Strategy Snapshot: The $274,500 Question

20 December 2007, Created By: Daniel Skolovy
Strategy Snapshot: The $274,500 Question

In the ongoing Strategy Snapshot series, looks at a key hand from a major poker event and breaks it down from a strategy standpoint.

Players: Barry Greenstein and Antonio Esfandiari

Poker Game: High Stakes Poker, Season 4, Episode 15

Situation: $300/$600 with a mandatory $1,200 straddle.

This is the first hand of Episode 15. It begins with Daniel Negreanu joining the game. Somehow he comes in between the blinds. Who knows how this works; they don't explain it in the broadcast. It does, however, account for there being four people who are blinds in this hand.

A Value Raise in the Guise of a Squeeze Raise

The hand starts out with Sammy Farha putting on the double straddle to $2,400. The action is then folded around to Guy Laliberté, who calls the $2,400 with 8 4 on the button. Negreanu, somehow between the blinds, calls the $2,400 with 5 6. Doyle, in the proper small blind, calls the $2,400 with J T.

Barry Greenstein wakes up to K K in the big blind and makes it $24,000 to go. Antonio Esfandiari, in the mandatory straddle, looks down at T T and three-bets to $73,000. Sammy Farha reluctantly folds his K Q.

Now let's look at the strategy behind these moves.


Laliberté originally limps on the button, a play we've identified in past snapshots as weak. No-Limit Hold'em is all about aggression. If Laliberté is really so eager to play with the 8 4, he should make a raise from the button in an attempt to pick up the blinds, antes and straddles.

In fact there is a lot of dead money in the hand before the cards even come out, so this would be a fine play. However the flow of the table has been very loose.

Laliberté knows he is likely to get at least one, maybe two callers no matter what any of the players hold. He may not want to be forced to continue his aggression throughout the hand, so he decides to just smooth-call.

Negreanu, in the mystery blind, wants to see a flop with his off-suit connectors and makes the call, as does Brunson with his J T.


Greenstein with K K is in a great spot. He makes an overbet raise to $24,000. This play disguises his value raise as a squeeze raise. A lot of times when a pot has lots of limpers and nobody has shown aggression a player in one of the blinds will figure, "If nobody is going to show any aggression, then I'm going to steal this pot from you," and make a large raise.

Usually the idea is to get everyone to fold and get away scot-free with the blinds, antes and straddles.


Esfandiari, who is obviously familiar with the squeeze play, most likely puts Greenstein on a squeeze. Thus he three-bets his T T rather than just calling and risking a multi-way pot.

His bet size - $73,000 - is strong enough that if Greenstein is squeezing with a lower pocket pair or a suited ace he won't be able to call profitably.

Barry Greenstein
Robin Hood: King of Kings.

Esfandiari versus Greenstein: The $274,500 Question

Sammy Farha, infamous for his incredibly loose play, knows his easily dominated K-Q is no good and mucks it. Laliberté tosses his 4-8, Negreanu his 4-5, and finally Brunson folds his J-T.

With the action back on Greenstein, he opts to move all-in for $347,500. Greenstein knows Esfandiari has a good hand. The latter has been playing a tight, solid game, so when he three-bets Greenstein's raise he establishes he has a good hand.

Greenstein is wanting a call here; he thinks Esfandiari may call with A-K or QQ or maybe even JJ. The beauty part of the all-in raise is Esfandiari may also perceive it as a bluff.

With both players in on the concept of the squeeze, there's the possibility Esfandiari may be three-betting light. Which also makes it possible Greenstein may four-bet light.

The pot is now over $430,000. It would cost Esfandiari $274,500 to call. Esfandiari tanks and really thinks the hand through. He knows Greenstein knows he could have been three-betting light.

Antonio Esfandiari
Tao Jones.

This opens up Greenstein's range a little. Greenstein has also sussed out that Esfandiari has been playing tight, which gives the Robin Hood of Poker some fold equity (if he is bluffing).

Esfandiari, for his part, is aware Greenstein has picked up on this and could possibly be making a move. Thus Esfandiari has a very big decision to make.

He can definitely narrow Greenstein's range down: AA, KK, QQ, A-Ks must make up the bulk of it. There is also a smaller chance Greenstein is making a move with JJ or even a smaller pair. This would be the "bluff" range.

Greenstein would not make the move with just any two cards. Though the chances are remote, he could be moving in with a smaller pair. Esfandiari does not want to get outplayed, and is compelled to really contemplate the decision.

If Greenstein has A-K, Esfandiari would have to call. With more than $430,000 in and $274,500 to call, he is getting around 1.5-1 for a coin flip. This would make the call mandatory.

If, however, Greenstein shows one of the bigger pocket pairs, he is in huge trouble drawing to two outs.

The Resolution

Eventually Esfandiari decides the hands that beat him most likely make up the bulk of Greenstein's range and folds. Which, as it turns out, is the correct play.

Well played by all and Greenstein drags in the stomper of a pot.





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