Happy New Year, everyone! Can you believe it's already 2010? Another decade has come and gone. Wasn't it just yesterday we were worried about Y2K?
Back in 2000, poker was still in its infancy. Internet poker was just being introduced. Poker was very hard to follow on television. The World Series of Poker main event was the focal tournament of the year.
However, by 2003, an accountant from Tennessee, Chris Moneymaker, changed poker forever. With his fairy-tale victory over Sammy Farha, Moneymaker launched internet poker into the stratosphere, while millions witnessed his victory on ESPN via hole cameras. However, one thing that did not change throughout the decade is that the WSOP main event was still the tournament of the year.
Now that we've reached a new decade, let's take a trip down memory lane and look back at the top 10 hands of the 2000s from the WSOP main event. They are listed in chronological order.
Jesus' miracle 9 on the river (2000)
This remarkable hand was missed by most of the poker world, as it occurred before the television era was in full swing. The heads-up battle was between Chris Ferguson, the long-haired, cerebral player nicknamed "Jesus" and T.J. Cloutier, the most accomplished tournament player of his era. Although Ferguson had a huge chip lead entering heads-up action, Cloutier never gave up, battling back to almost even when the final hand occurred. Eventually, Cloutier put Ferguson to the ultimate test by pushing all-in with Ad-Qc. After going into the tank, Ferguson finally decided to gamble and called. However, he suddenly realized his As-9c was a 3:1 underdog. After the flop came Kc-4h-2h, the turn (Kh) brought some chop outs for Ferguson. Unbelievably, the 9h (a three outer) hit on the river, making Ferguson the 2000 WSOP main event champion. Ferguson raised his hands in triumph, while Cloutier had to settle for his second runner-up finish in the WSOP main event (he lost to Bill Smith in 1985), denying him the one missing piece in his storied career.
"The Matador" fights off Tomko's pocket aces (2001)
The following year, another incredible hand was unseen by the general public with a similar pair of characters. The heads-up battle was once again between a relative unknown, Carlos Mortensen aka "The Matador," versus a member of the old guard and current Hall of Famer Dewey Tomko. Preflop, Mortensen raised holding Kc-Qc and Tomko called. With a flop of Jd-10c-3c, Mortensen had both a straight and flush draw. Eventually, the two players pushed all-in, as Tomko revealed his As-Ah. Although the turn (3d) did not help Mortensen, the river (9d) completed his straight. Mortensen captured the 2001 WSOP main event title, while Tomko was denied the WSOP main event bracelet for the second time in his career (also finishing second to Jack Straus in 1982).
Moneymaker versus Ivey (2003)
Before 2009, Phil Ivey had never made a WSOP final table, although he had come close three times (2002: 23rd place, '03: 10th, '05: 20th). No year was more agonizing than 2003, when he finished as the final-table bubble boy in this unforgettable hand. Sitting in early position, Moneymaker raised to $60,000, holding Ah-Qd. Ivey called with 9s-9h in late position. The dealer revealed a big flop for Moneymaker: Qs-Qh-6s. The turn swung the hand in Ivey's favor when the 9c hit the felt. After they ended up getting the chips all-in, it appeared Ivey would enter the final table as the chip leader and the clear favorite to win the 2003 WSOP main-event bracelet. Amazingly, Moneymaker would not be denied, as the dealer flipped over the As on the river. Moneymaker led the remaining players to the final table, while Ivey would have to wait until 2009 for his shot.
Moneymaker's bluff of the decade maybe the century (2003)
This hand changed poker forever. Moneymaker held a slight $4.6 million to $3.8 million lead over Sammy Farha entering this hand. Holding Ks-7h, Moneymaker raised and Farha called holding Qs-9h. After a checked flop of 9s-6s-2d, things got interesting quickly on the turn when the dealer revealed the 8s. Giving him an open-ended straight draw and a king-high flush draw, Moneymaker tried a semi-bluff on Farha by check-raising, but Farha would not back down and called. When the dealer flipped over the 3h on the river, Moneymaker missed all of his draws. Undaunted, he declared "I'm all-in." With top pair, Farha agonized over this decision, as Moneymaker held his breath, praying for a fold. Eventually, Farha mucked his hand as the soon-to-be champion exhaled in utter relief.
