A new installment of Poker After Dark’s two-week cash game began to air this week, with a table full of players familiar to even the most casual poker fan. This week’s action featured Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth, Phil “Unabomber” Laak, Eli Elezra, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson and Gus “The Great Dane” Hansen. With three players known for playing a highly aggressive style and three who tend to favor tighter play, the two-week session promised lots of fireworks. Here’s how the first week played out, with the blinds at $200-$400 and a $50 ante.
One of the interesting features of this week’s game was that the tighter players began to adapt their games a bit to have more success against the aggressors. In one early hand, Laak raised to $1,400 with A-K, only to have Elezra () and Hellmuth () come along for the ride. The flop brought 5-9-2, with two diamonds and one club. Laak made a continuation bet of $3,200, and both of the others called him. The was the turn card, and now Hellmuth decided to try and take down the pot by leading out for $7,000. Laak folded, but Elezra was faced with a tricky playing decision. Based on how Hellmuth usually plays in cash games, he decided just to call with top pair, fearing an overpair. Unfortunately for Elezra, Hellmuth hit a second pair when the fell on the river. Although there was a flush draw on the board, Hellmuth bet $9,000 for value, and Elezra called and saw the bad news.
Phil Laak seemed more interested than usual in mixing it up this week, and raised a hand to $1,400 with on the button. The irrepressible Dwan called him in the big blind with . The flop was 6-4-10 rainbow, with one diamond and no hearts. Dwan checked, and Laak, wanting to keep the pot small, checked behind. Another diamond, the seven, came on the turn, and Dwan decided to lead out for $2,700 with air. Laak called, and hit his flush when the fell on the river. Dwan checked, Laak bet $4,400, and Dwan decided to put Laak to the test with a RAISE to $23,200. However, Laak wasn’t going anywhere with his flush, and he took down the pot.
The next two hands of interest were battles between Dwan and Brunson, a classic joust between old-school and new. With Dwan on the button, he raised to $1,400 with pocket threes. Brunson, knowing both that Dwan could have any two cards for his raise, and also realizing that Dwan thinks Brunson will only play big cards, decided to re-raise to $4,900 with in the small blind. Dwan called, and Brunson hit the jackpot when the flop came 9-5-9. Brunson bet $7,000, and Dwan, expecting Brunson to likely have two overcards, decided to call, thinking he might very well be ahead, and hoping to spike a three and take Brunson’s whole stack. The was the turn card, and Brunson bet $22,000. Dwan called once again, and the river brought the . When Brunson went all-in, Dwan stubbornly kept to his thought process that there was a high likelihood that Brunson was bluffing, and he made the call with his underpair. Brunson gladly doubled up, winning a six-figure pot.
In the next hand, Elezra straddled for $800, and Dwan, not realizing the straddle was on, min-raised to $1,600 with . Brunson then called behind him with K-Q and Elezra followed suit with 5-2 offsuit. The flop brought 6-2-Q with two clubs and one diamond. Elezra checked, Dwan bet $4,100 and Brunson called, with Elezra folding. The came on the turn, and Dwan, now with a flush draw, fired a second barrel, this time $10,600. Brunson called once again, and a third club, the 3, showed up on the river. Dwan fired once more, this time $24,700, but Brunson made the call, and won the $84,500 in the pot.
Hellmuth limped into the next pot with from the cutoff. Laak followed him in with 10-9 on the button, Elezra also called in the small blind with and Dwan checked his option with 10-2. The flop was 6-6-7, and after three checks, Laak led out for $1,200, which only Elezra called. The turn card was the , giving Laak a straight. Elezra decided to bet $3,200 to try and control the pot size, and Laak just called. When the came on the river, Elezra thought his straight was good, and bet $4,500. Laak played cautiously, fearing that Elezra had a full house, and just called, winning the pot with the better straight.
With Dwan on the straddle, Laak called in the small blind with . Elezra decided to play with and Dwan checked his K-3. The flop brought 3-6-8 of different suits, and Dwan bet $2,000 with bottom pair. Laak folded, but Elezra decided to put Dwan to the test with a raise to $5,500, which Dwan called. The turn brought the , giving Elezra both a flush draw and a scare card to try and push Dwan off of his hand. He made a pot-sized bet of $13,700, and Dwan made the call once again. When the came on the river, Elezra toyed with pushing all-in, but decided that putting out what looked like a value bet of $10,300 would actually be a scarier scenario. However, Dwan saw the pot odds he was getting to call, and decided that his bottom pair would be good a higher percentage of the time than those odds. He called, and this time, bottom pair was good enough to win.
Laak raised another speculative hand on the button to $1,400, this time . Elezra called with , as did Dwan with 7-6. Before the hand, Elezra had thought about pulling out another $100,000 to play, as he was very short on chips. He regretted not having done it when the flop brought 3-4-7, with two hearts. He bet out $3,300 and Dwan raised to $10,900, whereupon Elezra pushed in his last $15,100, which Dwan called. Dwan looked to have stolen the hand when the came on the turn to give him two pair, but the on the river gave Elezra his flush and the $34,800 pot.
In early position, Laak continued to play more aggressively than is his usual style, and raised to $1,200 with . Elezra called with in the cutoff, and Dwan also called on the button with . Hansen then decided to try and thin the field by re-raising to $6,900 with , hoping to get heads-up with Dwan. But Laak also called, and the three saw a flop of J-7-4, with two diamonds. With $22,400 in the pot, Hansen bet $22,000. Laak folded, but Dwan, with two pair, pushed all-in for $68,150. Hansen naturally called with the nut flush draw and overcard. They decided to run the board twice, and after Hansen got a few more outs when the came on the turn, he then hit his flush when the fell on the river. When the second turn brought the , it appeared as if Hansen was going to scoop the whole pot, but Dwan escaped when the miraculous came on the river, giving him a chop of the $158,700 pot.
With Hansen straddling, Laak made it $2,200 to go on the button with . Hansen popped it up once more to $8,300 with and Laak called. Hansen then bet $11,100 IN THE DARK, and the two players saw a flop of . Although Laak totally whiffed on the flop, he decided to RAISE to $30,900, a move that viewers have not seen from Laak in the last few years of televised cash game play. Hansen decided to fold his hand, giving Laak the pot.
Laak, staying out of character, straddled, and everyone folded to Hansen in the big blind, where he raised to $3,100 with K-3. Laak called with Q-J, and the flop brought J-9-2, with two clubs. Hansen made a continuation bet of $4,100, and Laak called. When the came on the turn, Hansen, with $14,850 in the pot, went all-in for $24,500. Laak, sensing it was an overbet designed to push him off his hand, called. They ran the river twice, but the and the sealed Hansen’s fate, and Laak scooped the pot, finishing off a week in which he turned the tables on players used to seeing him meekly fold in the face of cash game aggression.
Next week, the players re-draw for seats, and go at it again in the finale of the two-week event. If it is anything like this week’s contest, it should be highly entertaining. See you then!