Kim checks and then Friberg -- his view of the chip leader perhaps being obscured by Gold’s enormous stack of chips -- accidentally checks out of turn. “I didn’t check,” says Gold, and Friberg apologizes. “It’s all right . . . you didn’t see,” Gold replies. He then bets 1 million. With minimal deliberation, Friberg calls. “This the man who checked out of turn?” asks Cloutier (still in the booth with Gordon and Nejad). When Gordon confirms, Cloutier claims “I haven’t seen that play before.”
If the check out of turn were intentional, Friberg’s call doesn’t seem that odd. With that flop, he could well have a nine or a strong draw and now believes he’s induced a bluff from Gold. However, watching the action, it really doesn’t appear Friberg meant to check out of turn. I’m guessing he has some kind of draw and is willing here to commit the 15% or so of his stack in order to see the turn (barring, of course, a reraise from Cunningham). [EDIT (added 9/28/06): As ESPN's edited version of the final table reveals, Friberg indeed had reason to pay to see that turn card -- he held , thus giving him an open-ended straight flush draw.]
Cunningham also calls. When he does, Cloutier says to “watch out,” because he’s likely strong. “When he’s not doing the leading,” says Cloutier, Cunningham “is very very dangerous.”
The turn brings the and Gold quickly says “check check” while looking at Cunningham. I’m not certain, but I think Gold might be implying that he’s confident Friberg is going to check behind him. In any event, it is pretty clear that Gold is primarily concerned with Cunningham here. Friberg indeed checks, and Cunningham fires out 2.5 million (into the 3.8 million pot). Gold calls quickly and Friberg folds.
The river is the . Gold checks. The announcers are now convinced Cunningham has a nine. (They don’t offer to guess what Gold has.) “Will he bet for value?” asks Gordon. Cunningham bets 2 million -- less than 25% of the pot. Definitely appears to be a value bet. Gold swiftly puts down his water bottle and with a “what-can-I-do?”-type gesture says “I gotta nine . . . I gotta call you.” Gold shows the T9 (we don’t see the cards), Cunningham slowly mucks, and Gold slaps his hands together, yelling “Yes!” The pot he’s won is something like 12 million, thus far the biggest pot of the night (and maybe the entire tournament).
“They’ve asked to see Allen’s cards,” says Gordon, and we learn he held 97. (It isn’t clear who asked to see Cunningham’s cards, though I imagine it was probably Gold.) Gold then is shown telling Kim (on his right) that if Cunningham had gone all-in on the river he would probably have folded, fearing a boat. Cunningham looks dismayed -- I think he's genuinely surprised Gold had the case nine. But Cloutier quickly points out “You know, he [Cunningham] is supposed to have lost more money in that pot.” Cunningham is now in third with 12 million, and Gold is up to 34.5 million. It takes Gold a couple of hands to finish stacking all of his chips.
I’m sure Cunningham thought he was good after the river and indeed was betting for value. Even if going all-in might have bought him the pot, doing so with just a set doesn't seem like a realistic option for Cunningham at this point. I can’t tell if Friberg’s out-of-turn check after the flop had any real effect on how the hand played out. It seems to me that Gold would’ve probably put in his bet of 1 million (about a third more than the size of the pot at the time) no matter what, and Cunningham would’ve probably still just smooth called.
Cunningham was indeed fortunate not to lose more on the hand. But was it skillful play that kept him from being crippled here? If he had Gold on a busted draw or an eight or an ace -- which is what I think Cunningham was probably thinking -- I imagine he would’ve played the hand identically. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that having position -- more than anything else -- is what enabled Cunningham to escape the hand without greater damage. In other words, I don’t really think Cunningham was betting 2 million on the river “just in case” Gold had him beat.
And what about Gold’s play? His caution following that initial flop bet appears to make sense here, but could he have gotten more out of Cunningham on this hand (as Cloutier seems to be implying by his comment)?
During the subsequent break Gordon talks about how some viewers had been emailing in their thoughts about this hand. Gordon is now saying that he questions Cunningham’s 2 million river bet, claiming that he could only be called by a hand that beats him. Perhaps. (Or could Gold call there with aces up?)
The next hand I want to talk about is probably going to be Hand No. 122, the one involving Gold and Richard Lee and what I think turned out to be the biggest pot of the entire tourney. Still have four hours and eighty hands to watch first, though, so there may be another interesting one before I get there . . . .
Photo: Tom Neal from the 1945 film Detour (adapted), public domain.