Hand of the Week: Esfandiari Gives Negreanu $40,000 Gift

Esfandiari 2

Even before winning the first Big One for One Drop tournament for $18 million, Antonio Esfandiari was considered one of the best players in the world.

Sometimes, though, even the mighty can fail.

In our hand of the week this week we're revisiting a hand from a Poker Night in America cash game with such luminaries in it as Bertrand Grospellier, Randy Lew, Maria Ho, Jason Somerville and Daniel Negreanu.

In this one, Esfandiari loses it on the flop and makes a mistake that costs him $40,000.

Flop to River

The blinds are supposed to be $25/$50 but because there have been four (!) straddles, it’s already $800 just to limp into the pot. It’s folded all the way around to Esfandiari in the third straddle and he finds    

Antonio completes but the only player behind him, Negreanu, raises it up to $3,800. Stacks are very deep and Negreanu has about $40,000 in front of him, corresponding to 800 bb or 50 straddles of $800.

Esfandiari calls so there's $8,000 in the pot. Effective stacks are at about $36,000. The flop is      

Esfandiari checks and Negreanu bets $5,000. This sends Esfandiari into the tank for a while, then he check-raises to $14,000. Negreanu quickly moves all-in for almost $38,000. Esfandiari reluctantly calls and Negreanu shows pocket kings.

They run it twice and the result is

  • 1st run:   ---  
  • 2nd run:   ---  

Negreanu rakes in the complete pot of almost $84,000. Watch the hand as it played out:


Daniel Negreanu6
Knows how to use small bets.

Pre-flop, Esfandiari limps with a hand that is actually pretty strong in this situation.

He could, of course, also raise here, but it’s always a good idea to vary your game and try to represent a weaker hand sometimes.

Also, Esfandiari doesn’t have position and he probably doesn’t want to build a big pot in a hand against a top pro like Negreanu.

When Negreanu puts in a big raise, it does say something about the quality of his hand. The Canadian is a master of small-ball poker and he knows how to use small bets and raises to his advantage.

Him putting out such a big bet means something. But Esfandiari’s hand is way too strong to fold here so his call is correct.

The T 8 3 flop is almost perfect for Esfandiari but he has no reason to take the lead. Negreanu, on the other hand, has every reason to bet:

1. He probably has the best hand.

2. A ten and maybe an eight in Esfandiari’s hand might call.

3. Draws like two spades or 9-7 can also call.

Esfandiari Goes Crazy

After Negreanu’s bet, Esfandiari has to call a bet of $5,000 into a pot of $13,000. After that the effective stacks would be $33,000 and there would be $18,000 in the pot, so neither of the players would be pot-committed.

Antonio Esfandiari 22843
Let's get crazy.

It’s not sure what triggered Esfandiari to raise, but we can say for sure that it’s not a good idea. Check-raising to $14,000 is a mistake for three reasons:

1. He’s turning his hand into a bluff.

2. He can hardly get called by a worse hand.

3. He can’t fold anymore.

His move is only profitable if:

  • 1. He gets a better hand to fold.
  • 2. He gets worse hands to call or push.

We can rule out # 1, but there are a couple of worse tens and flush and straight draws where # 2 applies.

Why Didn't He Just Call?

A call would have been so much better than a raise in this spot. It’s fairly obvious that he’s not folding top pair top kicker here, because Negreanu would almost always c-bet and he could be semi-bluffing, too.

In either of these cases it would be correct to call because then he would keep the bluffs and semi-bluffs in the pot. And that is a crucial difference.

By check-raising he can usually not win more than $13,000 if his opponent folds, but he’s risking $40,000 if his opponent doesn’t.

Now it’s possible that Esfandiari would have lost all his money anyway after the five on the turn, but it’s also possible that Negreanu would have slowed down, so it could have been a lot cheaper for him.

run it twice
Could have been cheaper.

What’s even more important is that he would have invested his money much better this way.

Let’s say Negreanu would be on a total bluff and move in on the river.

In that case Esfandiari doesn’t just win $13,000 investing $40,000; he sometimes wins $40,000 too.


Making an almost inexplicable mistake, Antonio Esfandiari gives away $40,000 much to the amusement of Daniel Negreanu.

It was an unlucky match-up for the Magician - two big hands in the last two positions.

However it could have been possible to get his money into the pot a lot better.

Negreanu took the invitation gratefully without having to do much himself to exploit his opponent’s mistake.

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