This week’s episode of “Poker Night in America” was heavy on both poker and personalities.

Given the stellar lineup of stars, with a whopping 21 World Series of Poker gold bracelets won among the eight participants, the entire segment featured poker action from start to finish, ncluding the cutomary table banter audiences have come to enjoy, and at least one stunning hand with a “hero call” which was jaw-dropping.

This was the fourth installment filmed at Maryland Live!, a bustling casino and resort complex located midway between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. Initially filmed in late March 2015, all the high-stakes action took place inside at the Rams Head Center Stage, a popular nightclub venue usually reserved for music and comedy. On this night however, poker players were the ones who occasionally sang out of tune and told the off-color jokes.

PNiA host Chris Hanson opened the show by repeating the old fable about two people meeting — one with lots of money and the other with lots of experience. “It’s been said that when the person with money meets the person with experience, the person with experience ends up with winning the money, and the person with money ends up gaining experience,” Hanson said. “Well, the cash game at Maryland Live! is fileld with players with both money and experience.”

The starting lineup included — Greg Mueller, Tom Schneider, Layne Flack, Phil Hellmuth, Shaun Deeb, Matt Glantz, Phil DePaulo, and Robert Williamson III. This was about as stacked as it gets when it comes to table talk and good-natured insults. So admittedly, all the back and forth between the players created quite a challenge for editing in post production. One advantage to watching the unedited live stream on Twitch, which PNiA has pushed from the show’s inception two years ago, is seeing all the hands and hearing the banter unfiltered. Obviously, editing segments for a televised format, including softening some of the most hilaroious moments due to language and content, creates certain hands and conversations somewhat out of context. For instance, when watching a televised hand viewers may not be aware of the circumstances that led up to a bet, raise, call, or fold. Indeed, proper poker is played in sessions, not just in hands. The long run is what really matters.

Most of this lineup has been in poker for the long run, with only Phil DePaulo (a local player) and Robert Williamson III (a Pot-Limit Omaha specialist with a long history in televised poker events) as first-time participants on PNiA. All the other players have been featured on the show, some multiple times. This broad sense of familiarity added to the extended context of player experiences and hand-histories with each other, contributing perhaps to the show’s most memorable hand and shocking moment.

While the table was joking about Williamson’s penchant for drinking ice cold beer laced with Tabasco Sauce (not recommended, by the way), a startling hand broke out between Layne Flack (6-time gold bracelet winner) and Shaun Deeb (who won his first gold bracelet earlier this year, and is widely acknowledged as one of poker’s top cash game players and specialists in Open-Faced Chinese Poker). Here’s how the hand played out:

FLACK: Js 7s

DEEB: 6c 3s

BOARD: 10s 3h 2s Qh Kd

Obviously, neither player had much of a hand, with Deeb holding a seemingly weak pair of 3s. Yet somehow, the pot on this hand grew to $20,000.

Flack flopped a spade flush draw. Deeb flopped a vulnerable middle pair (threes). Flack bet agressively on the semi-bluff, including a $3,200 bet on the turn with one card to come and only four spades to the flush, which was snap called by Deeb as though he knew the small paid was good.

The river was a scary card for both players (the offsuit king), which was pretty much a blank for both in the heads-up showdown. Deeb checked his little pair. Flack calmly reached into his stack and counted out $5,500 and fired it into the pot. Flack missed his spade draw and had little option here other than to bluff if he had any interest in winning the pot, and so made a bold (and probably correct) decision given the pot odds and overlay (about 2 to 1 on his money). Deeb didn’t even hesitate. He called the $5,500 instantly and flipped over a 3 for the winning hand. Even Matt Glantz who was sitting beside Deeb was stunned by the call, and said, “that’s why he’s Shaun Deeb.” Meanwile, all Flack could do was bite his lower lip and smile, masking the obvious disappointment of losing a $20,000 pot.

That hand enabled Deeb to stage one of PNiA’s biggest single-day comebacks. At one point on the show, Deeb was down $31,000 (remember, the maximum buy-in is $20,000). Within only about a 30-,minute stretch, Deeb not only reversed the $31K deficit, he marched away with $2,300 in profit, not the biggest win of his career of course, but certainly satisfying. The session’s biggest winner was Matt Glantz, who pocketed $19,500. Robert Williamson III suffered the biggest loss, at $12,400. But he did manage to down several Coronas and Tabasco, most likley adding to the sense of heartburn.

Meanwhile, Phil Hellmuth was wathcing the drama unfold, well-aware Deeb was stuck badly. The former world champ retorted, “Well, one way or another, Deeb’s going to get even.” Hellmuth was right, and then some.

PNiA has one more episode of action at high-stakes cash game action at Maryland Live!, followed by a new series of games with another stellar lineup from the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City. We’ll be updating viewers and readers regualrly with highlights and reminders of what to expect on poker’s hottest weekly show on CBS Sports.

‘Til next week….


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