Antonio Esfandiari couldn’t believe how well Phil Hellmuth ran in the first “High Stakes Duel” match in July. He was even more visibly upset during the rematch, in which he lost yet again to his long-time friendly rival.
The “Poker Brat” won the first match for $100,000 (both players wagered $50,000). Esfandiari, who lost, then challenged the winner to a double-or-nothing rematch.
With the pot now at $200,000 — each player in for a total of $100,000 — the players met again on the Poker Central YouTube channel (also available on the PokerGo app). But the outcome wasn’t any more favorable this time around for “The Magician.”
Bluff-Happy Hellmuth Does it Again
Esfandiari has long sought a heads-up match against Hellmuth. He finally got his wish, but not the outcome he desired.
In the first match, which took place in July at the PokerGo Studio in Las Vegas, Hellmuth grinded his way to victory, pulling off a couple of crucial bluffs along the way. During the rematch, he bluffed more often than most would have expected, but that wasn’t his main key to victory the second time around.
Hellmuth coolered Esfandiari on a couple of occasions and also made some tough, but correct, laydowns on the river. In two spots, Esfandiari over-bet the river with the nuts, hoping to make it look like a bluff, but the size of the bets forced Hellmuth, holding strong hands in both situations, to fold.
The match lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours, with the players trading the chip lead numerous times. Esfandiari seized control multiple times throughout the match before Hellmuth found a lucky double-up. In one hand, Hellmuth flopped top pair (3-5-J) with J-8 against Esfandiari’s pocket nines, and doubled up from 54,000 to the chip lead. Hellmuth check-raised the flop and Esfandiari couldn’t find a fold.
“I knew it, god I’m the worst, how are you so lucky,” a tilted Esfandiari screamed as he stood up in frustration. “Nice hand. God, you just always get it right at the right spot. The old jack-5-3, no problem. You’re blessed, blessed. You really are blessed.”
Esfandiari scolded himself over the flop call. He went from nearly a 3-1 chip lead to being in a slight disadvantage. But he would soon regain the chip lead …. until another tilting hand occurred.
With the blinds at 1,000/2,000, Hellmuth limped on the button with 8-7 and Esfandiari checked his option with 7-2. The flop came out 8-7-K, giving Hellmuth bottom two-pair. He bet out 2,500 and received a call.
“Deuce would be disaster,” commentator Ali Nejad uttered as the players awaited the turn.
The disaster card Nejad called for came on the turn. Esfandiari picked up his own two-pair, but was drawing to a two-outer. He checked again and Hellmuth bet out 6,500. Esfandiari returned fire, check-raising to 18,500. That was a sight for sore eyes to the 15-time WSOP bracelet winner, who bumped it up to 57,000.
“Oh my god, how can I possibly fold this? Are you really this lucky?” Esfandiari asked himself as he pondered his decision before moving all-in and receiving a snap-call.
“Do you have two-pair?” Esfandiari asked after Hellmuth called.
“Yeah, sevens and eights,” he responded.
“You are so lucky, man,” a frustrated Esfandiari shouted. “I knew what you had both times. How lucky can you be? It’s just unreal. Why can’t I just fold? I know you have it. Gosh, you really are not a human being.”
Hellmuth seized control of the match and would soon put the frustrated Esfandiari out of his misery with a pre-flop all-in call with K-10 against Antonio’s J-10. The board ran out 7-2-8-A-4, ending the $200,000 rematch.
Esfandiari now has an opportunity to challenge Hellmuth to a second rematch.