One and done (2005)
On the very first hand of Day 1, Farha looked down at Ah-10d. Folded to him in late position, Farha raised to $200 with blinds $25/$50. Sitting in the big blind, actor Oliver Hudson reraised to $450 with 10s-10c. Farha called to see an incredible flop: Ad-Ac-10h. Unbelievably, both players flopped a full house. Unfortunately for Hudson, his was second-best and he was actually drawing dead! After both players checked the flop, Hudson eventually pushed all-in on the turn. After Farha insta-called, Hudson couldn't believe his eyes. As he walked away from the ESPN stage in complete disbelief and shock, Hudson muttered, "That's the way to get beat, I guess."
7-3 offsuit equals $7.5 million (2005)
After playing for 14 hours at the final table, the heads-up battle was short and sweet. Only six hands into heads-up play, with blinds $150,000/$300,000, antes $50,000, Steve Dannenmann raised to $700,000 holding Ad-3c. With a huge chip stack, Joe Hachem with 7c-3s took a chance and called. It was a great decision when the dealer flipped over 6h-5d-4d. After Hachem checked his flopped straight, Dannenmann bet $700,000. Hachem check-raised to $1.7 million and Dannenmann called. The dealer turned the As and the stage was set. This time, Hachem let out for $2 million, prompting Dannenmann to raise to $5 million. After some fun banter back and forth, Hachem declared that he was all-in. A few moments later, a weary Dannenmann called. Having to only avoid a 7 for a chop, Hachem raised his arms in triumph when the 4c fell on the river, crowning the Australian as the 2005 WSOP champion.
Wasicka folds straight-flush draw three-handed (2006)
With the tournament down to its final three competitors, Jamie Gold had a huge chip lead ($64 million) on his two remaining competitors Paul Wasicka ($14 million) and Michael Binger ($11 million) before this memorable hand. After Gold limped on the button with 4s-3c, Wasicka completed with 8s-7s from the small blind. Binger tried to spoil the party by raising to $1.5 million, but both players called the raise to see a three-handed flop. What a flop it was for all three players: 10c-6s-5s. After Gold and Waiscka checked, Binger led out for $3.5 million. As Wasicka prepared for his next move, Gold shockingly pushed all-in. "This is sick!" Wasicka exhorted, holding a straight-flush draw. After serious contemplation, Wasicka ultimately folded. The turn made Wasicka look like a hero when the 7c fell, but the river Qs made the world question his decision.
One in 2.7 billion (2008)
During Day 1A, this hand seemed to start innocently enough. With blinds $150/$300, Motoyuki Mabuchi looked down at As-Ac in mid-position. After raising to $850, only the button, Justin Phillips, came along to see the flop, and what a flop it was for Mabuchi: Ah-Qd-9s. After both checked the flop, the dealer turned the 10d. With all the draws, Mabuchi bet $1,600 and Phillips called. On the river, the dealer revealed what seemed to be the bingo card for Mabuchi: the Ad. Quad aces! Mabuchi bet $2,500 to incite his opponent, but surprisingly, Phillips raised him to $8,500. Excitedly, Mabuchi shoved all-in. After he was snap-called, Phillips revealed his Kd-Jd for a royal flush. Stunned, Mabuchi flipped over his aces, as the entire table gasped in complete disbelief. Quad aces lost to a royal flush! ESPN reported that the odds of this scenario occurring is one in 2.7 billion hands.
