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Big Blowup Hand at the World Series of Poker

An overplayed A-7 offsuit

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Dec 24, 2010


With three players remaining in the 2010 World Series of Poker main event, there was a ton of money and an ocean of prestige at stake. First place paid $8,944,000; second place, $5,546,000; and third place, $4,130,000; plus, the winner would be declared the 2010 “World Champion of Poker.” Joseph Cheong (82 million in chips), Jonathan Duhamel (76 million in chips), and John Racener (30 million in chips) were the last three standing.

In my eyes, Cheong had by far played the best poker of anyone at the final table. His timing was perfect for almost 12 hours of final-table play. All of his raises and reraises had won him uncontested pot after uncontested pot. Thus, he had picked up literally millions in chips without ever being called! Clearly, everyone at the table was afraid of him, and all he had to do was avoid playing a huge pot with Duhamel and he was home free.

However, as so often happens when someone is dominating a table, Cheong did not slow down. First, he bluffed off 30 million to Duhamel when he was sitting comfortably on 110 million, and second, he played a hand that will be talked about for decades to come.

With the blinds at 600,000-1.2 million, Cheong opened for 2.9 million from the small blind with A-7 offsuit. Duhamel — in the big blind — reraised to 6.75 million to go. Cheong then made it 14.25 million to go, and Duhamel made it 22.75 million to go. Then, Cheong moved all in (a six-bet)! Duhamel immediately
said, “I call,” and showed pocket queens. When the smoke cleared, Cheong had about 8 million left in his once mighty stack, and shortly thereafter, he was eliminated in third place.

Let’s take a closer look at this hand: Cheong’s 2.9 million opening bet from the small blind was standard. Duhamel’s 6.75 million three-bet, a raise of 3.85 million into a 6 million pot (a raise of 60 percent of the pot size), was also standard. Cheong’s bet of 14.25 million, a raise of 7.5 million, was not a good move. First of all, some history: Cheong had been forcing everyone to fold hand after hand (they were afraid of him), so when someone finally three-bet him, he probably should have thought better of four-betting. Why not surrender the original 2.9 million bet, especially since he had stolen 40 million in chips with his brilliant play? However, if Cheong read Duhamel as being weak, his four-bet was fine. If that was the case, Cheong was wrong, but I still like a man who goes with his read.

Duhamel made a very clever five-bet reraise of 8.5 million (to 22.75 million to go) into a pot of 30 million. When he made this smallish reraise, he was leaving the trapdoor open for Cheong to move all in, and Cheong stepped right through the trapdoor. I absolutely hate Cheong’s all-in move here. When Duhamel five-bet it, he had to have a huge hand! Sometimes it’s hard to understand how the world views us, but in poker, you need to understand how the other players at the table view you. Fact: Everyone was scared to death of Cheong, as he was an absolute terror. Assuming that everyone feared him, he never should have four-bet it, let alone six-bet it.
Unfortunately for Cheong, his dominating performance over 12 hours of play will quickly be forgotten, and everyone will remember only the last 10 minutes — an A-7 offsuit blowup of epic proportions!

With the talent that Cheong displayed, I believe that he will win his share of titles in the future, and he is also a nice guy and a class act. He decided to sit in Duhamel’s section during the heads-up final on Monday night and root him on (Cheong was eliminated on Saturday night). What a classy move, what a classy guy. ♠

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