The final table is set for the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event. Among the nine players in the November Nine, one of them is going to walk away with the world championship, $10 million dollars, and a spot in history.
In honor of the final nine, here are the nine most unforgettable hands in the history of the WSOP Main Event. Some of the hands below gave the winner the world title. For others, it was a tearful exit. Either way, poker fans and poker players will forever remember these hands. Do you remember them all?
9. Jesus Finds A Miracle
Chris Ferguson may have earned himself the nickname “Jesus” as a result of his long hair, beard, and quiet, peaceful demeanor, but it was the final hand of the 2000 Main Event Championship that cemented the moniker. After a back and forth heads-up battle with T.J. Cloutier, Ferguson found himself put to the test: Cloutier pushed all-in before the flop. After tanking for several moments, Ferguson eventually said, “I’ll gamble with you,” and made the call, getting it in with As-9c as a 3:1 underdog against Ad-Qc. The flop, which came Kc-4h-2h, was no help to Ferguson, and neither was the turn, which brought out a Kh. Down to his last card, the 9h turned over on the river, giving Ferguson a pair and the Main Event Championship. For Cloutier, it would be yet another heartbreaking second place finish in the WSOP Main Event—he also lost to Bill Smith in 1985. He may not have turned water into wine, but “Jesus” found a miracle on the river. Of course, a decade later, we would find out that he was a False Messiah. Who knew?
In 1976, Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson won his first WSOP Main Event bracelet by beating out a field of 22 entrants. In the final hand of the tournament, he held 10s-2s against Jesse Alto’s As-Jd. To make matters worse, he got it all-in on an Ah-Js-10h board! Incredibly, despite having only an 11.92% chance to win, the turn brought out the 2c and the river the 10d, giving Brunson an unlikely runner-runner full house, the $200,000 first place prize, and the world championship.
A year later, Brunson would once again find himself playing heads-up for the title, this time against Gary “Bones” Berland. Once again, the hand would bring him luck, and another championship. Similar to the year before, Brunson’s 10s-2h trailed Berland’s 8h-5c when the flop came out 10d-8s-5h. The turn brought the 2c, giving Brunson the lead, and the two competitors went all-in. The river brought the 10c, giving Brunson yet another improbable full house, the $340,000 first-place prize, and a spot in poker history.
7. The Orient Express Keeps On Rolling
Before the online poker boom, the final hand of the 1988 WSOP Main Event was already one of the most famous hands in the history of poker, thanks largely in part to its inclusion in the movie Rounders a decade later. Not only did it give Johnny Chan his second straight Main Event bracelet, cementing him as one of the all-time great poker players, it also featured a brilliant move to trap eight-time WSOP bracelet winner Erik Seidel.
During heads-up play, Chan held Jc-9c, while Seidel had Qc-7h. The flop came out Qc-10h-8d, giving Seidel top pair and Chan the nut straight. After Seidel check-raised on the flop, Chan merely smooth-called. The turn, which brought out the 2s, saw both players check. When the river showed the 6d, Seidel pushed all in with his top pair. Chan, still holding the nuts, instantly made the call. The rest, as they say, is history. Chan defeated a field of 167 contestants and earned $700,000 for the win.
6. Quad Aces vs. Royal Flush
It’s a rare day on the tables when you can hit quad aces; it’s rarer still to lose with those quad aces! But that’s exactly what happened to Motoyuki Mabuchi on Day 1A of the 2008 WSOP Main Event.
After making a raise pre-flop with As-Ac, Motoyuki Mabuchi was left with only one competitor: Justin Phillips, who held Kd-Jd. The flop, Ah-Qd-9s, was a gold mine for Mabuchi, but both players checked. The turn was the 10d. Mabuchi bet $1,600 and Phillips, with a straight and the mother of all draws, smooth called. The river, incredibly, brought out the money card: Ad. The hand, as you can imagine, played out like this: Raise, re-raise, re-raise all-in, instant call. In the end, Mabuchi could do nothing but turn over his quad aces in shock; according to ESPN, the chances of this happening was 1 in 2,700,000,000.
5. Morgenstern Completes Epic Collapse
There are collapses, and there are collapses. The California Angels in 1995, Jean Van de Veld in 1999, and Anton Morgensten in 2013 all fall under the latter category.
With only 24 people left at the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event, German player Anton Morgenstern sat with nearly 30 million chips, and appeared to be an absolute certainty to make the final table. To give you an idea of his dominant chip lead, the second largest chip stack at the start of 2012’s final table was only 29 million. Then, all of a sudden, the wheels totally fell off, the likes of which have never before been seen on televised poker.
It began with Morgenstern trying to five-bet bluff an opponent with 8-7 off suit—his opponent held pocket aces. Next, he tangled with Mark Newhouse, calling Newhouse’s all-in bet with pocket eights. A queen on the flop would give Newhouse and his A-Q a much-needed double up. Despite these setbacks, Morgenstern still sat seventh out of 20 players.
