The Greatest Televised Calls in Poker History
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Now to the counter – it’s painful when you’re snap-called after mustering up the stones to fire that third barrel and bluff for all your chips with a busted gutshot; more painful still when you’re shown just bottom pair.
Mansour Matloubi was once playing a high stakes cash game with Stu Ungar when he moved all-in on the river of a 2-6-8-Q-A board holding 5-4 for a straight draw that missed. Ungar called him with T-9 and his ten-high took the five-figure pot. Matloubi said afterwards, “When a man makes a call like that against you, that’s it.”
What follows are the top five moments caught on camera where one player manages to exactly delve into the soul of another, turning their king-high or small pair into the absolute nuts.
Lex Veldhuis looks up Texas Dolly with ducks
The previous season of High Stakes Poker had set the precedent for Veldhuis’s call against Doyle as the next hand shows. This was the very first hand of the first episode and saw Patrik Antonius and Tom Dwan sitting alongside Howard Lederer, Phil Laak, Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem and – as Antonio Esfandiari kept pointing out – “the dude who wrote Blow. He just wrote Blow! That is sooww sick!” otherwise known as Nick Cassavetes.
Phil Laak was the first one to get the action going when he picked up AhJd under the gun after Patrik Antonius had put a $1,600 staddle on the then $800 big blind. Howard Lederer, to Laak’s immediate left, called Laak’s $6,000 raise and the table folded back to straddle Antonius, who elected to call with Ts4s.
This is why Antonius plays at these levels and we don’t – we’d fold that out of position, but Antonius received an unlikely top pair on the 3s2h4h flop. He checked and Laak put out a $16,000 continuation bet. Lederer folded, as usual, but Antonius thought before calling the bet. The turn was a king and Antonius again checked over to Laak. Again Laak continued with the aggression – this time with a $37,300 bet. Antonius had picked up a spade flush draw with the turn and again called the bet.
The Qd river improved neither hand and Antonius checked a third time. Laak quickly bet $80,000 straight to swell the size of the pot over $200,000. Antonius riffled his chips and considered his third pair versus a typically tight under the gun raiser who had fired three barrels and called with just the pair of fours.
Laak looked miffed to be called and cursed when he saw Antonius’s hand. The best part is when the camera cuts to Joe Hachem’s shell-shocked face – if an expression has ever said “what the hell am I doing in this game”, this is it. The table in general is nervously silent before laughing semi-hysterically post-showdown, the kind of laughter they would produce if Antonius had just straight up murdered a guy.
Allen Cunningham calls with ace high at WSOP ’06 final table
Jamie Gold is pretty infamous in the poker world for many reasons. Firstly, he won the largest ever World Series of Poker Main Event, beating a field of over 9,000 players in 2006 for a first prize of $12,000,000 – the largest prize ever given out in a sporting event. He is also known for his table chatter, his bluffs (debatable though they may be) and for donating back to the poker community on TV cash games.
If it were not for a folded straight flush draw, however, we might be addressing Allen Cunningham as a former Main Event champion and the winner of poker’s largest ever prize. In this next hand we see that Cunningham was perhaps Gold’s biggest obstacle to WSOP glory. It starts with Gold raising and Cunningham defending his big blind.
The flop comes 8-3-8 and Gold continuation bets 1m in 25,000 chips, saying, “I don’t like my hand much, so I’m gonna bet with these [small denomination chips].” Cunningham calls and both players check through the 2c turn so the final board reads 8h3d8d2cQs and Cunningham checks once more.
Gold begins another line of patter before betting a significant portion of Cunningham’s stack. Gold is the runaway chip leader at this point but his only close rival in the standings is contemplating a call on the other side of the felt. Gold continues to run off on tangents aloud, stating, “I probably don’t have an eight... I definitely don’t have two-three... I could have a queen – you don’t have a queen, do you?”
The crucial moment comes when Cunningham says he might call and Gold goes to reveal his hand. Cunningham stops him, saying “No, no, I said I might call. I’m not calling... yet... OK, I call.”
“Nice call” is the response, and when Cunningham turns up A-9 for the third nut-high hand (not a good hand) Gold mucks, shipping Allen the pot and taking him closer to the big bracelet.
Kenny Tran is the greatest!
This is the greatest call of all time. We can’t make this clear enough, because if you watch the hand you will see Kenny Tran telling you that it is the greatest call of all time and that he is just the sickest and he must be the best and how did he make that call? He was pretty happy with himself, is what we’re trying to get across.
It is the 2007 World Series of Poker and the Main Event is in the money, having hit the 15k/30k blind level. An anaesthesiologist named Roy Winston opens the pot for 100,000 holding A-T and Tran calls out of the big blind with A-8. He hits top pair, albeit on the scariest of boards, when the dealer lays out a flop of 7h8h3h. He calls a 150,000 bet and the turn puts a four-flush on the board with the deuce of hearts.
Winston continues representing a big heart with a 350,000 bet, but Tran musters up the call with bare top pair, no draw. A second deuce on the river – red but no heart –now means a flush is not even the nuts. Winston bets 700,000 and Kenny takes some time to think. He begins to ask half-formed questions and mutters, throwing his head back and resting it in his hands.
“Oh my God!” Exclaims Tran, leaping from his seat. “I am the greatest! What a sick call! That has to be the greatest call in poker!” Tran spends the next 35 seconds along these lines, but we hate to tell him that he’s been beaten by...
Lex Veldhuis puts Negreanu on a busted flush... until the flush hits
The Calling Dutchman. Lex Veldhuis makes this his second entry on the list and it’s the top spot with an epic king high-call against Daniel Negreanu on one of the scariest boards in the world. It’s the PokerStars Big Game – the one where a “Loose Cannon” is staked $100k and keeps their profit – and blinds are $200/$400. Veldhuis opens in late position to $1,400 and receives a call from Daniel Negreanu in the small blind and the Loose Cannon in the big.
It’s a $4,800 pot with a board of Ah-6s-Jh and the Loose Cannon has A-8 for top pair and the best hand. He checks and Veldhuis fires a continuation bet of $2,700 only for Daniel Negreanu to get frisky with 4d-2d in the small blind and make it $7,200 to go. The Loose Cannon inexplicably folds and Veldhuis confesses he is confused.
He calls with king high, no pair no draw, in a stone float as the turn puts another ace on board. Both players check through for the nine of hearts on the river to complete the flush draw. Negreanu bets $9,000 into a $20,000 pot and Veldhuis thinks through his options for a few minutes before making the call to the amazement of the table, Negreanu especially.
“What did you put me on exactly?” Negreanu laughs as Veldhuis stacks up his $5,000 chips. “Four high? Wow, great call. I knew you had nothing on the flop... he knew that I knew that he knew.”
“Just one of those fun levelling situations we get into,” shrugs off Veldhuis.