Dwan used to be a trademark of the highly popular poker show, but then disappeared from the TV poker scene for several years. On his return he first turned his attention to the one-and-only Antonio Esfandiari. It was the first episode of the new season of Poker after Dark, and “The Magician” found himself in a terrible spot versus Dwan and Daniel Negreanu and simply couldn’t find an escape.
From the Flop to the River
Poker After Dark is back, and the game is No-Limit Hold’em $200/$400 with a $400 button ante. Six players are in the game, and Antonio Esfandiari has just turned his UTG position into being the last player to act by putting in a straddle of $800. Also at the table are Lauren Roberts, Bill Klein, Jean-Robert Bellande, Tom Dwan, and Daniel Negreanu.
Roberts and Klein throw their hands into the muck, and then Daniel Negreanu raises to $3,500 from the button. Bellande folds, but Tom Dwan re-raises to $14,000. Antonio Esfandiari checks his cards. They are K K K K
Esfandiari 4-Bets to $41,100 and Daniel Negreanu is not backing down. He thinks about it for a while and decides to call. The pot is now up to $96,800 and the pre-flop action is not yet over. It’s back to Tom Dwan, who also takes his time and eventually goes all-in with $328,000. The action goes back to Esfandiari who calls. Negreanu lays his cards down with a smile. He had
Q Q Q Q
But Tom Dwan has something better. It’s showdown time and he turns over the best starting hand in Texas Hold’em.
A A A A
They’re dealing it twice, but Esfandiari fails to catch and Tom Dwan takes the complete $697,100 pot. Do watch this hand again as it played out:
Obviously there has been a lot of discussion about this hand on the internet and there were quite a few people who seemed astonished about Esfandiari not being able to fold his kings. Others claimed there was no way out for “The Magician” and that he was doomed from the start of this hand. Who’s right? We need to take every involved player’s position to find out.
Daniel Negreanu - QQ . The Canadian pro finds pocket queens and makes a standard raise from the button with the third-best starting hand. Then things get interesting. First, Dwan raises to $14,000 and then Esfandiari pops it up again to $41,100. Negreanu can now reasonably choose any of his three options.
Raise – Negreanu might put in a 5-bet here. This would mean, however, that he would cross the all-in threshold and can’t fold anymore. With this hand, that would put Negreanu into a really bad spot, because the only hands he would get called with are A-A, K-K, and A-K, and the best-case scenario would be a coin flip. Considering how the other two players in this hand play, aces or kings are definitely in their ranges.
Call – By calling, Negreanu gives himself a chance to stay in the hand and watch what Tom Dwan is doing behind him. If Dwan just calls, his range is weaker than expected and Negreanu gets to see a flop. If, however, Dwan raises again, then Negreanu will get more information by what Esfandiari is going to do, and then he can still decide to lay his hand down relatively cheap.
Fold – If Negreanu folds here, he’s making sure to stay completely out of trouble, and he’s limiting his investment to $3,500. But he’s facing two very aggressive players at a six-handed table, so he can’t just fold such a strong hand just because there’s some resistance. Making the call is clearly Negreanu’s best move here, and when both Dwan and Esfandiari are all-in, folding becomes inevitable.
Tom Dwan - AA Pocket aces play very nicely and easily when things go like this but there is one move that is of crucial importance. When Negreanu makes the call, should Dwan raise again to $100,000 or should he just go all-in? As it were, Dwan – after taking some strategic thinking time – opts for the all-in, which is the best option.
Now you might think that sounds wrong as Dwan really wants to get called but does his best to drive away his customers, but at the end of the day, the opposite is true. By going all-in, Dwan adds A-K to his range. Being known as an extremely aggressive player, he can now get a call not only from K-K, but from Q-Q, too, and even from A-K.
If he would on the other hand 5-Bet his hand, it would basically scream “I have aces and want you to call me”, and that would have everyone get suspicious. With this, let’s look at the last player involved.
Antonio Esfandiari - KK In the first betting round, Esfandiari plays everything correctly. He sees Negreanu raise and Dwan re-raise, and since he's holding the second best starting hand, he doesn’t mind building an even bigger pot and maybe eliminating one of his opponents along the way to improve his own pot equity.
But then strange things happen. Daniel Negreanu calls his 4-Bet although he’s sandwiched between Esfandiari and Dwan, and then Dwan comes back with another raise all-in! Let’s look at his opponents’ ranges.
Negreanu plays like he has a strong, but not very strong hand. It looks a bit like T-T, J-J, Q-Q or A-K and he wants to see a flop. Esfandiari’s kings are ahead of this range, but then there’s still Dwan. When Dwan is all-in, Negreanu’s range becomes secondary. The crucial question is, which hands would Tom Dwan push all-in in this spot and how do Esfandiari’s kings play against them?
We’ll have to take a look at numbers. Pocket kings versus a loose range – A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and A-K – a tight range – A-A, K-K, A-K – and a very tight range – A-A, K-K. Against the loose range, kings win 55% of the times, draw 5% of the times, and lose 40% of the times. Against the tight range, kings win 44%, draw 7%, and lose 49% of the times. Against the very tight range, kings win 16%, draw 14%, and lose 70% of the times.
We also have to take into account the money in the pot. Esfandiari has to pay $287,000 into a pot of $410,500 to call, giving him pot odds of 1.4 to 1. That means he has to win 41% of the times to make his play profitable. Is that enough if your opponent is Tom Dwan? Very likely, yes. If Dwan pushes all-in with any more hands than aces and kings, Esfandiari is generally on the profitable side. But then all the cash game players have one thing in common: They don’t like to call with kings.
It’s an unfortunate spot for Antonio Esfandiari. He loses a gigantic pot of almost $700,000 because his opponent Tom Dwan is not a rock who only plays the nuts but has a wider range. Mental note – If your stack is over 100 bb deep, or even 800 bb like in this case, kings become a dangerous hand for pre-flop all-ins.