Phil Laak returns to High Stakes Poker as Justin Gavri takes beat after beat

Mo Afdhal
Posted on: March 04, 2024 15:36 PST

High Stakes Poker continued its Season 12 run with a new episode on Monday night, featuring the triumphant return of one of the show's seasoned veterans, PhilLaak.

It's been nearly thirteen years since Laak last graced the felt on a HSP set, but watching Monday's episode you wouldn't have thought it. Laak seemed right at home, back where he belongs. The action didn't revolve around him -- it never did -- but the table dynamic, and chatter, flowed through him at all times.

Laak's presence brought an old-school feel to the table and hearing his unadulterated thoughts felt a little like stepping into a time machine. The only thing missing was his old buddy AntonioEsfandiari.

High Stakes Poker Antonio Abrego

Back to back bad beats for Gavri

NikAirball and ChinoRheem made their season debuts, joining returning players JustinGavri, Jean-RobertBellande, VivianYang, AndrewRobl, and SanthoshSuvarna.

For Gavri, the episode went about as bad as it could. Gavri's first bad beat came against Yang, in a double-straddled pot, with about $220,000 in his stack. Airball's raise pre-flop led to Gavri shooting it up to $20,000 with J♦️️ J♣. Yang, closing the action, put in the call with 9♠ 8♠, having already committed the $4,000 from Airball's initial raise.

It would take a special flop for these two hands to commit all the money, given how deep the two players were. The J♠ 7♠ 10♦️️ certainly qualified, giving Gavri top set and Yang the nut straight. Gavri bet, Yang raised, and the chips went in. There was hope for Gavri, any board-pairing card or the case jack would give him the win. The two players ran the board out twice, but the full house didn't come home for him on either and the $372,900 went to Yang.

Laak summarized the beat in a way only he could, saying, "That is an FI wipeout right there."

High Stakes Poker Antonio Abrego

Still, Gavri wasn't out of the game just yet. The very next hand, with about $40,000 left, he took an aggressive line pre-flop with K♦️️ Q❤️ -- maybe just trying to take down the dead money in the middle. This time, Suvarna wanted to be the one to put the beat on and made the call with 4❤️ 4♦️️.

Again, Gavri caught a big piece of the flop while his opponent caught a bigger one: 4♠ K♠ 2♠. Gavri bet out and Suvarna opted to play his set slowly with just a call. The turn came the Q♦️️, making it impossible for Gavri to stop betting his hand. The chips went in and when Gavri saw he was behind, all he could do was nod his head and throw his hands up in the air as if to say, 'What can I do?' The players ran the board out twice but, again, no help for Gavri.

Robl's coup de grace

The last hand of the episode -- it's always the last hand, isn't it? Gavri had reached into his bag and pulled out another $100,000. Imagine the excitement, or perhaps dread, when the action went raise, three-bet, and he looked down at J♠ J❤️ once again.

To his credit, Gavri didn't shrink from the spot and put in the cold four-bet to $27,000. Robl, the original raiser, had K♠ K♣ and raised again, to $47,500. Not in a folding mood, Gavri committed the rest of his chips and Robl put in the call. The two players agreed to run out two full boards and the entire table, Robl included, wanted to see Gavri take half the pot.

Good-natured wishes mean little at the poker table, however, and the poker gods rarely grant mercy, even to those who deserve it. Across both run outs, Robl's kings held and the entire $233,300 pot went his way.

Gavri simply reached down for his bag and announced the addition of another $100,000 -- determined to keep battling it out with the heavyweights on poker's biggest stage.

High Stakes Poker Season 12 continues next Monday on PokerGO with Episode Four airing at 8:00pm ET.

Images Courtesy of PokerGO