A noticeably different “High Stakes Poker” kicked off its seventh season on GSN over the weekend. With longtime announcers Gabe Kaplan and A.J. Benza officially out of the picture, GSN welcomed former “Saturday Night Live” funny man Norm Macdonald as the series’ new host, with PartyPoker pro Kara Scott conducting interviews from the sidelines. New episodes air on Saturday nights at 8:00pm ET and 11:00pm ET. Read our interview with Macdonald.
It didn’t take long for the action to become fast and furious. In the second pot shown on Saturday’s kickoff episode, Victory Poker front man Antonio Esfandiari bet $17,100 on a flop of 4-9-3 with 10-9 for top pair and Treasure Island Las Vegas owner Phil Ruffin called with pocket threes for bottom set. Vanessa Seblst pushed the action to $63,800 with pocket queens and Esfandiari folded after Ruffin attempted to 3bet out of turn.
When the action got back around to the amateur, he made it $117,100 and Selbst lamented, “I didn’t expect that.” Still, she could not part with her premium pocket pair and shoved all-in. Ruffin snap-called to set up a $475,000 pot and the turn and river were run once. Sixes filled out the board and Selbst bought back in for the $200,000 minimum. She later told her tablemates, “I’m not afraid to go broke in the first orbit of ‘High Stakes Poker.’” Selbst is just the third woman ever to appear on the show.
Macdonald dubbed the continuous confrontations “the pros against the zillionaires” and a $428,000 pot quickly followed. In it, retired businessman Bill Klein made a continuation bet of $7,000 on a flop of K-10-5 with two hearts holding pocket aces. David “Viffer” Peat, who was far and away the most active player at the table, raised to $24,000 with J-10 of hearts and Klein popped it to $67,000.
Peat wasted no time moving in for $209,000 and Klein called to set up the show’s second $400,000 pot. The coin flip was run one time and Peat spiked a heart on the river to double up.
Midway through the first Season 7 episode, PokerStars pro Barry Greenstein was up $83,000, Peat had profited $231,000, and Ruffin was the big winner at $241,000. The former forced Klein to lay down top pair on a J-4-3-Q board after check-raising to $123,000. Greenstein held pocket nines in the hand and Klein gave up Q-7.
A new feature called “High Stakes Legends” aired and focused on four-time bracelet winner and Main Event champion Puggy Pearson. The segment was one of several new additions for Season 7, which include the show being broadcast in 3D and carrying the official sponsorship of PokerStars. The season was also filmed at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip for the first time and no Full Tilt Poker pros were present.
In one of the final pots of the night, Ruffin raised to $3,300 pre-flop with A-K and poker legend Doyle Brunson called with pocket queens. Macdonald pointed out that, in tournaments, these situations would often lead to all-in coin flips. “High Stakes Poker,” however, is a cash game and the first three cards came 7-3-4. Brunson checked, Ruffin bet $20,000, and Brunson insta-folded.
On the rationale for Brunson’s laydown, Macdonald chimed in, “Perhaps Vanessa’s queens running into Ruffin’s set of threes earlier is playing tricks with Doyle’s mind.” After raking in the pot, Ruffin was up over a quarter of a million dollars on the night.
Check out new episodes of GSN’s “High Stakes Poker” on Saturdays at 8:00pm ET and 11:00pm ET.