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Chris Moneymaker’s bluff one of best poker hands in WSOP history

Updated May 26, 2019 - 6:04 pm

Certain hands will live on in poker lore for as long as the game is played.

Aces and eights are known as a “dead man’s hand” because that’s the hand legendary gunfighter “Wild Bill” Hickok was dealt when he was shot and killed while playing five-card stud in 1876 in Deadwood, South Dakota.

A hundred years later, the starting hand of 10-2 became known as the “Doyle Brunson hand” after the Longworth, Texas, native won World Series of Poker Main Event titles in 1976 and 1977 with a 10-2 on the final hand both years.

To celebrate the 50th WSOP, which starts Tuesday at the Rio Convention Center, a “First Fifty Honors” gala will take place June 29, when players will be presented awards (based on online voting) in seven categories, including most memorable WSOP TV hand.

Here are the six nominees for memorable TV hand. Fans also have a write-in option, so we included the double “Doyle Brunson hand” at the bottom of the list as our write-ins.

Sammy Farha vs. Chris Moneymaker, 2003 WSOP Main Event

Moneymaker, an unknown accountant at the time from Atlanta, won a heads-up hand with Farha, a seasoned pro, in what ESPN announcer Norman Chad called “the bluff of the century.” Farha flopped a pair of 9s, and both players missed flush draws on the river. Farha checked, and Moneymaker went all in with a king high.

“You must have missed your flush draw, huh?” Farha said.

Farha had the right read but eventually folded. Moneymaker raked in the huge pot en route to winning the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold’em World Championship that ignited a poker boom.

“I never really thought he was going to call,” Moneymaker, 43, told the Review-Journal on Friday. “I just thought he had, at best, one pair, and I didn’t think he would call with one pair.

“I learned over the years it’s not good practice to try to get people to fold pairs. But when you’re playing for the world championship, there’s a lot of pressure to call with one pair.”

Moneymaker vs. Phil Ivey, 2003 WSOP Main Event

It was past 3 a.m. at Binion’s when Moneymaker flopped three queens. Ivey, with pocket 9s, caught a 9 on the turn for a full house and went all-in. Moneymaker called and caught a miracle ace on the river for a fuller house to eliminate arguably the best player left in the field.

“Whenever I have a bad beat or something bad happens, I always think back to me hitting that ace on the river against Ivey or getting away with that bluff, and it makes everything better,” Moneymaker said. “I’ve been pretty fortunate.”

Johnny Chan vs. Erik Seidel, 1988 WSOP Main Event final hand

This hand was featured in the poker film “Rounders.” And like Mike McD did in his heads-up match against Teddy KGB at the end of the movie, Chan flopped the nut straight against Seidel, who had a pair of queens. Chan trapped Seidel by leading him to believe that he had the best hand. When the turn came with a 2, Chan checked and Seidel went all-in. Chan called, the river brought a 6, and the WSOP paid that man his money.

Connor Drinan vs. Cary Katz, 2014 WSOP Big One for One Drop

Both players went all-in with pocket aces in the $1 million buy-in event that paid $15 million to the winner. After turning over their hole cards, Katz said, “Can we just chop?” The flop brought two hearts, giving Katz a shot at a flush. The turn brought another heart, and Katz caught a fifth heart on the river as Drinan was flushed out of the tournament in brutal fashion.

Matt Affleck vs. Jonathan Duhamel, 2010 WSOP Main Event

Affleck, in position to advance to the November Nine, had pocket aces and Duhamel pocket jacks. The flop came 10-9-7, and Duhamel checked. Affleck bet $5 million, and Duhamel called. The turn brought a queen, and Duhamel checked again before Affleck went all-in with $11.6 million. Duhamel called and caught an 8 on the river for a straight to eliminate Affleck en route to winning the Main Event title. Affleck was stunned by the river card and caught on camera throwing a water bottle in disgust as he left the venue before returning to shake hands with the remaining players.

Scotty Nguyen vs. Kevin McBride, 1998 WSOP Main Event final hand

Playing heads-up, Nguyen had jack-9, and the flop came 8-9-9, giving him three 9s. The turn brought the 8 of hearts, giving Nguyen a full house and McBride a straight flush draw. An 8 on the river made a full house on the board — 8s over 9s. Nguyen, with 9s over 8s, bet out $310,000, which would put McBride all-in if he called. Nguyen then said, “You call and it’s going to be all over, baby.” McBride replied, “I call. I play the board.” It was all over, baby.

Brunson vs. Jesse Alto, 1976 WSOP Main Event final hand

Brunson was heads-up against Alto, who flopped aces and jacks. Brunson went all in with a pair of 10s, and Alto called. “Texas Dolly” then caught a deuce on the turn and a 10 on the river for a full house and his first Main Event title.

Brunson vs. Gary “Bones” Berland, 1977 WSOP Main Event final hand

Brunson was heads-up against Berland, who flopped 8s and 5s. The turn brought a deuce, giving Brunson the top pair of 10s and 2s. Berland went all in, and Brunson called before catching a 10 on the river for a full house for the second straight year on the final hand.

For good measure, Brunson won his 10th WSOP gold bracelet in 2005 with a 10-3. He retired last year at age 85.

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Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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