It was baller. Fifth-level thinking. An heroic move. Ballsy. Epic. Sick.
After 212 hands at the final table, just three players remained from the 7,319 who had entered the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event. More than $8.9 million awaited the winner. The runner-up was due more than $5.5 million, with $4.13 million going to the next one out.
The blinds were 600,000/1,200,000 (with 200,000 antes). John Racener was sitting in a distant third with about 36 million (30 big blinds) when he began the hand by folding from the button. Joseph Cheong, then leading with something in the neighborhood of 90 million (75 BBs), opened with a raise to 2.9 million from the small blind. Jonathan Duhamel, sitting in the big blind with about 83 million or so to start the hand (70 BBs), responded by reraising to 6.75 million.
The action back on Cheong, he made it 14.25 million to go, then Duhamel reraised once again to 22.75 million. That’s when Cheong made the big push all in, and Duhamel made the call.
No, Cheong didn’t have aces. Or kings. Or A-K. Cheong had but , and was looking for an ace to overcome Duhamel’s . The board ran out , and just like that Duhamel had 177 million or so while Cheong was suddenly down to around 5 million.
Cheong would double up once, then win two more small pots when his all-in raises before the flop went uncalled. But then, just half a dozen hands after losing the biggest pot in WSOP history (chip-wise), Cheong -- seemingly a lock to make it to heads-up just a few minutes before -- was eliminated in third.
There were a number of other high-drama hands yesterday.
Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi’s knockout of Matt Jarvis in eighth place in which the latter was all in before the flop with pocket nines against Mizrachi’s was one. The community cards came , meaning both players had the lead two times -- Jarvis preflop and on the turn, and Mizrachi on the flop and on the river. The hand also uncannily recalled a similar one from the 2003 WSOP Main Event in which Chris Moneymaker knocked out Phil Ivey in 10th place, although in that history-altering hand the betting concluded on the turn.
Jason Senti’s elimination in seventh at the hands of Cheong had a similar, punch-to-the-gut feel. All in with versus Cheong’s pocket tens, Senti flopped trip kings, but running turn and river cards gave Cheong a king-high straight and the hand.
A little later, the two players who would ultimately make it to heads up -- Racener and Duhamel -- each survived all-in situations on back-to-back hands.
First Racener doubled through Duhamel with versus Duhamel’s when a queen flopped, and Racener’s hand held. On the very next hand, Duhamel would be all in with versus Mizrachi’s pocket treys. He’d hit a nine on that flop and survive.
Duhamel would subsequently knock out Mizrachi in fifth place in a hand in which the Canadian sneakily played pocket aces to trap the Grinder. Cheong would next eliminate a short-stacked Filippo Candio in fourth. Then the two big stacks would battle back and forth for the next two dozen hands before the big one. The big, big, big one.
I had thought of Cheong -- known as “subiime” online -- as the player to watch among these final nine. Even suggested on Friday that I considered him a decent pick to win the sucker. And he certainly helped make a highly entertaining final table even more interesting, his aggression in the decisive hand versus Duhamel just one of many, many examples of such throughout the night. And for most of the night Cheong pretty clearly showed he was indeed one of the strongest players at the table.
Then came Hand Number 213. Where it all went wrong.
Barring any strangeness Monday night -- when Duhamel will carry a more than 5-to-1 chip lead into heads-up play versus Racener -- I think it is probably safe to assume that Cheong’s six-bet shove with A-7-offsuit will undoubtedly be the most discussed decision of the 2010 WSOP Main Event final table. How will it be remembered?
(EDIT [added 12/3/10]: For more on this amazing hand, check out Andrew "Foucault" Brokos’ analysis for the Two Plus Two Magazine, “Joseph Cheong’s WSOP Final Table ‘Blow Up.’”)