11/06/2007

11-06-07 - 2

High Stakes Poker Season 4 Episode 11. This is the biggest cash game ever shown on TV so to commemorate the occasion I'm going to do a watch-along guide for you semi-poker enthusiasts. This may be the best poker that's ever been on TV. I still love the old Showdown at the Plaza where Howard Lederer did the commentary, but this is hella good. You can find it on Youtube, Pokertube, Pokerbay, or just torrents anywhere.

First of all, the lineup :

Doyle Brunson - big poppa, his game is still well respected though he does now get bored & tired and can play badly at those times.

Barry Greenstein - pretty well respected online, but certainly not at the top of the modern game.  One of the best of the old live players.

Antonio Esfandiari - Antonio used to be a cash game pro in LA but doesn't play much any more.  His game is solid.  Of note is that he does not have
the bankroll to play this game, he must be playing staked.  In fact even guys like Barry & Doyle who can afford it have probably traded pieces of each
other to reduce variance.  Normally Antonio would be playing too scared at this level but if he's fully backed he should play well.

Jamie Gold - medium stakes cash game player from LA, won the 2006 WSOP Main Event, wants to prove he didn't just get lucky.  Huge fish.  Tells you his hand and then
bluffs predictably and doesn't value bet in the same spots.

Sammy Farha - Sammy is a wealthy businessman who is absolutely awful at poker.  The other pros go along with the myth that he's good at Omaha because they
want him in the game.

Guy LaLiberte - one of the founders of Cirque de Soleil, plays a LOT of poker, and generally loses.  Plays online under the name "noataima" and has lost
around $20 million online.  Also plays the "Big Game" in Vegas and is said to have lost a lot of money there.  Single handedly supports many top pros.

Patrik Antonius - one of the absolute top players in the world, both live and online.  Now plays all the games.  One of the biggest online winners ever in
both Hold'em and Omaha.  Was previously a semipro tennis player, and is currently the object of crushes from girls and boys alike.

David Benyamine - degenerate mediocre player; ran up about $20m in profit playing in the highest stakes games, but has now lost it all and is broke and
often playing staked; probably playing staked here.  He can play very well, but often plays 40 hour+ sessions where he starts playing awful, and
he's also an action junky who chases his losses.

Phil Galfond who is Jman/OMGClayAiken online was also supposed to play in this game, but the producers decided he was bad for TV and didn't let him play; he's a 2+2'er. Several other 2+2ers such as sbrugby (Brian Townsend) (as well as durrr, krantz, etc) would've loved to get in this game but weren't invited.

Each player bought in for $500k and they're playing 300/600/1200 (the blinds are nominally 300/600 but with a forced straddle all day). Even with the straddle that means they're 416 straddles deep which is really really deep stacked poker. It's a very interesting and difficult type of poker which is rarely played, partly because the better player has a huge edge. It makes it very hard to get "all in" which exposes you to danger. You see, getting all in is a form of protection where you know you don't have to make any more decisions. Say for example you bet the flop and someone raises pretty big - with 100BB poker you can just shove and you don't have to worry about being out of position for the rest of the hand and what might come on next cards, etc, but 400BB deep you can't shove. If you 3-bet you still have a lot behind and you're OOP if he calls. If you just call again you can face big bets on the turn and the river. Your opponent is always able to put you to a big bet.

BTW it's definitely not the biggest cash game in history. If you count limit poker, the $100k/$200k limit hold'em game against Andy Beal was the biggest in history. In no limit, just this year there was a huge game at the Bellagio during the WSOP with Brian Townsend, Sammy Farha, and Bobby Baldwin that was a $1000/$2000 no limit holdem/omaha mixed dame where the guys were sitting with several million each. If you adjust for inflation there may have been bigger games in the old days when the mob was working with Doyle and others, but nobody's telling.

The only person at the table I would be really really scared to play would be Antonius, because he has both the well-balanced frequencies, and the guts/insanity/aggression to put you to a huge test in any pot that you show weakness. Against PA you have to either keep showing strength or be ready to call a big bluff at any time.

I'm gonna put the hands in white so there's no spoilers - (BTW "Guy" = Guy LaLiberte , not just some guy)

Hand 1. Guy has AJo ... and Jamie makes a retarded bluff with 84s. This bluff is retarded because the board is drawy and Guy will call with a draw, and also Jamie could well have a draw so Guy will call with a top pair. Flop raise bluffs are much better on dry boards. Also it's 4 handed which makes it way more likely that Guy has a real hand. On the other hand, Guy 3 betting is kind of retarded as well. He lets Jamie rebluff him if he wants, and it's not a big enough raise to get him off a draw. If Jamie had a good combo draw he could even shove! Furthermore if Jamie wants to retardedly bluff it's better to just check-call and let him bluff.

Hand 2. Guy has JJ and flops a set ... Sammy's overbet on the turn is interesting. That's a move you rarely see online but it is more common live. I think Guy plays it pretty well, though he should perhaps go ahead and shove the river since the only thing that calls a raise is TT for the 2nd house and I don't think Sammy can fold that even to a shove. Raising the turn would be really bad. Calling is okay since Sammy might have a lower set.

Hand 3. Doyle has T8s and Jamie has 97s, they both limp preflop ... .. and they both turn a flush. Tough spot for Doyle. He correctly reads that Jamie most likely called the flop with a flush draw and just hit it. The Jamie does one of his retarded speeches that he thinks is so clever but actually totally gives away his hand. He goes on and on about how he came to bluff, and then he makes a big raise. That's what Jamie does when he has a hand and is trying to get paid off. The problem is Jamie doesn't really have a hand and he doesn't even realize it. This is one of those spots where in a 100 BB game I'm sure Doyle would call and get all in for $120k, the problem here is even if he calls on the turn they have almost $400k behind on the river and there will be another big bet. In reality, Doyle could call because Jamie is actually a wuss and would give up on the river without the nuts.

Gabe's commentary about new school vs. old school isn't really right. Gabe doesn't really know much about poker and certainly not about the new school. Doyle's range to overbet the turn there is pretty narrow, when Jamie raises like that he can only ever bet called by a flush, so if he's sensible he can't be doing it for value with a low flush. Ten-high flush is pretty good though. Note that the online guys who play heads up is a whole different game - this is a full ring game.

Hand 4. One hand where Guy has ATo, another with A7o and another with T8o ... Two little random hands; we've now seen that Guy just can't fold the flop even with total garbage, and he's also not semibluffing at all when he has very good equity. Seems to play like a classic fish - chasing too much, and then only betting with the nuts or "bluffs".

Hand 5. Antonio limps with AA ... meh, he's not doing this because he's scared, he's doing it because he's played so tight so far in the session that he knows if he shows strength people are just folding, so he's trying to get someone else to raise. This is Antonio's normal game, he plays really tight, but then he also makes big moves on pots using his tight image. Barry plays roughly the same style. Not sure if I like Barry's big bet on the river, if he wants some lone junky pair to call he should maybe just bet $10k.

Hand .

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