You would think that a high-stakes cash game with over a million dollars on the table would be enough excitement for a group of six top professionals. But with the table assembled for Poker After Dark’s “Rail Heaven” week, including Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Tom Dwan, Gus Hansen, Patrik Antonius and Phil Hellmuth, you would be entirely incorrect. While a poker game did transpire during the first of two weeks of broadcasts, some outrageous prop betting and side gambling that took over most of the action largely overshadowed it.
Ivey and Antonius argued constantly over their consistent prop betting on the color and texture of flops, and Hellmuth noted early on that Negreanu had “booked” him for the week, meaning that whatever Hellmuth lost in the game, he would have to also pay to Negreanu, but Negreanu would pay him off if he won. But the fun really started in earnest when the table began to play “What Would Johnny Lodden Think?” in which two players bet on what a third player thinks the answer to a specific question is. So, for example, Dwan and Hellmuth bet $5,000 on how old Ivey thought Negreanu was when he lost his virginity! Confused yet? The way the game works is that one player picks a number that he thinks the answer will be, and the other player can either accept that as the basis of the bet or change the number until one player accepts the terms. Then, one player has “over” the number and the other has “under.” The participants weren’t sure what happened if the number was hit right on the button, which led to additional confusion. So, we got to see how much Hansen thought Hellmuth would lose during the week, what year Antonius thought the first Rocky movie came out and what year the Bellagio was built, and other assorted tidbits of trivia.
But things really started getting wild when the players decided to “flip” for $100,000. Ivey, Hansen, Antonius and Dwan agreed to put $100,000 in the pot before a single card was dealt, and just have the hand dealt out with no additional betting. Hellmuth refused to participate in the game, and Negreanu originally declined, as well. But when he found out that he was still going to have to put up his normal $100 ante, Negreanu, in a classic example of “penny wise and pound foolish,” decided he HAD to play. Antonius won the $400,000 on a hand in which all the players were dealt cards they would have normally folded, and a short while later, the three losing players put up yet ANOTHER $100,000 and did it again! This time, Hansen was the winner, meaning that Negreanu had dropped $200,000 just because he didn’t want to give up $100!
In actual poker action, there were some very interesting hands during the week. After Hansen raised to $1,600 with A-9, Dwan called with . Hellmuth also called with K-Q, and Antonius re-raised to $9,400 with A-K. Hansen folded, Dwan called and Hellmuth folded. When the flop brought 7-7-10 rainbow, Antonius led out for $16,000, but Dwan RAISED to $43,300, Antonius decided to lay his hand down.
Ivey and Dwan clashed in a hand that began with Ivey raising to $1,600 with J-10, which Dwan called with K-Q. The flop brought . Ivey bet $3,000 with top pair, but Dwan RAISED to $11,300 with his two over cards and inside straight draw. Ivey called, and the two saw a turn of the . With Dwan holding the , he felt that the turn card was a perfect bluffing card for him once Ivey checked, and he bet out $24,700, which Ivey called once again. The came on the river, making Dwan his flush, and with $76,400 in the pot, Dwan made a suspiciously high bet of $61,300. Ivey got curious and made the call, and saw the bad news.
The players decided to raise the blinds to 300-600, and Ivey limped with . He was followed into the pot by Dwan (4-2), Antonius (in the small blind with 9-3) and Negreanu (3-2). The flop brought A-4-5 with one club. Negreanu had made the mortal nuts, and he checked. Ivey bet $2,000, Negreanu raised to $7,000, Ivey called and the others got out of the way. The turn was the , and Negreanu bet $12,500, which Ivey called once again. Unfortunately for Negreanu, the river card was the , and with only a little over $30,000 left, he pushed all-in, only to have Ivey call with the freshly minted best possible hand. Negreanu bought back in to continue in the game.
Next, Dwan and Antonius went at it in a hand that began with Dwan raising to $2,200 with , which Antonius () and Ivey () called. The flop of gave Dwan an open-ended straight flush draw, and he led out with a bet of $5,700, only to see Antonius raise to $24,000. Ivey folded, and Dwan decided just to call. The turn card of the led Dwan to bet $46,300, despite not having made his hand. Antonius, with only second pair, realized that Dwan either had to have him beaten or had a large number of outs to do so, and folded.
Dwan and Hellmuth faced off in a couple of hands that highlighted the disdain that Hellmuth still holds for Dwan after being two-outed in the Heads-Up championship almost five years ago. The first hand began with Negreanu limping with . Ivey raised to $3,000 with K-10, Dwan called with pocket sixes, Hellmuth did the same with a pair of sevens and Negreanu called as well. The players saw a flop of 4-5-J, and Hellmuth immediately fired out a bet of $5,000, which only Dwan called. A queen came on the turn, and this time Hellmuth bet $15,000, which Dwan called once more. History repeated itself when the came on the river! Hellmuth made what he thought was a small value bet of $7,000, but was stunned when Dwan came over the top for $59,000. Hellmuth said his instincts told him to call, but he finally folded the hand, leading to an almost half-hour discussion of what Dwan had in his hand.
After this hand, Negreanu, Hansen, Ivey and Dwan decided to run one more $100,000 coin flip, with Dwan getting dealt 8-2, Ivey A-4, Hansen pocket nines and Negreanu . The flop of 8-5-5 kept Hansen ahead, and another 9 on the turn sealed the deal. To add insult to injury for Negreanu, a 7 fell on the turn to give him a straight. Hansen, who had played incredibly tight poker all week, was now up $600,000 on coin flips!
Dwan and Hellmuth clashed one more time, after Ivey made a raise to $2,500 with on the button. Dwan called in the small blind with and Hellmuth also called with . Hellmuth hit trips when the board brought Q-Q-8 with two diamonds, but Dwan had a flush draw and led out for a bet of $5,700. Hellmuth raised to $13,700, and Dwan called. Dwan made his flush when the came on the turn, but decided to check, and so did Hellmuth. Hellmuth then made the nut flush when yet another diamond, the deuce, fell on the river. Dwan checked, and Helllmuth pushed all-in for his last $30,700. Dwan agonized over it for a long time, actually read the situation correctly, but called anyway, and then chastised himself for his poor play.
With Hellmuth steaming from all the abuse he has been taking, Ivey wanting to gamble more and more as his losses from coin flips and prop bets continue to mount, Negreanu having already bought back in, and Hansen and Antonius sitting pretty from their coin flip winnings, the stage has been set for a wild second week of cash game play. See you then!