In the long run, luck and bad luck level out in poker. If you’re a really strong player you’ll get your chance to make it to the top eventually.
At least, that’s the theory. But sometimes there are hands that pave the way for one player to soar while putting a deep dent into the career of another.
Last Hurrah for High Stakes Poker
The last season of High Stakes Poker was played in the Bellagio in 2010. It aired in 2011 and it once again presented an array of world-class players.
PokerStars was sponsoring the show at the time, which is why players like Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius were sitting it out but PokerStars pros Vanessa Selbst and Barry Greenstein were there.
The line-up also featured living legend Doyle Brunson, David "Viffer" Peat and Antonio Esfandiari. The game was a rather sizeable $400/$800 No Limit Texas Hold’em and the players were playing pretty deep stacks.
A Flop Escalation
Under the gun Esfandiari raises to $2,500 with 8♥ 7♥. Greenstein calls with pocket fours. Selbst and Peat also call.
The flop is perfect for two of the players and everyone in front of the TV. T♣ 6♥ 4♥ means a set for Greenstein and a straight flush/double gutshot draw for Esfandiari.
The money moves into the middle quickly and it amounts to almost $600,000. Then the dealer deals the turn and the river.
Greenstein has a theoretical advantage of 59%-41% because, even if Esfandiari hits, he’ll always have redraws. But Lady Luck is not his friend that day.
Fork in the Road
At the time this was the biggest pot Antonio Esfandiari had ever won and it meant a big boost for his bankroll. A talented player soon turned into a participant in high roller and super high roller events.
Only one year later Esfandiari played in the first Big One for One Drop and won it for $18 million. The flip side of the coin, you ask? Greenstein wrote later that this hand “really did me in”.
He even says he didn't play a high roller event again after that. It was a hand that sent two players in two different directions. And all that despite him being a 59% favorite.