A new week of Poker After Dark brought together participants from two different worlds of combat, the poker felt and the mixed martial arts octagon. The players who sat down to contest the $120,000, winner-take-all tournament, included, in order of seating: Ring announcer Bruce Buffer, Patrik Antonius, MMA greats Dan Henderson and Randy Couture, Howard “The Professor” Lederer, and Erick Lindgren. The players were very quick to point out the similarities between their two professions, in terms of crafting strategies to expose opponent’s weaknesses, and knowing when to attack and go for the kill and when to be more cautious. The match figured to have a pretty wide range of quality of play, and that turned out to be exactly how it transpired.
Early on, one would have expected the poker pros to avoid one another and go after the amateurs, but that wasn’t the case in one of the first hands played. Lederer raised to 600 in the cutoff with and Lindgren called on the button with pocket tens. Antonius defended his blind with , and the three saw a flop of . Antonius and Lederer checked, and Lindgren bet 1,100 with his flopped set. Antonius, with middle pair and a flush draw, called, and Lederer folded. The turn was the , and after a check, Lindgren bet 2,600 and got another call. The arrived on the river, the worst possible card for Antonius. He checked, and Lindgren fired out 5,800. Antonius, remembering another time on the show where Lindgren had tried to bluff him in a similar situation, decided to make the call, and Lindgren took down a pot of 20,900, leaving Antonius in a weak position.
Things got worse for Antonius soon after. He raised to 600 with in the cutoff, and got calls from Henderson on the button with 9-8 and Lederer in the big blind with 9-5 unsuited. The flop of 9-3-6 gave all three players top pair, and Antonius bet 1,400 into the 1,800 chip pot. Henderson called, Lederer folded, and the on the turn, which was the second club to hit the board, gave Antonius a flush draw to go with his pair. He bet out 2,600 and Henderson called again. Another jack fell on the river, and Antonius fired the third barrel, this time 3,200. Unfortunately for Antonius, Henderson clearly didn’t have that much understanding of the value of hands, and when a fold might be more or less appropriate, and he made the call. His 8 kicker played, and Antonius was crippled.
Henderson limped with 6-5 in early position, and Buffer made it 975 with A-K in the small blind. Antonius just called with pocket queens, hoping to get Henderson to come along, and he obliged. The flop of J-10-A, with two diamonds, caused Buffer to bet 3,100, which was exactly the amount of Antonius’ remaining chips. He called, and Henderson folded. The on the turn gave Antonius additional outs with the diamond flush draw, but the river was the , and Antonius was the first player eliminated, in sixth place.
In the early to middle part of the tournament, Henderson seemed to have the poker pros a little confused, and they didn’t seem to realize that it was mostly because he really had no idea how to play, and as a result, made lots of random moves that didn’t make a lot of sense. His inexperience was most seen on a hand that began with Couture limping with A-7, and Buffer raising to 975 with A-K. Henderson called with and so did Couture. The flop was 10-9-8, with one heart. Buffer checked, Henderson bet 1,000, Couture called and Buffer folded. The on the turn gave Henderson a flush draw, and both players checked. The on the river completed both Henderson’s flush and Couture’s straight. Henderson checked, Couture bet 5,000 and Henderson, completely mis-reading his hand, folded, not even seeing that he had made the flush.
Henderson did get a measure of revenge later, however, when he raised to 1,200 with pocket tens, and Couture, who had become short-stacked, pushed all-in for 5,450, which Henderson called. The board of 10-9-6-Q-Q gave Henderson a full house, and Couture exited the table in 5th place.
As noted above, Henderson’s erratic play had the pros somewhat on edge, and Henderson got into the chip lead following hands he played against first Lederer, and later, Lindgren. In the former hand, Lederer limped with , Buffer called in the small blind with K-5 and Henderson min-raised to 1,200 with . Lederer then made it 1,800 and Buffer folded. Henderson called, and the two saw a flop of A-3-9. Lederer bet 1,200 and Henderson called. The magical hit the turn for Henderson, who checked. Lederer bet 2,000, and Henderson check-raised to 5,000. Lederer, thoroughly confused, made the call. After the river of the , Henderson bet 5,000, and this time Lederer folded.
With the blinds up to 600-1,200, Lindgren made it 3,200 with A-Q, and Henderson called in the blind with . The flop was Q-J-K, and Henderson bet 3,000, which Lindgren called. The , a very dangerous-looking card, fell on the turn, and both players checked. When the river brought the , Henderson bet 9,000 into the 13,000 chip pot. Lindgren went so far as to show his queen to see if he could pick up a read, but felt that Henderson just looked too comfortable, and he decided to fold.
With Lindgren now on the short stack, he looked down at after Lederer had raised to 3,600 with pocket fives. Lindgren decided to push all-in for his last 13,900 and Lederer called. The board ran out Q-6-10-3-J, and Lindgren’s string of bad results on Poker After Dark continued, as he was gone in 4th place.
With three players left, and the blinds accelerating, Buffer tried to go on the attack to whittle away at Henderson’s stack. He had some success in a hand that he raised to 2,600 in the small blind with K-J, only to see Henderson raise to 4,700 with . Buffer called, and out flopped Henderson when the board showed 10-J-Q. Buffer bet 5,000 and Henderson raised to 10,000, which Buffer called. Both checked the on the turn, but when the showed up on the river, Buffer pushed all-in and Henderson folded.
Henderson stayed alive when he doubled up with against Buffer’s pocket jacks, in a hand where Lederer would have flopped trips and turned a boat with A-9 had he chosen to stay in (a king flopped along with the two nines), but Henderson was finally knocked out in 3rd place when, with the blinds up to 1,500-3,000, he called Lederer’s all-in with A-9. Lederer showed pocket tens, and when the board ran out 9-7-7-2-J, Henderson was gone.
In the heads-up play, Lederer held a 2:1 advantage over Buffer, with the blinds at 3,000-6,000, and very little play available to either combatant. Lederer pushed with pocket fours, and Buffer naturally made the call with . Buffer was in dire shape after the flop brought 6-Q-3, and the on the turn and on the river sealed the deal, and Howard Lederer won his fourth Poker After Dark title.