match, played over three blind levels with multiple lead changes. At one point, Minieri held an over 3 to 1 lead, and was looking to end the match, but Lederer’s pocket fives outraced Minieri’s A-J to put Lederer back in it. Finally, with Minieri now getting short on chips and the blinds all the way up to 1500-3000, Lederer pushed all-in with and Minieri called with A-5. The flop of gave Lederer a huge number of outs, and he hit one when the came on the turn. When the innocuous fell on the river, Minieri was eliminated, and Howard Lederer was this week’s champion!
See you next time!
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