Ladies let Hamrick down (2008)
In 2008, the concept of the November Nine was introduced. Although some traditionalists were against this novel idea, there was no denying that the four-month delay created a buzz around the WSOP main event final table. Therefore, as the final 10 players assembled, no one wanted to be the ultimate bubble boy. After 90 tense minutes, the first all-in electrified the crowd. Initially, Peter Eastgate raised to $750,000, followed by Dean Hamrick's reraise to $2.1 million holding Qd-Qc. Craig Marquis four-bet by pushing all-in, and after Eastgate got out of the way, Hamrick decided to make the call. When Marquis revealed his As-Qh, he was over a 2:1 underdog with the possibility of going home in 10th place. Although the flop of Jh-7s-3h seemed innocuous for Hamrick, the 4h on the turn created tremendous drama as Marquis picked up a flush draw. With the entire crowd standing in anticipation, the dealer revealed the 5h on the river. This runner-runner flush saved Marquis' tournament, while slicing Hamrick's stack in half. Shortly thereafter, Hamrick was eliminated by Marquis, earning the dubious honor becoming of the first November Nine bubble boy.
Moon eclipses Kopp in clash of poker titans (2009)
It was the most talked-about hand of the 2009 WSOP main event leading up to the final table. With 12 players remaining, two players seemed destined to make the November Nine: Billy Kopp and Darvin Moon. Kopp had shared the title of chip leader with Moon for most of the final day. However, the following hand would change the destiny of both players. With blinds $120,000/$240,000, antes $30,000, Kopp raised from under-the-gun to $600,000 with 5d-3d. After each player folded, Moon, sitting in the small blind, looked down at Qd-Jd and made the call. After the big blind folded, the dealer revealed an incredible flop: Kd-9d-2d. Both players had flopped a flush. Let the games begin! After Moon checked, Kopp bet $750,000 and Moon just called. On the turn, the dealer turned the 2h. Once again, Moon checked and Kopp bet another $2 million. However, this time, Moon check-raised to $6 million. Remarkably, Kopp reraised all-in for about $20 million. Facing the most important decision of his tournament, Moon eventually made the call. After Kopp flipped over his smaller flush, he realized he was drawing dead. Just like that, the onetime chip leader was gone in 12th place, and Darvin Moon ultimately became the chip leader heading into the November Nine.
Since there were so many hands to choose from, here are some honorable mentions:
• Robert Varkonyi's favorite hand Q-10 beats Julian Gardner and makes Phil Hellmuth shave his head (2002)
• Chris Moneymaker's full house wins 2003 WSOP main event (2003)
• Jennifer Harman's full house loses to Corey Zeidman's straight flush (2005)
• Aaron Kanter cripples Greg Raymer in his bid for back-to-back titles (2005)
• Mike Matusow's kings almost cracked Scott Lazar's aces (2005)
• Scotty Nguyen bluffs off his entire stack to Philip Hilm, finishing in 11th place, just shy of the WSOP final table (2007)
• Lee Childs folds Queens to Jerry Yang's reraise while holding jacks (2007)
• Ivan Demidov (A-Q) bluffs Dennis Phillips (A-K) off hand (2008)
• Phil Ivey's A-K gets outflopped by Darvin Moon's A-Q (2009)
• Joe Cada's deuces crack Antoine Saout's queens, denying the Frenchman a chance to enter heads-up versus Darvin Moon (2009)
So which hand is the top hand of the decade? Envelope, please. And the winner is Moneymaker's bluff of the decade Maybe the century (2003)
As if there was any doubt "The Hand of the Decade" changed poker forever. Norman Chad even called it the "bluff of the century." Imagine how different the world of poker would be today if Farha had made the call and went on to win the 2003 WSOP main event. Nevertheless, Moneymaker captured the 2003 WSOP main event bracelet and the imagination of all poker players around the world. In the end, this hand helped shape not only the 2000s, but poker forever.
Bernard Lee is the co-host of ESPN Inside Deal, a weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald and author of "The Final Table, Volume I." He also hosts a weekly poker radio show, "The Bernard Lee Poker Show," on Rounders Radio and in Boston on 1510 AM. The show can be heard from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and is repeated throughout the week. For questions or comments, e-mail him at BernardLeePoker@hotmail.com.