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Phil Hellmuth On Epic Blow-Up at the WSOP Main Event

There was a ton of money and an ocean of prestige at stake at the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event. The final three players were competing for $8,944,000 first place prize money, $5,546,000 to the runner-up, and $4,130,000 to the third place finisher.

No doubt about it, the winner would be the true 2010 World Champion of Poker.

Joseph Cheong had the lead with $82 million in chips, closely followed by Jonathan Duhamel with $76 million, and John Racener with $30 million.

Cheong had been playing the best poker of anyone at the final table. His timing was perfect for nearly twelve hours of final table play. His constant raises and reraises enabled him to win pot after uncontested pot. As a result, he easily picked up deca-millions in free chips without ever being called.

Everyone at the final table was afraid of Cheong. All he had to do was avoid playing a huge pot against Duhamel and he'd be home free.

However, as often happens when a player is dominating the final table, Cheong never slowed down. While sitting comfortably with $110 million in chips, he first bluffed off $30 million to Duhamel. Then he played a hand that will be talked about for decades to come.

With the blinds at $600K/$1.2 million, Cheong opened for $2.9 million from the small blind with A-7 offsuit. Duhamel raised from the big blind with a three-bet making it $6.75 million to go. Cheong reraised to $14.75 million with a four-bet. Duhamel made it a five-bet, upping it to $22.75 million to go. And then Cheong moved all-in with a six-bet!

Duhamel immediately called and showed his pocket queens. Well, when the smoke cleared, Cheong had only $6 million left from his once mighty $116 million chip stack. Shortly thereafter, Cheong was gone, finishing in third place.

Let's take a closer look at this hand.

Cheong's $2.9 million opening bet from the small blind was standard. Duhamel's $6.75 million three-bet, a raise of $3.85 million into a $6 million pot - about 60% of the pot -- was also standard.

Cheong's $14.75 million bet, an $8 million reraise, was not a good move. He had been forcing the other players to fold hand after hand because they were all afraid of his big stack. So, when an opponent finally did three-bet him, he should have interpreted that move as his signal to slow down. He could have easily surrendered his original $2.9 million bet, especially given the fact that he had just stolen some $40 million in chips with his brilliant play.

Now, it is possible that Cheong read Duhamel for weakness. In that case, his four-bet raise would have been reasonable - but still wrong. Still, I respect a man who has the conviction to go with his read.

Duhamel's five-bet $8 million reraise into what became a $30 million pot was a very clever play. His smallish raise set the trapdoor for Cheong to move all-in, and that's just what Cheong did.

I absolutely hate Cheong's all-in move in this spot. When Duhamel five-bet it, Cheong had to know that his opponent had a huge hand, right?

Look, every player at the table was scared to death of Cheong. As soon as anyone started pushing back, Cheong should have just waved the white flag and surrendered. There was simply no need for him to four-bet, and his six-bet was completely off the mark.

Unfortunately for Joseph Cheong, his dominating performance in the last twelve hours of final table play will be forgotten. All that will be remembered will be the final few minutes: an A-7 offsuit blow-up of epic proportions!


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