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Q-10 Will Live In Infamy
The Winning Hand
by Phil Hellmuth

When Robert Varkonyi won the last hand of the five-day long World Series of Poker (WSOP) with Q-10, he immortalized the hand! On day three he had outdrawn me in a well-publicized $220,000 pot. This left a bad taste in my mouth, and a 60th place finish out of 643 players. When I did the TV commentary for ESPN, I put my foot in my mouth by saying, “If Robert Varkonyi wins this tournament, I’ll shave my head.” It seemed like a pretty safe thing to say at the time because Robert had only $400,000 in chips (out of $6,430,000) with nine players left, and, he wasn’t even a professional player! Robert is an investment banker from New York, and was a virtual unknown at the final table. When they announced what I had said I saw Robert bristle.

Perhaps I helped light a fire under Robert. He began to play inspired poker. Clearly the class of the field, he did survive one “coin flip” hand, when his J-J beat John Shipley’s A-K (the J-J is about a twelve-to-ten favorite), but he made all the right moves for the rest of the tournament.

With four players left, Irishman Scott Gray moved all-in for $320,000 with A-9. Robert called the $220,000 raise with Q-10, and when the flop came down Q-Q-8 in this $700,000 pot it was all over for Scott. He did manage to hit a nine on the next card and an ace on the end, but two pair doesn’t beat three of a kind. The next hand was one of the most exciting in WSOP history. Twenty-three- year-old English sensation Julian Gardener opened for $100,000 with 10-10; then Ralph Perry made it $300,000 to go with J-J, and finally Robert bet $2 million with pocket A-A! Three big pairs, with three players left, all dealt in the same hand! Julian was forced to fold, but Ralph decided to call for all of his chips roughly $900,000. When Robert’s pocket aces held up, there were now just two players left.

From my point of view, though, I couldn’t win. If Robert wins, I get my head shaved. If Julian wins I lose my record as youngest world champion ever (I won it when I was twenty-four). By now a head shaving was looking pretty good to me! After about twenty hands of jockeying, the final hand came up. Robert raised with Q of Diamonds-10 of Spades and Julian called with J of Clubs -8 of Clubs. The flop was Q of Clubs-4 of Spades-4 of Clubs. Robert had top pair and Julian had a flush draw. Julian checked and Robert bet a modest $100,000. Julian announced, “I’m all-in,” and moved about $1 million into the pot. Robert didn’t think long before saying, “I call.” Now the cameras and crowd were all leaning in to see the hands and the last two cards to come. The next card was the 10 of Diamonds giving Julian an additional draw. Hecould now hit a nine for a straight. The last card was the 10 of Clubs. According to the confused floor man announcing the event, Julian had made a flush and had won the pot. Most of us could see, however, that the 10 of Clubs had made Robert a full house, tens full of queens. With a final board of Qof Clubs-4 of Spades-4 of Clubs-10 of Diamonds-10 of Clubs, Robert had won the WSOP, and the $2 million first prize with his full house over Julian’s flush.

Within a few seconds of the final card being dealt, the crowd began chanting, “Shave Phil’s head, shave Phil’s head, shave…” And so it was shaved, in front of the cameras and all. I got what I deserved! Congratulations to Robert Varkonyi, the 2002 world champion of poker.

This story was first published in the October - November 2002 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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