After four weeks of re-runs that followed just four original shows, PokerStars.net The Big Game returned with new episodes this week, featuring a new Loose Cannon in Troy Howard, a father of five used to playing $1-$2 no limit Holdem live, and not the $200-$400 blinds with $100 antes that this $100,000 buy-in show requires. The murderer’s row of professionals whom he was up against included (in order of seating): David “Viffer” Peat, Barry Greenstein, Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari (later replaced in that seat by Isaac Haxton), Chau Giang, and amateur player and multi-millionaire businessman Rick Rahim.
By the time play on the final evening began, Esfandiari had already been felted, and decided to leave, down $150,000. He had been all-in on Day Three, when, after the flop, his pocket aces were in desperate shape against Peat, who had flopped a set of queens. However, they decided to run the hand twice, and the second time, running hearts on the turn and the river had made Esfandiari the nut flush, and kept him alive. Unfortunately, on Day 4, his stay at the table ended when, after Greenstein raised with , Esfandiari three-bet with and Greenstein called. The flop of 6-5-3 must have looked awfully good to Esfandiari, with an open-ended straight draw, and when Greenstein checked, he bet $7,000, only to have Greenstein check-raise to $21,000. Esfandiari decided to semi-bluff push all-in, but Greenstein called with top two pair, and the king and four on the turn and river finished Esfandiari off, since Greenstein is adamant in his refusal to run hands more than once.
The earlier days in the week also featured what had developed into some pretty nasty trash talk, largely between Rahim and Howard, who was determined not to be pushed around, and was giving Rahim grief for his relatively maniacal play (he was voluntarily putting money in the pot in almost two-thirds of the hands!), while Rahim was chiding the Loose Cannon for almost never venturing into the pot at all. Peat, who was his usual good-natured self, somehow also wound up in the middle of the talk, as he was almost as active in pots as Rahim, relying on his superior skills to take down numerous pots from the amateur.
At the start of play on the final evening, Greenstein, who, in addition to busting Esfandiari, had also won some big pots from Rahim and Giang, was up $211,100. Peat had a profit of $110,800. Haxton, who had only seen a few hands, was ahead $1,900. On the other side of the ledger, Howard was down $13,300, Rahim was $77,500 in the red and Giang was, aside from Esfandiari, the biggest loser, down $83,600.
Rahim had been bleeding money for most of the week with incredibly loose play, but he quickly started to benefit from his reputation when he hit a few hands. In the first televised hand of the night, he limped with . Peat called with A-4, and Greenstein, who had straddled to $800, now raised to $2,800 with pocket eights, which both players called. When the flop brought 10-9-3, Rahim bet out $4,000, which Greenstein called. When Rahim fired out another $4,000 on the turn of the , Greenstein decided to look for a better opportunity, and folded.
In one of the biggest pots of the week, Peat raised to $2,500 with K-J, and Rahim, who almost never folded all week to just one pre-flop raise, regardless of position or his cards (commentator Joe Stapleton remarked “Rick Rahim’s range consists only of cards with letters and/or numbers on them.”) now three-bet to $8,700 (the maximum raise, since The Big Game is pot-limit before the flop, no limit afterward) with , and Peat called. The flop brought 3-6-10, with two spades and one club, which both players checked. When the came on the turn, Rahim bet out $15,000, only to see Peat raise to $60,000! Rahim went all-in for just another $13,600, which Peat had to call. When the river card was the , Rahim took down the $165,800 pot, and suddenly, after being down as much as $115,000, was now profitable for the first time!
Next, Rahim limped with , and Peat raised to $3,000 with 10-8, which Giang, who had straddled, called with K-J offsuit, as did Rahim. The flop of Q-3-4 hit no one, but did give Rahim a gutshot straight draw. Giang and Rahim checked, and Peat bet $6,000, which Rahim called. Rahim then checked in the dark before the turn card came, which was exactly the card he wanted, the ! Peat checked behind him, and the river brought the , which was a third heart. Nevertheless, Rahim bet $25,000, and after quite a bit of thought, Peat, who had seen Rahim bet many rivers previous to this one with absolutely nothing, decided to make the crying call. After this hand, Peat was now $41,000 in the hole, after being more than $130,000 ahead of the game earlier in the week!
In the critical hand of the week for the Loose Cannon, Rahim convinced him to double-straddle to $1,600 prior to seeing his cards. Peat called with 9-7, as did Rahim with 10-4. Howard then looked down to see pocket queens, and raised the pot to $7,600. Peat called, but Rahim folded. The flop brought 5-4-5, and Howard decided to check, as did Peat. When the turn card was the , which had to be a scary card for Howard (although, if he really thought about it, Peat would have been likely to raise pre-flop with almost any ace against two straddlers), he made a tentative bet of $10,000, which Peat called, clearly having something diabolical in mind. When the river brought the , and Howard bet another $10,000, Peat, who had gotten his hackles up when Howard seemed to goad him before the hand, moved all-in! Howard agonized over the hand for minutes, but couldn’t pull the trigger, which actually would have given him a profit greater than the previously most profitable Loose Cannon, Nadya Magnus, with just 23 hands to go! He folded, and to add insult to injury, Peat showed the bluff, which seemed to just drain all the spirit right out of the Loose Cannon.
With only 20 hands left to try and get profitable, and half of his starting stack gone, Howard now tried to get involved in many more pots, but wound up either having the second-best hand at showdown or was forced to fold after missing the flop. Finally, with only about $25,000 left, he potted pre-flop with . Peat then re-raised to $20,000 with the same hand in hearts. However, Rahim looked down at pocket nines, and raised the pot again, this time to $68,800. Howard called, but Peat folded. The board was no help to the Loose Cannon, as it came 4-Q-5-10-J, with only one spade (ironically, Peat would have made a flush). Troy Howard’s dream of making a big score in The Big Game came to a crashing end.
In the last two hands of the night, Peat exercised a measure of revenge against Rahim; taking back some of what he had lost in the big showdown earlier in the evening, first by flopping a straight and then hitting quads on a board of K-K-K. The final tally showed Greenstein continuing to lead the way with $135,600 in profits, with Haxton, who had won a series of smaller pots during the evening, coming out $82,700 ahead, Peat showing a profit of $77,800 and Rahim finishing up $66,800. All three of the losing players were down at least $100,000, with Giang, at minus $113,500, joining Esfandiari (-$150,000) and Howard (-$100,000) as this week’s donators.
See you next week!