Hand of the Week: Bill Klein Rope-a-Dopes Esfandiari for $458k

There hasn’t been a televised cash game as exciting as the $250k Aria Super High Roller in a long time.

With a minimum buy-in of $250,000 it was made for an elusive group of pro players and well-heeled businessmen.

There's always something special when money meets professional playing poker and this time was no exception.

Klein v. Esfandiari

Two weeks ago we looked at an incredible bluff played by Andrew Robl. This week we’ll present a hand with a completely different outcome.

It involve billionaire Bill Klein and Antonio Esfandiari, winner of the first-ever $1m Big One for One Drop.

The blinds are $300/$600 but thanks to two live straddles it’s already $2,400 to call pre-flop. After a couple of folds Klein ($469,000) raises to $6,000 from the cut-off.

Behind him Esfandiari re-raises to $15,000 from the button. The blinds fold but Klein puts in another bet and makes it $29,000 to play.

Esfandiari calls. There's $62,500 in the pot as they go to the 9 diamonds 9 8 diamonds 8 7 diamonds 7 flop.

Klein checks. Esfandiari bets $29,000 and Klein calls. There's $120,500 in the pot.

The turn is the  9 spades 9 Klein checks. Esfandiari bets $51,000 and Klein calls again. The pot now has $222,500 in it.

The river is the 3 hearts 3 . Another check from Klein, another bet from Esfandiari - now $118,000 – and another call from Klein.

Esfandiari shows K clubs K 5 clubs 5 for a total bluff. Klein wins the pot with his J clubs J 8 clubs 8 and a pair of eights, worth $458,500.

Poker Hand Analysis

Klein butted heads with Antonio Esfandiari and came out on top with almost half a million dollars more in front of him.

On a board with possible flushes and straights he called Esfandiari down with just second pair. How did he pull that off? Let’s see.

The little raising war between Klein and Esfandiari pre-flop doesn’t mean that much when it comes to ranges. Mainly, both are trying to steal the pot, sitting in the best possible positions at the table.

As the effective stacks are extremely deep with 800 big blinds (!), there will still plenty of room for maneuvers after the flop, which is beneficial to the value of position – the value of position is pretty much the central topic of this whole hand.

As we know already neither player has much. But why would Esfandiari call a 4-bet with a hand like K♣ 5♣?

For one, because he gets 3-1 pot odds, and for two, because if he doesn’t Klein is going to plague him with 4-bets with any random hand.Get Up to $500 Now!

The Magician Sees His Chance

On an outrageously dangerous flop of 9♦ 8♦ 7♦, Klein has hit middle pair. He checks here, which shows you that the billionaire is quite a player. Most other players would have followed with a standard c-bet here.

He already has showdown value but his hand is also very vulnerable to bluffs and definitely not worth a big pot. Furthermore, there are few hands worse than his that can call a bet.

There’s a little disadvantage in this play and that’s that Klein loses the lead. Without the initiative Klein has to ready himself for everything against an aggressive player like Esfandiari.

The Magician sees his chance and doesn’t hesitate to take it. With one overcard and an inside gutshot – this is also sometimes called an “idiot gutshot” because there’s already a possible flush and one of the outs could be poisoned - Esfandiari doesn’t have much equity.

But the pot is big and with this board texture it’s almost asking to get stolen.

Klein doesn’t really have any reason to give up in the face of Esfandiari’s bet. Yes, he could be beat, but the hands that beat him are unlikely.

There are more (likely) semi-bluffs in Esfandiari’s range, like a ten, a six, a high diamond and so on.

Esfandiari Pulls Off Ultimate Bluff

The 9♠ on the turn is one of the best possible cards for Klein. It makes his middle pair more valuable without changing the situation on the board. Whoever was ahead on the flop is also ahead on the turn.

Klein checks again and Esfandiari carries on with his bluff. In retrospect it’s easy to say that he'd better give up on his bluff at this point but there are actually also good reasons for it.

1) Klein check-calling the flop signals that he almost certainly has a made hand.

2. The 9♠ is one of the worst possible turn cards for a bluff.

3) Bluffing the turn with minimum equity implies there has to be another bluff on the river.

Klein calls the turn. He surely is aware that there will likely be another bet on the river. And indeed after the 3♥ on the river, which is a complete blank, Esfandiari pulls off his ultimate bluff.

Klein's Rope-a-Dope Pays Off

Hand analysis and heart spot on.

He bets $118,000 into a pot of $220,500 which means he only has to be successful one in three times to makes this play profitable.

But the situation is even more favorable for Klein. He has to call $118,000 to win $338,000 which means it's profitable for him to make that call if Esfandiari is bluffing one in four times (numbers slightly rounded).

With the board and all its draws and semi-bluff possibilities this seems more than likely. But it’s not easy to call such a large amount of money with such a mediocre hand as J-8.

At the end of the day Klein’s rope-a-dope paid off but Esfandiari made it very difficult for him to profit from his equity out of position. This is very typical of strong, aggressive players like the Magician.

If you’ve ever been three-barreled out of position by an aggressive player, you know how uncomfortable that feels.


Bill Klein’s daring play earns him a huge pot of more than $450,000. It’s hard to say whether he knew what was going to happen when he checked the flop.

It’s safe to say, however, that his hand analysis was spot on and that he has a lot of heart.

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