Last week’s installment of the PokerStars.net Big Game had a little something for everybody — a diverse mix of old and new-school pros, high-wire bluffs, six-figure pots and multiple meltdowns from the player everyone loves to hate, Phil Hellmuth. Along with Daniel Negreanu, Eugene “MyRabbiFoo” Katchalov, Prahlad Friedman, and Dani “Ansky” Stern, Hellmuth took on Loose Cannon Andre Capella, a 76-year-old former race car driver from Greenville, Tenn. By the end of the 150 hands, two players busted, one banked over $185,000 in profit, and Stern uncorked a bottle of Dom Perignon. Read on for all the details.
Format refresher course: The Big Game lasts 150 hands and is played with $200/$400 blinds and a $100 ante paid by the player on the button. The Loose Cannon is staked $100,000 by PokerStars and any amount won over that starting stack is his or hers to keep. The five pro players may rebuy at any time for up to $500,000. At the end of the season, the most profitable Loose Cannon wins a $50,000 North American Poker Tour passport.
Stern’s stack sinks: Stern found himself $43,000 in the hole after only a few hands. First, he lost a sizable pot against Katchalov with king-queen against ace-king, both players rivering top pair with a king on the river. A few hands later, Stern opened two black sevens for $1,200, Prahlad Friedman called with and Negreanu called with from the big blind. The action was checked to Stern on the flop. He made a $3,000 continuation bet, Friedman folded and Negreanu called with a gutshot. Negreanu binked his straight on the turn when the fell and led out for $5,500. The bet set off Stern’s radar and he wisely folded. Negreanu showed the straight, confirming Stern’s read.
Hellmuth runner-runners the Cannon: Hellmuth opened for $1,200, Capella raised to $4,000 with in the cutoff and Katchalov picked up two red tens in the small blind. He made a rather tight laydown, leaving Hellmuth and Capella heads-up. Hellmuth checked the flop to Capella, who bet $4,000. Hellmuth decided to take a card off with his gutshot straight draw and made the call. The turn came the . Hellmuth paired his eight, but his hand was still second-best. Again, he checked over to Capella, who bet $5,000. Hellmuth came along with a call. The on the river was a devastating card for the loose cannon, as Hellmuth made trip eights. He fired out a nearly pot-sized bet of $25,000, about a third of the chips Capella had remaining. Capella made the call and Hellmuth snagged the $77,200 pot, leaving the loose cannon with only $59,400 in his stack.
Hellmuth’s computer wallpaper: “So, what’s the wallpaper on your computer? Is it a picture of your face?” Dani Stern asked.
“God, how old are you? 23? You’re pretty smart. The wallpaper on my computer is actually my beer can,” Hellmuth replied.
“My beer can.”
“He’s actually got a picture of his face on his wallpaper. You were joking, but it’s true,” Negreanu added, suppressing a giggle fit.
Mr. Capella, that might be a tell: Negreanu raised to $1,500 with , Hellmuth made quite a frisky three-bet to $5,500 with only , and Capella called with pocket queens . Negreanu and Hellmuth both missed while Capella hit top set on the flop. Hellmuth led out for $3,900 and in a highly unusual move, Capella sprung out of his chair as soon as the chips hit the felt. After peering at the board for a moment, he moved all-in for $28,900 and Hellmuth insta-folded.
That hand took Capella’s stack back up to $54,000, but he quickly bled those chips. By the time the game reached halfway, Capella was down to only $16,000. Unlike some of the previous Loose Cannons, Capella played quite passively, limp-calling quite often before the flop and “donk-betting” on the flop an astonishing 33 percent of the time.
A well-timed semi-bluff: Stern opened for $1,500 with , Freidman three-bet to $4,000 with and Negreanu cold-called with . Everyone hit a little something on the flop. Stern flopped flush and straight draws, Negreanu held an overpair and Friedman had top pair and a gutshot straight draw. Stern checked, to Friedman, who bet $7,000. Negreanu called and Stern made it $32,000 to go. It took a while, but Friedman finally folded and Negreanu mucked, as well.
VPIP-o-meter at the half: Capella 41 percent with a 3 percent pre-flop raise percentage, Stern 30/24, Friedman 27/10, Katchalov 45/26, Negreanu 39/24, Hellmuth 46/24
Loose Cannon fun fact: Capella has panned over an ounce of gold from the stream behind his house.
A ray of hope for the Cannon: Negreanu made it $1,200 to go from under the gun with , Hellmuth called with , Capella called with , Freidman came along from the small blind with pocket fours and Katchalov put in $800 more with in the big blind. Katchalov hit trip sevens when the flop came down while Capella flopped a gutshot straight draw. The action was checked around, giving everyone a free turn card. It was boffo for Capella, the making him a jack-high straight. Friedman checked to Katchalov, who bet $3,600. Negreanu and Hellmuth folded, Capella min-raised to $7,200, Friedman got out of the way and Katchalov raised to $33,000, setting Capella all-in. He quickly called off the $20,200 he had behind.
“He can handle it, he’s rich,” Negreanu said, patting Katchalov on the back. “Don’t worry about it, nobody feels bad for him whatsoever.”
Capella’s hand held, the falling on the river to give him a much-needed double-up to $47,000.
Monsterpotten!: Stern straddled to $800 from under the gun and Katchalov made it $3,000 with . The action folded back around to Stern, who looked down at and reraised to $10,200. Katchalov called and they saw a juicy [As flop — Katchalov making top pair while Stern flopped bottom two. Stern led out for $14,000 and Katchalov called. The on the turn was Stern’s gin card, giving him queens full. It also gave Katchalov the nut flush draw, increasing the chances that he’d call a bet. Stern made it $31,000 to go and Katchalov called. The river fell the and Stern moved all-in for $64,900 into the $111,600 pot.
