For those who don't know, the world's highest-buy in-ever poker tournament concluded last Tuesday with the finale of the Big One for One Drop at the WSOP. This historical event cost a hefty $1 million to enter and awarded over $18 million to first, after donating $6 million to charity. This was the largest ever payout in poker history. The winner was Antonio Esfandiari, cementing his place in poker and sports history.
The final hand of the match was an exciting one to watch and I could feel the pressure just watching it on T.V. There were no hole cards shown as the event was being shown on a delay live on ESPN. Watching what would become history without knowing who had what incited a bit of anxiety. I can't imagine what the players were feeling and thinking, as they had to make an $18 million decision.
I thought it would only be fitting to review the final hand of this epic tournament.
We start the hand with Antonio holding 1.6 million in chips and Sam Trickett just over 35 million. The players were showing almost every hand when the other would fold which made for a unique dynamic. It was obvious that neither was going try any big bluffs. When a player bet, he usually had something and not much bluffing was going on other than Antonio 3 bet bluffing pre-flop a few times.
After a minute or so of figuring out who the button is, Esfandiari raises to $1.8 million from the button. Trickett calls and the flop comes down Jack of Diamonds, 5 of Diamonds, 5 of Clubs. Trickett checks the flop and Antonio bets out. Tricket check raises to 5.4 million.
On a board like this, it is unlikely anyone has a piece so Antonio could easily be bluffing and a check raise may just win the pot now. However, Trickett is leaving himself with few chips, as he only had about 20 big blinds to start the hand. After calling pre-flop and check raising to 5.4 million on the flop, Trickett leaves himself with less than 30 million and the pot is over 10 million.
Antonio min raises to $10 million and Trickett tanks for what seems like forever. Antonio's bet basically puts Sam to a decision for all his chips. He can't just call because he will have less that $20 million left and the pot will be well over that. If he has the goods he just shoves all in, and if he thinks Antonio is bluffing he does the same.
It's very unlikely Antonio is bluffing here as he knows Sam has few chips left and his raise almost pot commits him. There could be some deep meta-game thinking going on. Something along the lines of “Sam knows he can't bet this because I'm pot committed so he knows that I know that he knows and so on.
When Trickett tanks we can deduce he does not have a 5, as he would not be putting on a show trying to get a call, since Antonio will likely call any bet because there is so much out there. His move is a bit peculiar as he min raises to $15 million leaving him with few chips left.
The only reason I can hypothesize that Trickett does this is, one, he feels Esfandiari is bluffing and Sam has maybe a pair other than jacks or a flush draw and has outs if he does get called. So he’s possibly thinking, “I'm calling either way, why not try and min raise and that percent of the time he is bluffing I win the pot.” It's a very high level of thinking and in retrospect is a smart play.
Antonio then goes all in and Sam reluctantly calls for his tournament life. Esfandiari flips over 75 off suit for 3 of a kind and Trickett shows Q diamonds, 6 diamonds for the flush draw. He still has a 3-1 shot at winning the hand and if Antonio had the Jack, which was very likely, he’s only a 2-1 dog.
The board runs out 3 of hearts and the 2 of hearts leaving Tricket on the side and making Antonio the richest man in poker.
While watching the hand it was perplexing to put either player on a hand. Once Trickett tanks after the 4 bet, it became a bit clear what he had and it was just a matter of him deciding if he wanted to risk everything on the draw. Of course we saw the 3 fives, but in reality his play was not all that bad. He was out chipped over 3-1 and had a draw on a board that is unlikely to hit most of the time.
Let's not feel too bad for Sam Trickett, as he did win $10 million for second place. We have to give Antonio Esfandiari credit, as he played a masterful tournament and truly deserved his win. And of course, the real winners in all this are the many people who will get fresh, clean drinking water thanks to the $6 million being donated from this event.