This week’s Poker After Dark winner-take-all six player tourney was designed for maximum table talk. The players included Jen Harman, Mike “the Mouth” Matusow, Antonio “the Magician” Esfandiari, Jean-Robert Bellande, Vanessa Rousso and David Grey. Let’s see how the week played out.
Esfandiari was expected to be the most aggressive of the players at a largely tight table, and he started off trying to run the other players over. In a few early hands, he forced lay downs from other players with the second best hand. In the first of these, Harman raised to 600 on the button with K-8, which Esfandiari called with . With a flop of 3-8-9, Esfandiari checked and Harman bet 700, which Esfandiari called. He checked again on the turn of the , and Harman, afraid of letting Esfandiari get a free card if he was drawing, bet 2,200. However, Esfandiari made a check-raise to 6,400, and Harman decided to fold the best hand.
Next, Esfandiari had a couple of confrontations with Rousso. First, he raised to 1,125 with under the gun, and Rousso called with pocket deuces. When the flop brought 4-5-A, Esfandiari made a continuation bet of 1,650 and Rousso folded. Next, he raised to 1,050 with , which Rousso called with . Rousso hit one of her cards on the flop of 5-2-2 and called Esfandiari’s bet of 1,825. However, when the came on the turn, and Esfandiari bet out 5,300, Rousso laid down the better hand once again.
Matusow has had his struggles on Poker After Dark, winning just once in his previous eleven appearances. His chip stack was dwindling, and after Harman limped in for 800 from the cutoff with , Matusow decided to also limp with on the button. Esfandiari made it 5,600 to go with , whereupon Matusow opted to push all-in for his last 10,975, and Esfandiari made the call. Esfandiari flopped a flush draw when 3-Q-10, with two clubs, hit the board, and completed his hand with a turned . Matusow was drawing dead, and he was out in sixth place.
Esfandiari seemed to be cruising fairly comfortably, but ran into trouble when he raised to 2,100 with pocket sixes, only to have Rousso, who was becoming short-stacked, push for her last 14,450 with A-9. Esfandiari correctly felt that he had the better hand, and made the call. Rousso hit a pair on the flop of 5-9-Q, and when no six or running straight cards came for Esfandiari, Rousso had doubled up.
On the very next hand, Esfandiari had pocket sixes once again! This time, he raised to 2,900, and Rousso called with , and then hit a jackpot flop of 3-2-8 with two diamonds. When Esfandiari bet 3,000, Rousso pushed all-in, and Esfandiari wound up making the call. The on the turn gave Rousso the flush, and knocked Esfandiari out in 5th place.
The remaining four players went back and forth for a long time, with Rousso continuing to have close to half the chips in play. In fact, the final show of the week began with all four still remaining, something very unusual for Poker After Dark.
One of the big hands of the week began with Harman raising to 3,200 with pocket tens, and Bellande calling with a pair of fours. Grey, who had been playing his traditional very tight style, then decided to make his move, pushing all-in for his last 23,650 with A-9. Harman, with a long history of playing against Grey, agonized over the decision, seeming almost certain that she was beaten by an over pair. She finally made the call, and when she revealed her hand, incurred the wrath of Bellande, who couldn’t believe she took that much time to make, what to him, was an obvious call. Of course, that’s why Harman is incredibly successful and Bellande is broke, but still in all, Bellande’s accusation of slow-rolling on Harman’s part was fairly ridiculous. Bellande folded (he said he would have called if Harman had folded), and Harman put a stranglehold on the hand when the flop brought 3-Q-10, giving her a set. When the turn and the river were blanks, Harman was alive and Grey was crippled, with about 4,000 chips left.
Grey battled back, first surviving a race with pocket deuces against Rousso’s A-5, and later beating Harman’s A-7 with pocket nines. Meanwhile, the saga of Bellande’s extraordinary bad luck on Poker After Dark continued when he wound up all-in with pocket threes against Rousso’s . Bellande actually flopped a set on a board of 3-5-4, but Rousso hit a deuce on the turn to make a wheel, and Bellande departed in 4th place when the board failed to pair on the river.
Grey now brought himself all the way back in the chip count when he pushed all-in for 21,900 with A-K, only to have Rousso, who had raised to 4,000 with , make the call. The board brought no help for Rousso, and the three players were all bunched closely together for the first time!
Harman soon became the short stack with about 12,000 chips, but she managed a double up with pocket eights against Grey’s fives. However, when Rousso raised to 5,000 with pocket aces, Harman found a pair of sixes and went all-in, only to see just how far behind she was when Rousso called. The board of 2-J-Q-8-Q brought Harman no help, and she was gone in 3rd place.
Heads-up play began with Rousso holding a 72,000 to 48,000 chip advantage. Both players continued playing patiently, but Rousso slowly began to eat away at Grey’s stack. Finally, Grey raised to 7,000 with A-2, and Rousso called with K-9. When the flop brought 4-8-9 and Rousso checked, Grey went all-in for his last 20,000 or so chips, hoping that Rousso had also missed the flop. Holding top pair, Rousso naturally made the call, and even though Grey got a few more outs when the came on the turn, another 3 on the river sealed the deal, and Vanessa Rousso had won her second Poker After Dark tournament in just four appearances on the show!
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