In the first article in this series, we covered some of the most iconic moments and personalities of the WSOP. From the early days with Amarillo Slim, Johnny Moss and Doyle Brunson to Antonio Esfandiari’s historic win at the Big One for One Drop, poker has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the history of the WSOP. As part of the lead up to the WSOP-C Playground, which runs from August 18 to September 2, we will continue with our recap of the ten most memorable and influential moments in WSOP history with moments five through two.
5- Johnny Chan, the Master
The 1988 WSOP Main Event heads-up match has gone down in poker lore. Well known to poker players at the time, this moment was featured in the 1998 film Rounders, which immortalized it in popular culture. The fateful play that gave Chan the victory inspired some elements of the film, which also featured stock footage of the final hand.
Chan had won the Main Event in 1987 and was looking to go back-to-back. Erik Seidel, a future Poker Hall of Famer, was a relative newcomer to the WSOP and looking to stop him.
In what would be the final hand of the tournament, Chan flopped a queen-high straight against Seidel’s top pair. Seidel raised Chan’s flop bet, which Chan only called, setting up the trap. Both players checked the blank turn. Another blank fell on the river, and Chan checked to the aggressor, Seidel, who fell for the trap and moved all in.
“Will Erik Seidel fall for the bait?” the announcer asked. “Yes, he’s going all in, and Chan has him. Johnny Chan, the master.”
Chan made the snap call, captured the Main Event title and helped cement his legacy in the process. Click here to watch this historic moment.
4- The “Poker Brat” is Born; Phil Hellmuth Denies Johnny Chan and Captures the Main Event Title
At the 1989 Main Event, all eyes were on reigning champion Johnny Chan. Everyone expected the “Orient Express” to cruise to his third consecutive victory. At the final table, the only player that stood in his way was the young, brash “Poker Brat” from Madison, Wisconsin – Phil Hellmuth Jr.
Chan was carrying a lot of momentum into the late stages of the event, but, as poker players know, things can change quickly in tournament poker. When the action was four-handed, Hellmuth busted two players on the same hand to get down to heads-up play. The double elimination gave Hellmuth a big chip lead and set the stage for his breakout win.
In the final hand of the tournament, Chan moved all-in holding the A♠7♠ and was up against Hellmuth’s 9♠9♣. The K♣K♦10♥ flop gave Chan some counterfeit outs, but neither the Q♠ turn nor 6♠ river helped Chan, and Hellmuth’s nines stood tall.
“And there it is, Hellmuth wins the championship,” the commentator exclaimed. “So, Phil gets the money, the gold bracelet, but perhaps best of all he has the knowledge that he beat one of the all-time greats Johnny Chan.” Little did the commentator know that this heads-up duel would be a historic moment between two living legends of the game.
3- Jonathan Duhamel Wins 2010 WSOP Main Event Championship
In 2010, Jonathan Duhamel, from Boucherville, Quebec became the first Canadian to win the WSOP Main Event. Two Canadians had previously finished in the runner-up spot;.Tuan Lam took second place in 2007, losing to Jerry Yang, and Howard Goldfarb did the same in 1995, losing to Dan Harrington.
Duhamel overcame a huge field of 7,319 entrants in what was the second-largest WSOP Main Event in history (at the time). As those who watched the event will remember, Duhamel’s most dramatic moment came before the final table in what has become a classic hand against Matt Affleck.
Duhamel stubbornly stayed in a hand with pocket jacks despite repeated raises and bets from Affleck, concluding with an all-in, on a 10-9-7-queen board. Affleck flipped up pocket aces and stood up in preparation for the final community card. Ten cards could save Duhamel from awarding the vast majority of his stack to Affleck, and he caught one of them on the river — an 8 to make a straight.That sent Affleck out in fifteenth place, devastated despite the promise of a $500,165 payout, and set up Duhamel with a massive amount of chips that would set him on his way to victory.
Duhamel’s friends and family packed the Penn & Teller theatre with Montreal Canadiens sweaters and Canadian flags, giving him plenty of support from the rail. The final table saw the likes of well known players Michael Mizrachi, Joseph Cheong, and John Racener.
Duhamel kept his composure during the lengthy final table battle and managed his chips carefully so that, by the time he found himself playing heads-up for the title against John Racener, he had all the momentum and most of the chips. Before long, Duhamel dispatched his final opponent to become the first Canadian WSOP Main Event champion.
Duhamel collected a whopping $8,944,310 in prize money. He was also presented with the widely-cherished and universally-revered gold and diamond-encrusted gold bracelet, representing the game’s highest achievement.
2- Stu Ungar Wins One Last Time
In 1997, Stu Ungar made poker history by winning the WSOP Main Event for the third time (Johnny Moss won it three times, but the first time was by player vote). It was one of poker’s most historic comebacks after he went back-to-back in 1980 and 1981. Unfortunately, Ungar would pass away a little more than a year later.
A two-time WSOP Champion by the age of 25, Stuey “The Kid” Ungar was written off by the poker community after falling on hard times due to his addiction issues, but in 1997 “The Kid” added a third World Series of Poker Main Event title to his resume (his tenth win in the 30 $10,000 poker tournaments he entered in his lifetime) and in the process was given a new moniker, “The Comeback Kid.”
Ungar’s comeback would be short-lived, as his newfound windfall caused him to fall back into his bad habits. He was found dead in a Las Vegas hotel room just a year after his improbable comeback.
As you can see, there have been plenty of historic moments throughout the decades of the WSOP. Thanks to the consistent popularity of WSOP events, this iconic poker brand continues to make history. Don’t miss your chance to be part of it when the WSOP-C Playground returns from August 18 to September 2!