The top 5 bluffs in poker history

When you are playing poker you do not need to have the best hand in order to win a pot, sometimes you only need a big pair of balls!


1 – Chris Moneymaker vs Sam Farha

Context : Main Event WSOP 2003

2003: Moneymaker is still working as an accountant. He won a seat into the main event of the 2003 World Series of Poker through a $39 satellite tournament on PokerStars an online poker card room launched 2 years earlier. After an incredible rush, he is playing Heads- Up versus Sam Farah a well-known established poker player. For the first time at the WSOP, ESPN’s broadcast is adopting a new format successfully experimented few months ago at the WPT. Viewers can now see hole cards with an improved graphic display and “live sports feel”. These new features put viewers into players’ minds and at the heart of the action.With this bluff which is leading him to the victory Chris Moneymaker is about to change the poker world. He is showing on a national TV how an amateur can beat some of the best poker players in the world and win $2.5 million dollar cash prize for an investment of only $39. It’s commonly admitted now that Chris Moneymaker inspired millions of people to begin playing poker, both online and in card rooms around the world.

Analysis :

The most realistic explanation of Chris Moneymaker’s thought process is that he just got “a pair of balls” which is sometimes the strongest ‘hand’ in poker. However, it’s also very interesting to notice that his raise on the turn is an extremely powerful play in his situation especially with the stack/pot ratio.  On the turn his hand is too good to be folded but if he only makes the call, he can only win the pot by hitting his draw or bluffing against a possible check on the river. Bluffing the river after just calling the turn isn’t also a great option: he won’t be able to represent enough strength to make  a made hand fold.


2  – Phil Ivey Bluff vs Bluff

Context : 2005 Monte Carlo Millions Main Event $25,000 No Limit Holdem

Phil Ivey might not yet have been a poker legend at the time but he was certainly a rising star.  Poker Media started calling him “The Phenom” after he won three World Series of Poker bracelets in 2002. He is playing Heads Up vs Paul Jackson an English professional poker player from Birmingham for a final prize of $ 1 000 000.

Analysis :

Phil Ivey’s possible thought process:
– Phil Ivey can reasonably assume Jackson would have only called with a jack.  Jackson is a good player and knows that Ivey is out of position and may continue to bluff the turn by making a bet that commits him while way behind.
–  He may know if Jackson is on a semi-bluff with a flush draw or gutshot straight draw that he will go all in, instead of min-four-betting, which leaves an awkward amount of chips behind.
– Ivey can also eliminate a seven from Jackson’s range since he’s taking a hand with a whole lot of showdown value and turned it into a bluff, and Ivey knows Jackson plays too well to do something like that.
– If Ivey puts all the pieces of the puzzle together he can deduces that the only hand possible is a bluff.


3 – Isaac Haxton

Context : 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, $8 000 Main Event:

Isaac Haxton was the representative of a new generation of young online players. At the time however most live players did not yet believe in the young guns’ strength. A few days later, after the final table was broadcast live, they changed their minds. The world of poker changed ever after.

Analysis :

Isaac Haxton explained himself in a short interview for Pokerstars a few years ago.
First things that went through my head was “Damn I guess I lose this hand” After spending a while with my head down mourning the loss of this big pot. I started to think – I don’t know if I buy this – I don’t think he has anything. He certainly didn’t check the turn with a straight or with 2 pairs none of this is really adding up to convince he had a good hand. Maybe I could just bluff shove here! Until now it’s my favorite single hand of poker I ever played.


4 – Tom Dwan vs Barry Greenstein

Context : 2009 High Stakes Poker Season 5

Tom Dwan “Durrr” is already a celebrity. After winning more than $5.41 million online in 2008, he is an idol for an entire new generation of poker player. His daily swings online are watched by a growing number of fans who are opening Full Tilt poker software just to see him playing. During the same period Highstakes poker TV shows brings a new dimension to the phenomenon: Tom Dwan stops being only a screename (“Durrr”), his fans can now see him playing on TV challenging other poker legends in a huge cash game. With his super aggressive style and his total absence of fear during this show, he is building his legend hand by hand.

Analysis :

Tom Dwan himself explaining his bluff :


5 – Jack Straus bluffing an overpair with 7-2

Context: High Stakes Cash Game during the 80’s

Jack “Treetop” Straus is an American professional poker player and gambler. He is already famous for winning the 1982 Main event after being down to one chip earlier in the tournament, which supposedly gave meaning to the well-known poker phrase “a chip and a chair”.

The bluff

During a High Stakes Cash Game Straus wanted to play “his rush” and decided to play 7-2 offsuit. Straus’s raise was called by a single player and found a 7-3-3 flop. On the flop his tight opponent raised his bet indicating very likely an overpair. Straus knew he was very likely behind, but he decided to make the call. The turn was a 2, for a board of 7-3-3-2 and Straus decided to fire a huge bet, turning his made hand into a bluff. His opponent started to think deeply. Straus was desperate to avoid the call and after a few minutes, he offered his opponent a proposition. He told him that for $25, he could see either one of Straus’s hole cards. The guy paid him and Straus showed him the deuce. After a long pause, his opponent eventually figured that Straus would only make such an offer if both his cards were deuces, giving him a full house. He folded, and Jack Straus entered poker history as one of the most creative bluffers.

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