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The Big Show
The Winning Hand
by Phil Hellmuth

With the recent formation of the World Poker Tour (WPT), we on the tour are looking forward to the televised final tables that hopefully, will be presented as a weekly, network TV show.

The second WPT event was taped at the Bicycle Club in L.A. on September 1st during the Legends of Poker’s $5,000 buy-in no limit Hold’em Championship Event. On day one, we played down to the final six players. Although I had the chip lead with eighteen players left, and the burning desire to make the final six, it just wasn’t to be. I finished a disappointed eighth place.

The final six players on day two were veterans Kathy Liebert (the first woman player ever to win a $1 million first place prize), Stan Goldstein, Can Hua, Hon Lee, Mark Seif, and rookie Chris Karagulleyan. Chris was playing in his first event ever that had a $1,000 buy-in or higher. Chris was at my table most of the way, and didn’t have many chips until he suddenly won some big pots at the final table.

The crowded stands that surrounded the WPT stage witnessed an opening ceremony that was “made for TV,” after which the action started with a flurry. On the very first hand, with the blinds at $2,000–$4,000, and the antes at $500 a player, Kathy opened for a relatively large $20,000 to go with A-K. When it was Chris’ turn to act, he made it $60,000 to go with Q-Q. When the action returned to Kathy, she decided to move all-in for her whole $141,000, and Chris, with $157,000 called her. A-K vs. Q-Q is considered the classic match up, with Chris being a 13 to 10 favorite to win with Q-Q. With the chip lead on the line, Chris managed to hold off Kathy’s A-K, and Kathy became the first one eliminated, on the first hand!

Mark Seif and Hon Lee had several skirmishes, with Hon Lee finally getting lucky and beating Mark’s A-A by making a flush on the last card for about $200,000 with 9 of Hearts-10 of Hearts. This left Hon Lee and Chris with a huge chip lead, with Stan and Can holding on trying to double up to get back into the game. Eventually it came down to Hon and Chris. After Chris bluffed off most of his chips to Hon after a flop of A-Q-10, Hon had A-9, and Chris had K-7, I left the tournament believing that it was over. When I heard later that Chris had come back and won it, I was in shock. How could the young, inexperienced and short-chipped Chris come back and win the tournament against the more experienced Hon Lee?

A key hand came up when the board showed K-Q-2-7-6, and Hon Lee bet out $20,000 with K-4 (top pair); Chris had Q-6 in his hand (which made two pair, queens up) and went all-in for $100,000 more. Hon called and Chris took the chip lead. On the final hand Chris opened for $20,000 with Q-Q (he won three key pots with this hand at the final table) and Hon called with 10-J. The flop came down J-5-4, and Hon bet it all. Chris called and when the next two cards were 4-4, for J-5-4-4-4, Chris won the hand and the tournament with fours full of queens over Hon fours full of jacks.

All of us players are counting down the days until the next WPT taping begins. Because you never know, perhaps we can win the big bucks and make the “Big Show!”

This story was first published in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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