Morgenstern and Newhouse would butt heads once again, battling it out for the largest pot of the tournament at the time. On a board of 2-A-A-3, Morgenstern bet 750,000 with Ac-Jc. Newhouse, holding pocket twos, raised it to 2 million. Morgenstern re-raised to 3.9million, prompting Newhouse to shove all-in for 10 million. Incredulously (I mean, what was he really beating here?), Morgenstern made the call. The river, a 4c, brought him no help, and the German now sat with just 5 million in chips, 18th out of 21.
A few hands later, Morgenstern would complete the historic collapse when he ran Ad-Js into Fabian Ortiz’ Ah-As, finishing in 20th place. ESPN poker commentator Lon McEachern would later remark, “From final table lock to Main Event footnote.”
4. Nothing But Tears For Matt Affleck
Usually, players competing in the WSOP Main Event try to abide by the number one rule of poker: leave emotion at the door. Unfortunately for Matt Affleck, the events of the 2010 Main Event would shatter his stoic nature, leaving him a sobbing, gibbering mess. In all honesty though, we don’t blame him—it also happens to be one of the sickest suck-outs of all time, especially considering the stakes.
On Day 8, Canadian poker pro Jonathan Duhamel held pocket jacks. That might have sounded impressive, until you saw Matt Affleck’s hand: pocket aces. After a series of bets, raises, and re-raises, the board showed 10-9-7-Q, and Matt Affleck was all in. After tanking for a few moments, Duhamel finally made the call, putting Matt Affleck’s tournament life at stake. With only 10 cards in the deck that could help him, Duhamel was in trouble. Unfortunately for Affleck, an 8 was one of those cards. Speechless, Affleck could only hold his hat in his hands as his heart shattered. On the other hand, Duhamel hid his face in his hoodie and broke into one of the biggest smiles the WSOP cameras have ever seen.
Following the defeat, Matt was caught on camera sobbing in the hallway. After taking a moment to collect himself, he returned to the playing area and shook hands with his table, earning the respect of the room. How much did this hand matter in the long run? Matt Affleck finished in 15th place for $500,000, while Duhamel would go on to become the first Canadian to ever win the Main Event, taking down $8.9 million. That one HAD to hurt.
With a board showing 8c-9d-9h-8h-8s, both men held a full house. Unfortunately for McBride’s title hopes, Scotty happened to have Jd-9c in his hand, giving him a higher full house. Nguyen pushed all in on the river, famously saying to McBride, “You call, it’s going to be all over, baby.” McBride did indeed make the call, exclaiming, “I play the board.” Scotty flipped over his hand and, just like he said, it was all over.
2. Stu Ungar Calls With Ten High
While it wasn’t played during the actual tournament, this hand is so incredible, it warrants mentioning. On the final day of the 1990 WSOP, Stu Ungar was among the chip leaders and on the cusp of his third Main Event title. However, when play began, Ungar was nowhere to be found! Eventually, he was discovered unconscious in his hotel room after overdosing on cocaine. Although he survived, he was unable to continuing playing. Despite this, he still managed to finish in 9th place.
Embarassed, and seeking to prove his merit to the poker world, Ungar challenged the eventual Main Event winner, Mansour Amtioubi, to a $50K heads-up match. This served as the setting for one of the all-time greatest hands in the history of poker.
With blinds at $250/$500, Ungar held a slim chip lead on Matioubi. He opened the betting with a raise to $1,600 out of the small blind, and Matioubi called with 4-5. The flop brought out a 3-3-7 rainbow. After Matioubi checked, Ungar again bet out, this time for $6,000, and Matioubi called. The turn was a king. Both players checked. The river brought out a queen—no one had hit anything. Matioubi shoved all-in for $32,000. Seconds later, Ungar mused out loud, “I think you’ve got 5-6 or 4-5 so I’m going to call you with this,” and flipped over 9-10. Incredibly, Stu Ungar had defeated the reigning world champion with 10-high, adding to the legend of “The Kid.”
1. Moneymaker’s Bluff of the Century
We all have our own favorite hands, but it’s hard to argue against the hand that almost single-handedly sparked the online poker boom at the turn of the millennium: Chris Moneymaker’s all-in bluff against Sam Farha during heads-up play for the 2003 Main Event Championship.
Holding Ks-7h, Moneymaker opened the action with a raise. Farha, who had Qs-9h, quickly made the call. The flop, which brought out 9s-2d-6s, saw both men check. The turn brought the 8s, leading to a bet by Farha, a raise by Moneymaker, and a flat call by Farha. The river brought out a harmless 3h, meaning that Moneymaker had missed both his flush and his straight draw, and that Sammy Farha’s pair of nines were the best hand. Nevertheless, Farha checked his hand. Inexplicably, Chris Moneymaker shoved all-in on a stone cold bluff! Farha contemplated the hand for a second but, despite correctly guessing that Moneymaker had missed his draw, he folded. After the hand, Moneymaker would take a large chip lead, eventually defeating Farha to claim a first-place prize worth $2.5 million. Somewhere a TV exec and an online poker CEO gave each other a giant high five.