It’s been a while since we saw the biggest pots ever played on TV.
Watching them again, they’re still as fascinating as they were the first time.
This week we're revisiting a huge pot on High Stakes Poker with Patrik Antonius taking on Sam Farha with a big bluff that ultimately fails.
Flop to River
We’re joining one of the highest-stakes sessions ever shown on TV. That season on High Stakes Poker Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté took a seat and tried to raise the stakes as high as they would let him.
The blinds were $300/$600 but Daniel Negreanu had already put a straddle in. Every player at the table had at least half a million in front of him.
Barry Greenstein raised to $4,000 from second position. Sam Farha called in the next seat. After David Benyamine folded Antonius re-raised to $18,000 from the small blind.
Greenstein gave up but Farha came along. Flop: A A K K J J
Antonius bet $30,000 which Farha called. There was $102,600 in the pot and effective stacks were over $450,000. Turn: 6 6
Antonius led out with a bet of $85,000 and got another call from Farha. The pot was now $272,600 and effective stacks down to $360,000.
River: 5 5 Antonius bet $150,000 but Farha doesn’t fold. Antonius shows 9 9 7 7 for nine high. Farha shows K K 6 6 for two pair and won a $572,600 pot.
This hand is remarkable in several ways so we’ll look at both players' perspectives. We'll start pre-flop where Farha makes a very loose call from a bad position after a raise from a tight player in Greenstein.
His hand is suited but not connected at all and it’s easily dominated. At a table like this one that’s a recipe for disaster.
Very quickly it becomes obvious why. Holding a nice one-gapped suited connector in 97, Antonius tries to exploit the situation. He squeezes with a hand that’s now well hidden.
The disadvantage is he’s out of position; this move would have been a lot stronger from the button.
Greenstein releases his A-Jo but Farha isn’t ready to let go even though his holding is pretty mediocre. Had he not been in position he would probably have folded K6.
No Reason to Slow Down
On this flop Antonius has no reason to slow down. He has hands like A-A, K-K, J-J, and A-K in his range and all these hands should be there -- not despite but because of how draw-heavy the flop is.Get $88 FREE No Deposit!
Of course Farha’s range is relevant here as well. All the hands mentioned above are missing from it but it has weaker Broadway hands like A-T, K-J, Q-J, middle and low pairs (9-9 to 4-4).
Antonius should be able to make several of these hands fold – if not with one, then certainly with another barrel. Despite a pretty convincing looking c-bet from his opponent Farha stays in the hand.
He now has three ways to win the hand:
1. He actually has the best hand if Antonius is bluffing.
2. He finds a king or six to overtake Antonius if he has an ace.
3. He might be able to steal the pot if there’s another spade and Antonius checks.
Farha’s call on the flop is loose, no doubt, but mathematically it’s not bad. He needs to pay $30,000 into a pot of $72,600 which means he only has to be right 1 out of 3.4 times.
As he’s in position Farha should be able to do that even against a player of the calibre of Patrik Antonius.
Farha Gets Sticky
Antonius shows his class on the turn. He bets with total air on the 6.
What he’s trying to do here is make some of the hands from above fold – kings, jacks, hands with the Q or another spade plus weak aces.
It sounds paradoxical but the 6 doesn’t have any meaning for Antonius. It doesn’t seem to help his opponent’s range but the truth is Farha would have probably folded had it not hit.
With just a pair of kings he wouldn’t have called again as there was another bet waiting for him on the river. But now he has hands like A-Q or other top pair hands beat.
Antonius Fires Again
The river is a blank and Antonius takes his bluff to the last stage. There are still hands in Farha’s range he can force to fold.
These hands would be A-x often with a spade as well as Q♠-Jx or Jx-T♠ – hands that hit and draw to the flush. Antonius on the other hand has to ask himself what he’s really representing.
It’s very unlikely that he has Q10 for the ultimate nuts in poker. But any other flush is unlikely, too, because of his re-raise pre-flop which points to strong hands and big pairs. At least hands like A-A, K-K, or J-J would still be good enough for a value bet.
Farha calls pretty quickly although he’s not beating much more than bluffs. With A-T or A-Q, Antonius would surely have given up the lead and Farha would lose to all the sets and both A-K and A-J.
Apparently Farha saw enough bluffs in Antonius’ range to stay confident.
Turns out he was right and Antonius is the kind of player who’s capable of 3-betting pre-flop with nothing and then barrelling every street.
In a fascinating hand that shows how different an actual professional’s hand can be from the perceived range, Sam Farha shows discipline with a marginal hand and wins the seventh-largest pot in American TV poker history.
Patrik Antonius gives it all he can and, with a different turn card, he might well have succeeded. He just couldn’t see how the six improved Farha’s hand.