This week’s Poker After Dark episode had a rather strange title, as there were only two recognizable professionals at the table, neither of whom was likely to be on most people’s lists of “favorites,” Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson. While Hellmuth is disliked for his obnoxious table antics, Ferguson’s tight style and stoicism makes it hard for viewers to really connect with him. Joining the two top-flight pros were four unknown qualifiers for the week’s show, the first time it had featured more than one qualifier. The other players were Craig Ivey, James Ashby, Steve Bartlett and Jens Voertmann.
The first player eliminated from the winner-rake-all tournament was, oddly enough, Ferguson, who made an uncommonly loose play that got him into trouble. After Voertmann raised to 1,100 in the cutoff with pocket aces, Ferguson, on the button, re-raised to 3,100 with A-J, and Voertmann decided to smooth call and set a trap. Ferguson was in big trouble when 2-J-7 came on the flop, and after Voertmann checked. Ferguson bet 4,000 into the 6,800 chip pot. Voertmann decided to go all-in right then and there, and Ferguson, with already 40% of his stack in the middle, decided to make the call. A deuce and a three on the turn and river sealed his fate, and one of the two top professionals was out in sixth place.
Ashby was probably the tightest player at the table, and he wound up in what looked like a very favorable situation when his pocket queens had Craig Ivey all-in pre-flop with A-Q. However, Ivey flopped the nuts with K-J-10, and Ashby couldn’t find another ace to chop the pot. Soon after, he pushed his last 2,000 chips with on the button, and Voertmann, who was off to a comfortable lead, called in the big blind with J-7. Voertmann turned a jack, and Ashby was eliminated in fifth place.
Bartlett, who ran into some very tough beats, wound up having his stack dwindled down to the point where he was all-in in the small blind. His 10-2 lost to Hellmuth’s Q-7 when Hellmuth saw a seven on the flop and Bartlett never caught up. He was out in fourth.
With Voertmann having over half the chips in play, Ivey decided to put his last 11,400 at risk by pushing all-in with pocket eights on the button. Voertmann thought about it for a while, and then made the call with a pair of sixes and was way behind. However, the poker gods were kind to him, and he flopped his set when the cards came 6-2-Q! The turn and river were blanks, and Ivey was gone in third place, leaving a heads-up match between the insufferable Hellmuth and the very genial German Voertmann.
The heads-up match turned out to be one of the most entertaining in Poker After Dark history, with huge swings where, at different points, each of the players had a more than 9 to 1 advantage over his opponent. Voertmann had the lead to begin with, with Hellmuth trying out his typical baiting tactics, saying things like “I look pretty easy, huh? Muck, muck, muck, check-fold.”
With Voertmann holding an 87,000 to 33,000 lead, he raised to 5,500 with A-Q and got a call from Hellmuth with . The flop of 3-9-5 rainbow gave Hellmuth a double gut shot, but both players checked. The five paired on the turn, and Hellmuth led out for 7,000. Voertmann raised to 17,000 and Hellmuth called. Hellmuth then caught a six on the river for a pair, and took the pot when both players checked it down. Hellmuth said he would have gone all-in had he missed completely, but we will never know.
What appeared to be the crucial hand of the match took place next. With the blinds at 1,000-2,000, Hellmuth min-raised to 4,000 with pocket queens and Voertmann called with K-8. The flop of 3-7-8 created the trap that Hellmuth was looking for, and he raised Voertmann’s bet of 4,500 all-in. Voertmann called, but got no help on the turn and the river, and he was left with just 9,000 of the 120,000 chips in play. The match seemed all but over.
However, Voertmann refused to simply roll over. He pushed all-in with , and was called by Hellmuth’s Q-2. The flop of 9-10-7 put Voertmann in the lead, and when Hellmuth didn’t improve, Voertmann was up to 24,000.
Soon after, Voertmann pushed once again with A-10. Hellmuth, suspecting another hand like the previous 7-6, called with Q-10, and when neither connected with the 9-3-4-K-8 board, Voertmann was up to 46,000.
Hellmuth got back the momentum with a couple of aggressive raises, and was soon back to almost 90,000 chips, when another critical hand arose. Hellmuth called with K-10, only to have Voertmann raise to 9,500 with A-9. Hellmuth then put Voertmann all-in for 34,000 and Voertmann decided to take a stand and call. Voertmann rivered a pair of nines, and went back into the chip lead with 68,000.
Commentator Ali Nejad pointed out that, while Voertmann did not have the huge reputation that Hellmuth enjoyed, he HAD won a WSOP bracelet, besting a final table that included Marcel Luske, Jen Harman, Steve Zolotow and Hoyt Corkins, so he was not unfamiliar with competing against top players.
The two players continued back and forth, with Hellmuth retaking the lead and then Voertmann getting it right back. Finally, with Voertmann holding about an 80,000-40,000 lead, he raised to 18,000 with A-8. Hellmuth decided to force the issue right there with K-7, and Voertmann called the all-in push. The board blanked out, and Voertmann’s ace-high was good enough to give him the title!
In typical Hellmuth fashion, he spent his entire post-match interview whining about the unfairness of it all, and how Voertmann had won four races in a row to beat him, after dumping off all his chips in the queens versus top pair hand. He finally grudgingly admitted that Voertmann had played well, but as usual, Hellmuth came across as an incredibly poor sport and sore loser.
See you next week for more Poker After Dark!
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