While Katchalov thought over this decision, Freidman, Hellmuth and Negreanu scurried over to hostess Amanda Leatherman to share their theories of what each player had.
“I think ace-queen vs. ace-king. I think Dani has ace-queen and Eugene has ace-king,” Freidman said.
After a long tank, Katchalov rightly folded and Stern raked in the $176,500 pot, putting himself back in the plus column, up $18,500.
A Hellmuthian eruption: The Poker Brat made a $1,600 raise with , Stern called in the small blind with and Friedman called from the big with . Stern led out for $3,600 with his open-ended straight draw on the flop, Hellmuth raised to $15,000 with top two pair and Stern called.
“Wow! Nice hand!” Hellmuth said a bit prematurely as the table burst out laughing.
Stern hit his straight when the fell on the turn. He bet $25,000 and Hellmuth called. The river fell the , and Stern bet $35,000.
“Is this for real? I mean, are these hands for real?” Hellmuth said before paying off the value bet.
“And 3…2…1…blastoff!” commentator Joe Stapleton said as Hellmuth sprung from his chair and took a tilt-lap around the stage. “I mean, what the f***!” Hellmuth spat as Stern laughed uncontrollably.
Capella busts on Hand 89: Negreanu had the $800 straddle, Capella called with , Stern raised to $3,000 with , Friedman called with in the small blind, Negreanu folded, and Capella called. The flop came down . Friedman checked to Capella who donk-bet $10,000. Stern called and Friedman folded. It was another unlucky card for Capella on the turn, the falling to make Stern kings up. Capella bet another $10,000 into the $30,800 pot and Stern raised to $90,000, setting Capella all-in. He decided to go with his hand, calling off his remaining $23,400. They ran it twice, the first river falling the and the second the , ending Capella’s Big Game run. Stern’s Big Game profits at this point totaled $150,000.
Jason Mercier, who bought in for $100,000, eventually filled the Loose Cannon’s empty seat.
Hey guys, play nice: Shortly after Capella busted, Hellmuth and Stern got into a squabble about who called who stupid first and who needled who first (do the details really matter?) Whomever was the instigator, Hellmuth was on mega-tilt, calling Stern out of line and demanding an apology. He also tried to show Stern up by throwing the dealer what looked like a $20 or $25 tip after Stern “only” tipped $5 after winning a huge pot.
Mea culpa, Hellmuth style: Later on, a contrite Hellmuth promised to buy Stern a bottle of Dom Perignon as an apology for trying to show him up with the dealer tip.
Later in the show, Leatherman brought out a bottle of Dom and gave it to Hellmuth (“Since you’re losing so much this week, we covered it,” she said). Hellmuth presented it to Stern and they made nice and shook hands. Stern decided to bust it out right then and there, sharing the fine champagne with his tablemates.
Light four-betting, by Dani Stern: Hellmuth made a pot-sized raise to $3,600 with , Mercier reraised to $11,500 with on the button and Stern raised Mercier’s light three-bet with a very light four-bet to $26,000 with . Both Hellmuth and Mercier read the cold four-bet as extreme strength and they folded, Stern taking down the pot without a flop.
Most frequently seen commercials on the Los Angeles feed of the Big Game this week: Credit Answers, Bosley Natural Hair Restoration, American Blue Tip electronic cigarettes, and the Power Chair.
Pot of the week: Hellmuth straddled to $800, Stern raised to $3,000 with and with the action folded back around to him, Hellmuth looked down at two red queens. He reraised to $9,000 and Stern smooth-called. Stern hit top set on the flop. Hellmuth checked to him and Stern bet $11,000. Hellmuth called. The turn came the filling up Stern. Hellmuth checked again, Stern bet $30,000 and Hellmuth called. The hit the river and Hellmuth checked a third time. Stern examined Hellmuth’s stack before moving all-in for $295,400. With about $60,000 behind, Hellmuth launched into one of his signature expletive-laden rants while the rest of the table again gathered around Leatherman to share their theories on the hand. (No one thought Stern was bluffing and Negreanu correctly put Hellmuth on queens).
“Boys, he might be bluffing here!” called out Hellmuth from the table.
“If he’s bluffing and he calls, he (Hellmuth) is going to feel like Superman,” Negreanu whispered to Leatherman and Co.
After a long, long tank, Hellmuth folded and Stern took it down, increasing his profits to $238,600.
Hellmuth busts: “Double straddle. I will ship weak,” declared Hellmuth as the cards went in the air.
Negreanu straddled to $800, and Hellmuth put on a $1,600 double straddle. Mercier called with , Katchalov called with in the big blind, Negreanu called from the straddle with and Hellmuth checked with . Katchalov led out for $3,200 with top pair on the flop. Negreanu raised to $10,200 with his open-ender and Hellmuth, also with top pair but a weaker kicker, moved all-in for $31,300. Mercier and Katchalov folded, leaving Negreanu to decide whether or not to call the additional $21,100. Getting better than 2-to-1 on his money, Negreanu made the call. They decided to run it once and Negreanu hit the on the turn to leave Hellmuth drawing only to chop. The river fell the , and Hellmuth left the table, down $100,000.
Final profit/loss: Dani Stern (+$185,500), Eugene Katchalov (+$56,200), Jason Mercier (+$44,000), Daniel Negreanu (-$19,300), Prahlad Friedman (-$67,800), Phil Hellmuth (-$100,000), Andre Capella (-$100,000)
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