Four of the Most Exciting Poker Tournament Moments of All Time

Regarding gambling, some people prefer to rely solely on luck. Many of these players enjoy playing online slots to see what fate has in store for them. Other gamblers prefer to play games that require skill in the hope of shifting luck in their favour. For these players, poker is the ultimate game of balancing skill and chance.

exciting poker tournament moments

Whether you play poker with your friends or take it more seriously, there’s no denying it’s always been a competitive game. Even the most seasoned poker player’s world was turned upside down when the World Series of Poker (WSOP) debuted in 1970. 

Here are four of the most exciting and memorable moments in poker tournament history.

Chris Moneymaker winning the WSOP Main Event in 2003

This was such an iconic win that it spawned a phrase – “the Moneymaker effect” – referring to the massive increase in interest in poker after a specific player won the WSOP Main Event. Nobody knew who Chris Moneymaker was leading up to the WSOP Main Event. When Moneymaker entered an 86-dollar online satellite tournament, he worked as an accountant. By the end of this event, he’d won a seat at the WSOP 2003, his first-ever live poker tournament.

Moneymaker made it to the final table of the 2003 World Series of Poker, where he faced professional player Sam Farha. Farha’s final hand is composed of ten diamonds and a jack of hearts, compared to Moneymaker’s five diamonds and four spades. The first four community cards, however, swung the game in Moneymaker’s favour; with five hearts on the river, Moneymaker secured the win together with the $2.5 million.

Johnny Chan wins both WSOP Main Events in 1987 and 1988

There are very few people in professional poker who have won back-to-back tournament titles. The last person to do so was Johnny Chan, who won the 1987 and 1988 WSOP Main Events.

Before his first WSOP Main Event victory, Chan was a university dropout who had forsaken. Chan dropped out of college and gave up a hotel and restaurant management degree to become a professional gambler. This gave him the experience he needed to win those two big games back-to-back. In the final round of the 1987 WSOP, he faced off against another professional poker player, Frank Henderson. 

He had nine clubs and an ace of spades. Chan matched Henderson’s all-in, which he played off with a pair of fours. As the dealer revealed the community cards, Henderson appeared to be the new world champion. However, the fifth street rewarded Chan with another nine, making him the WSOP Main Event winner.

A year later, in 1988, Chan made it to the final table of the WSOP Main Event once more. However, this time he was up against Erik Seidel, another professional poker player widely regarded as one of the best. The queen of spades showed up on the flop together with the eight diamonds and 10 hearts for the final set of cards in the last round. Seidel matched Chan’s wager and raised it by another $50,000. Chan deliberated for some time before matching Seidel’s $50,000. On the fourth street, the dealer revealed two spades, which provided no benefit to either player. Three Card Poker

The broadcast revealed the players’ hole cards for those watching at home, revealing that Chan had a Jack and a nine of clubs, while Seidel had a Queen and a seven! Chan had been acting worried when he already had a straight On Fifth Street, the dealer revealed a six of diamonds, and Seidel decided to go all-in. Chan’s strategy had worked, and he had also won the 1988 World Series of Poker.

Phil Hellmuth rebuffs Johnny Chan for three WSOP wins in a row in 1989

In 1989, Johnny Chan was on the verge of making WSOP history when Phil Helmuth denied him the opportunity for a third win streak, the same poker player Chan eliminated and sent home the year before in 33rd place.

Helmuth faced Chan in the final round in 1989 and came out aggressively with a $40k wager before the flop. Chan increased the bet to $130,000, prompting Helmuth to go all-in. Chan, who held an ace and a seven of spades, deliberated for a moment before matching Helmuth’s bet on his pair of nines.

Helmuth now had two pairs after the flop revealed a pair of kings and a ten. With a Queen on the fourth street and a six of spades on the river, Helmuth became the youngest WSOP champion at the time, at the age of 24.

Honorary mention: WSOP launched $1,000,000 Buy-in Tournament in 2012

Despite not being a poker tournament moment, this highlights a moment in poker tournament history that is both equally exciting and big and is the final entry for this list as an honourable mention. While poker tournaments have always been relatively large in prize money, the WSOP took things a step further when they announced their first $1,000,000 buy-in tournament, Big One for One Drop. This event has a big heart and big stakes, with $111,111 of each player’s buy-in going to the One Drop Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about issues regarding water.

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