The ability to pull off a bold bluff in a tense situation is crucial to any professional poker player’s chances of success in big tournaments. It takes courage, nerves of steel and the ability to remain perfectly deadpan at all times. Only an elite few players are blessed with all of these traits, and it has allowed them to pull off some exhilarating victories over the years. These are five of the greatest bluffs in the history of poker:
Moneymaker Ushers in a New Era for WSOP
Chris Moneymaker ignited the poker boom when he stormed to victory at the World Series of Poker in 2003. The accountant from Tennessee fronted up a mere $39 to buy his way into a qualifying event, and ended up landing a ticket to Las Vegas to lock horns with the world’s greatest players at Binion’s Horseshoe. The field of 839 entrants was finally whittled down to just two men: Moneymaker and veteran pro Sammy Farha.
The unheralded amateur had no hand to speak of after the last river card fell, but he went all-in. Farha had a pair of nines, but he could not get a read on Moneymaker, and he decided to fold rather than risk crashing out of the tournament. This bluff of the century swung the showdown in Moneymaker’s favor, and he went on to secure a stunning victory. Farha has always been renowned for his uncanny ability to read rivals’ faces, but a deadpan Moneymaker outfoxed him at a crucial moment.
Poker’s popularity soared after Moneymaker’s win. Amateurs across the country realized they were in with a chance of securing fame and fortune against experienced pros, causing WSOP entries to spike dramatically in the ensuing years. You can now hone your skills by playing against real opponents from the comfort of your own home – live poker games are very different to those played at online casinos – and then head to Vegas in a bid to follow in Moneymaker’s footsteps.
Ivey and Jackson Bluff with Nothing
Phil Ivey and Paul Jackson engaged in a fascinating duel when they met for a $1 million heads-up in Monte Carlo. There was $44,000 in the pot when Jackson was dealt a 6-5 off-suit and Ivey landed a suited queen-eight. The flop was 7 of clubs, Jack of clubs, Jack of hearts, leaving both players with nothing. Yet Ivey decided to raise his opponent $80,000. TV audiences could have been forgiven for gasping when Jackson hit back with $170,000.
A lesser player would have folded, but Ivey simply upped the ante. He raised $320,000, but Jackson refused to back down and raised to $470,000. “Phil Ivey… has got to fold here,” said the commentator as he watched the action unfold. “We’re looking at a million-chip pot, and both players have nothing!” After carefully weighing up his options, Ivey went all in, causing Jackson to fold. It was an astonishing bluff from Ivey, and he did not even show it to Jackson. He just collected his chips and remained utterly dead-eyed.
Poker players around the world will be talking about this outrageous play for decades. It cemented Ivey’s status as a superstar, and he has gone on to deliver many more famous bluffs over the years. Another that stands out is his bluff against Lex Veldhuis in Season 6 of High Stakes Poker. Veldhuis had the best pocket cards at the table, but a fearless Ivey went all-in and caused him to fold, essentially stealing a $256,000 pot with a genius bluff.
Dwan Pressures His Rivals Into Folding
Tom “Durrrr” Dwan pulled off arguably the greatest bluff of all time when he pressured Barry Greenstein and Peter Eastgate into folding on Season 5 of High Stakes Poker. Greenstein raised to $2,500 after receiving AA pre-flop. All seven players called. There was $21,400 in the pot before the flop came out and Durrrr jokingly offered to chop it. The flop was 2 of clubs, 10 of diamonds and 2 of spades, leaving Eastgate with triple deuces with his 2 of diamonds and 4 f hearts. He and Doyle Brunson checked.
Greenstein led out with $10,000 and Dwan – who had Queen of clubs and 10 of clubs – decided to raise the pot to $37,300 in a classic Durrrr bluff. David Benyamine, Eli Elezra, Ilari Sahamies and Daniel Negreanu swiftly folded. Eastgate and Greenstein were holding stronger hands than Durrrr, and they called. Dwan then bet $104,200, which amounted to around three-quarters of his pot. Greenstein and Eastgate, both tight and experienced players, reluctantly decided to fold. Durrrr represented a full house by bluffing pocket tens and earned himself a place in poker history.
Haxton Displays Nerves of Steel
Isaac Haxton delivered an extremely daring bluff during his clash with Ryan Daut at the Poker Stars World Poker Tour Caribbean Adventure in 2007. The two men went heads-up and Daunt limped in with 7-5 before Haxton checked the big blind with 3 of diamonds and 2 of diamonds. The flop came Queen of hearts, 4 of hearts and Ace of clubs, missing both players. They then engaged in an exhilarating bluff-raising contest, leaving viewers gripped as they wondered which man would blink first.
The turn was the king of diamonds and both checked. The river came the Queen of clubs. Haxton realized his opponent was holding a weak hand after he checked on the turn, so made a $700,000 bet. Daut re-raised to $2 million in a bid to shut down Haxton’s bluff. Haxton knew he was bluffing, and he refused to give in, so he went all in for $7 million. This caused Daut to fold, allowing Haxton to win a huge hand with just a 3-high.
Another Masterpiece from Dwan
Dwan has pulled off many impressive large bluffs during his career. We mentioned his stunning triumph over Greenstein and Eastgate, and his successful bluff over Ivey in Season 6 of High Stakes Poker has gone down in history as yet another astonishing play. Yet Durrr produced an even greater display of fortitude when he vanquished Sammy George with a 7-2 off-suit in the Million Dollar Challenge.
The most remarkable aspect of the bluff was that Dwan announced that he had a 7-2 and George – holding Ace of diamonds and 6 of clubs – refused to believe him. The flop came Jack of hearts, Ace of hearts and 6 of hearts, leaving George with a pair of aces. Most viewers expected Durrrr to fold after George raised to $27,000. Yet Dwan kept going until his audacious display of nerves forced George to toss in his cards, allowing Durrrr to win with the worst hand in poker. The hand will be talked about forever.