Rory Young Beats Esfandiari at His Own Games at WPT Five Diamond
In one of the very last hands on Day 1 of the $10K buyin World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio, Antonio Esfandiari could be seen standing from his chair, prematurely ending his massage and making a less-than-enthused exit from the event he won seven years ago.
Esfandiari lost more than the 30,000 starting stack in the hand, and the chips were pushed over to a youthful, personable Australian — the kind of guy you can’t help but really like even as he smiles at you and drains your bank account.
Primarily an online cash game player, Rory Young plays some bigger live tournaments for some of the same reasons most people do — “catch up with people, have fun, try to win a milly.” He is looking to add to his $371K live tournament winnings in this one.
He recounted his Day 1, playing with Esfandiari at a fun table where there was no shortage of side bet action. In a way, it was a bit of a serendipitous table draw. You see, while Young had never played with “The Magician” and didn’t know much about his game, there was another game near and dear to both players’ hearts, one that supersedes any normal poker bond.
A notorious prop bettor, Esfandiari is credited with creating a prop bettor’s dream with the game “Lodden Thinks.” The name refers to Norwegian poker pro Johnny Lodden and here’s how you play: One person asks a question and betting surrounds what the person designated as “the brain” thinks the answer is. The actual answer is insignificant.
They were playing $1,000 a question and Young went on a good run.
“I think my Lodden game is pretty on point and [Antonio] is probably the GOAT at that game, and I won a little bit off him, but I think he was very good. I think he’s the best at Lodden Thinks that I’ve ever played.”
The first question was how many women does “the brain” — an older cash game player at the table named Brian — think that Young has slept with lifetime. In the game, the actual number does not matter. Players then set a line based on what they think Brian thinks is the number, until one of them “buys” the under.
Esfandiari took the under on 17 and the brain’s answer was 13, meaning Esfandiari won that one.
Another question was the brain’s approval rating of Trump, zero to 100. Esfandiari took the over on 93 and according to Young, Esfandiari was trying to book up to $80,000 in action with others at the table including Nick Petrangelo and Joseph Cheong. He only booked small pieces but it turned out, his confidence was for not as the brain’s number was 25.
Apparently the brain’s tablemates had a bad read on him, based on some “very Republican things” he had said.
The Hand that Busted Esfandiari’s First Bullet
In the second to last hand of the night on Day 1, blinds were 150/300/50 and Young opened under the gun with . Esfandiari three-bet small to around 2.4x from middle position and back on Young, he called.
“I can’t fold any hand I think, for that size.”
On the flop, Young check-called 2,300 after flopping Broadway for the nuts.
"On the flop, I don’t think I should check-raise, especially this hand. I could, but I chose to call."
On the turn, Young check-called 5,325 from Esfandiari.
“I’m going to check my entire range on every street, because the board doesn’t change much at all. So it doesn’t make sense for me to start having a leading range. On the turn, it just makes no theoretical sense to lead at all. Nothing’s changed. So generally you want to be leading when equities shift."
The river was the and Young checked once again after the board texture went unchanged and the flush draw missed.
"Again doesn’t change anything. And if I check, he’s still got some value bet hands like ace-queen, ace-king, pocket queens, pocket kings, pocket aces. So if I start leading, he might get sus and think I have a better hand, so he might not raise. But once I check, that also protects my checking range. Say if I have a hand like ace-jack, ace-ten, it means that he can’t just go ham and just keep bluffing everything. So if I start raising all my good hands early on in the hand, it means that he can just pretty much barrel me off everything that I get to the river by. So you need some traps to make sure people can’t just triple barrel against you.”
Esfandiari moved all in for 22,525 and Young snap-called to send Esfandiari packing, but he didn’t see Esfandiari’s hand as he just turned his over immediately.
“It was a fun day with him. And I was lucky enough to get his chips and his money from Lodden.”
From Australia to Bellagio
After working in bars from the age of 18 for a few years, Young found that he could make more money playing poker, so he switched to it full time.
“I busted a couple rolls, to be honest, in those early stages, because I wasn’t used to having so much money at the start. But then kind of knuckled down and really treated it like a job eventually.”
He added, “I think it’s a lesson a lot of poker players go through. Like, you need to lose your money to realize like, ‘oh shit, I need to take this seriously.’”
Now, after recently turning 26, he says his current poker goals include “probably to look at getting into things outside of poker, honestly.” He says he doesn’t have the passion and drive for poker as a lot of the players like the Nick Petrangelos who travel and play all the stops.
“Maybe I’ll get that passion again, but I don’t see myself traveling too much. I'll play some WPTs now that I'm in San Diego. I'll play the World Series every year. But apart from that, I want to just focus on playing online."
Young recently moved to San Diego, California and was originally planning to fly back to Sydney for the WSOP Circuit event there. But he and his best friend Adrian Attenborough, who took third in the $10K Bellagio Cup this year in July for $361,660, decided to just make the short trip for the WPT Five Diamond instead as Attenborough had some money to collect from the casino. It seems to be a good trip so far with Young hovering in the top 10 chip stacks on Day 2.
While Young did put in about a year of “pretty intense study” a couple years back, he admits he slacked off a bit in the past year while playing in some soft games and letting the study part take a backseat to playing. He attributes his staying sharp more recently primarily to talking hands with Attenborough.
“I think he’s one of the best in the world for sure.”
In addition to talking hands with strong players, according to Young, “I would say the best way to stay sharp is to use PIOsolver. It’s all about just putting in the hours and learning how the fundamentals and theoretics of poker work, and then using that information and applying it to other people’s games and seeing how you can exploit their weaknesses.”
Outside of poker you might see Young hitting the beach, playing sports, exploring and hanging out with friends, and he says he recently got into fitness, so that will be a big focus of his in the next six months. For the moment, he seems pretty focused on having fun in the WPT Five Diamond — and running up a stack while he's at it.
Photos courtesy of WPT
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