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The Poker Hand that Propelled Antonio Esfandiari's Career

Poker players can sometimes point to specific events or hands that mark a turning point in their careers. Winning or losing a crucial pot can sometimes make a big difference in the direction taken with regard to stake levels played in future cash games or tournaments.

Poker Hall of Famer and Team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein touched on this subject in a recent blog post at PokerStars. Unfortunately for Greenstein, the hand in question turned out to be a loser for him, while Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari scooped up a massive $600,000 pot and went on to bigger and better things such as winning the inaugural Big One for One Drop.

The poker hand played out on the seventh season of High Stakes Poker and saw Greenstein holding pocket fours while looking at a flop of #10c#6h#4h. All of his money made it into the middle in a duel with Esfandiari, who held #7h#8h in the hole. Greenstein’s set ended up second best when The Magician caught another heart for a flush.

At that point, it was the biggest hand Antonio had ever won in his life, while for me, it was the one that really did me in on High Stakes Poker,” lamented Greenstein. “I haven’t played a high roller event since I lost that pot, whereas it really turned Antonio around. He did really well that session and started playing high roller and super high roller events shortly thereafter.”

Barry, was the hand legit?

Many viewers who saw the action on High Stakes Poker wondered whether some of the hands were set up in order to make for more riveting television. Greenstein quickly assures those cynics that all the hands on High Stakes Poker were real.

“The reason the hands can look a little bit set up to people is because only the most interesting ones made the cut,” said the ‘Robin Hood of Poker.’ “When you take out all the boring hands and only leave the compelling ones, it can seem artificial. I remember speaking with one of the producers at the end of an eight-hour session, and he told me the day’s action was so boring there was only one hand they might show.”

Greenstein also stated that he sold none of his action on the show, while other pros had entered into staking deals. The players who appeared on High Stakes Poker were paid $1,250 per hour, but the bankrolls were their own.

Not only did I have 100% of myself on High Stakes Poker, but that $600,000 pot did some damage, and it changed the course of the events I played in the following years,” Greenstein admitted. “I have no doubt Antonio would have been successful regardless, but there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have seen him atop the money list if he hadn’t won that pot. I almost think the result of that pot ended up sending each of us in different directions.”

A comeback for High Stakes Poker?

High Stakes Poker was done in by Black Friday in 2011. Players and fans who miss watching the broadcast may see some version of the show on TV once again. At least that’s what many are hoping after GSN released a YouTube video that directed fans of the show to take a survey.

The survey asked a number of questions to those who elected to provide answers such as how much poker on TV they watch and whether High Stakes Poker was one of their favorites. Queries also focused on whether fans have been watching episodes online, if it matters who the players are, and how likeable both the host and reporter were —Gabe Kaplan and Kara Scott.

The survey and video are apparently no longer online. But many episodes of High Stakes Poker are, which fans of the show undoubtedly watch while waiting to see if the survey was done in an effort to gauge a possible resurrection.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.