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Chances Casino hosted one of the most entertaining World Poker Tour season one episodes. On one of the first hands dealt,
Vince Burgio was dealt pocket fours and folded them because he was first to act.
Antonio Esfandiari was dealt pocket sixes
and raised the $16,000 blind to $82,000. Tommy Garza then folded pocket tens. I thought this was going to be a boring,
I was wrong.
Paul Darden was the winner, but Antonio Esfandiari was the star of the show. Antonio dueled with former World Champion
Phil Hellmuth and outplayed him from start to
finish. Antonio moved over the top of Phil several times and Phil looked as if he could not figure out what to do.
Antonio Esfandiari, otherwise known as "The Magician", played great. It was definitely fun to watch him put Phil on tilt.
On one hand, Phil raised on the button with 32 offsuit and Antonio moved all in with Q5 of diamonds. Tommy Garza folded his AQ
and Phil had no choice but to fold his garbage. Antonio showed his hand to Phil after he folded and we could almost see the
steam coming from Phil's ears (and this was only
in the first few minutes of the show).
I was surprised to see Tommy fold both these hands. In
No Limit Holdem you only get so many
opportunities with low chips and Tommy folded two key hands: pocket tens and AQ. Tommy then tried to make a move on the
button when he raised all-in with K8, but unfortunately for him, Paul Darden had
AK in the small blind and called his
bet. Tommy became the first person eliminated.
Antonio continued to work his magic when he moved all-in after Phil raised on the button with Q6 of hearts. Antonio had A9
of spades in the small blind. Phil looked totally disgusted and folded his hand again. On the next hand, Phil moved all-in
with K5 and started pacing behind the table. Antonio was holding A5 and he looked like he wanted to play, but folded his
Chris Bigler ended up calling with A3. An ace came
on the turn, which made Phil end up drawing dead,
but Phil had more chips than Chris so he was still in the tournament.
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The next hand shown, Vince moved all in with JT and Phil called with pocket sevens. Phil had the best the whole way and even
managed to hit a seven that he didn't need. Vince had more chips than Phil, so he was still in the tournament. The following
hand, Vince moved all in with 98 on the button, and Phil moved all in after Vince with KT. Antonio called both all-ins with
A8 clubs. He could have taken both players out in one hand, but Phil flopped the King and turned the ten. Phil jumped for
joy, throwing his hands up and yelling: "Yes!". Vince was quietly eliminated in fifth place.
I found it strange that the show was edited so that we were not shown many hands played by Paul Darden. He managed to keep
the lead during the whole tournament, which shows he must have won some pots along the way, but we didn't see many.
They did however, include an interview with Paul and I liked what he had to say. "I watch the great players, such as Phil
Hellmuth and Phil Ivey. I just try to follow suit. I am a student watching the teachers. If you really want to be good, pay
attention. My strength is to try to play my opponents hand not mine because I have my cards, my cards are easy to play. I
try to put myself in their hand and play at me."
I think Paul hit the nail on the head with his comments. First, tournament players need to always see themselves as students.
Top players know that there are always things to learn and considering that the game is always changing (especially with the
growing fields of tournament entries) players need to adjust their game. Second, in No Limit Holdem, it is all about playing
the players. It is not about the cards. These were two key reasons for Paul's success in this tournament.
confrontation featured Phil again strangely choosing to do battle with Antonio when he tried to make a move on Antonio's blind.
He moved all-in for $172,000 with KJ. While Antonio is thinking about what to do, Phil started talking: "I hope he calls, but doesn't
outdraw me". I honestly think that
Antonio was getting reads off Phil.
He decided to call Phil's all-in bet with KQ. The flop came 853, turn 7 and river a Queen. This was followed by the part of
the program I didn't like, where Phil went to Antonio and said, "show some class and shake my hand" because Antonio showed
nothing but class the whole tournament. In contrast, Phil did not shake Vince's hand when he knocked him out.
Not only that, but Phil did a little jump, shout, and almost a dance when he won. Antonio deserved to beat Phil. He
outplayed Phil from the get go and Phil could not figure out a counter-strategy. Phil seemed to be playing as if he was
showing off for the camera. He looked like he played hands that he knew people would talk about after the show aired, like
raising with 32.
After Phil was eliminated, Chris only had about 130,000 in chips. He moved all-in with JT and Antonio called him with pocket
sevens. The board came Q33, but the ten hit on the turn to double Chris up. Later, Paul made a great move when Chris held
pocket jacks. Chris raised the $20,000 big blind to $70,000 and Paul called with 43 of clubs. The board came KQ9 and Paul
led out and Chris had to fold his hand. He earned that pot.
After eliminating Phil, the Magician was not involved in many pots. One of the few was when he raised with KJ and Paul
raised all-in with pocket Jacks. The board came T82, the turn was an Ace and the river was a nine, eliminating Antonio in
third place. I was rooting for him because he played so well in the beginning -- and it was so much fun to watch him stick
it to Phil. Antonio's day in the World Poker Tour winner circle did come though at the
Commerce Casino in the second season.
Chris played great when it got to three players. He moved all-in numerous times. Sometimes, he had legitimate hands (pocket fives)
and sometimes he was just making a move (98
suited). However, he lost a lot of money when he
called the small blind with 74 against Paul's 84. The flop was 873 and Paul bet out $50,000. Chris raised him $120,000 more. Paul thinks
for awhile and called the bet. The turn was a king and Paul
checked. Chris checked behind him. The river was a three
giving both of them two pair. Paul bet $150,000 and Chris called him. The pot was over $700,000 and this gave Paul a huge lead.
The end came when Paul was dealt K7 offsuit in the small blind and raised the pot to $162,000. Chris moved all-in for
$48,000 more with AQ of spades. Of course Paul called because the pot was so big. The flop came Q83, turn 4, and river 3 and
Chris doubled up. However, that did not help him on the next and final hand. Chris was dealt K2 offsuit and raised. Paul
called him with the Q8 of diamonds. The flop was AT5 with two diamonds on the board. Chris moved all-in and Paul quickly
called. The turn was a jack of diamonds and Paul was declared the Gold Rush, Lucky Chances winner.