Chris Moneymaker’s talks us through his greatest ever hand of poker: “I knew he’d be looking for a reason to go all-in, and those Jacks gave him the excuse”

The 2003 world champion recalls the hand that changed everything

During a break, I talked to Sammy about chopping the money and playing for the bracelet. He turned me down and suggested putting all the money together – first place and second place – and playing for the entire amount, winner takes all. I thought he was joking, but, nevertheless, my interpretation was that he thought he was a much better player than me.

I figured it was true. But I also figured that he would play small-ball and grind me down. He wanted to use skill to beat me. I wouldn’t allow that to happen. I had him out-chipped and planned on pressuring him if I thought he didn’t have a very good hand.

Hammer drop

The opportunity came when I was dealt K?-7?. I made my standard preflop raise of three times the big blind on the button. Farha called quickly. The flop came 9?-2?-6?. Sam checked and so did I. I figured he had second pair and was trying to trap me. I expected that he would check-raise me on the flop or on the turn. When the 8? came on the turn, Sammy quickly bet 300,000. I knew he didn’t have the flush because his style of playing flush draws had been to bet them. So, after he bet, I figured I’d raise and take the hand down right there. I had a flush draw and a straight draw. But then he insta-called, and that sucked. I figured he had second pair with the A?. If a fourth spade had hit on the river, I’d have checked.

The 3? came on the river, he checked, and I pushed all-in. If we hadn’t talked about the chop I wouldn’t have made the play. But he gave me a good idea of what he planned on doing. I had him out-stacked and I didn’t see him risking it all with the hand that I put him on. He folded, and though I didn’t tell him that I’d bluffed I did every exaggerated physical move to show him that’s what I’d done. On the next hand Sammy got all his money in when he flopped top pair on a board of J-5-4. I had two pair with 4-5 and won the tournament. I knew he’d be looking for a reason to go all-in, and those Jacks gave him the excuse.

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