National League of Poker is here to count down the biggest poker hands in history. If you missed our first article, we covered the Top 2 hands in poker history, which helped lead the poker boom in the early 2000s.
Here is the rest of the Top 5 poker hands, according to NLOP.
#3 Phil Hellmuth Jr vs Johnny Chan (1989)
I’m not sure if there are more names synonymous with poker than these two players. Phil Hellmuth Jr, “The Poker Brat,” played Johnny Chan “The Master” for the 1989 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship. Chan was going for his third Main Event Championship in a row, a feat that today would have odds of a billion to one to happen.
Phil Hellmuth Jr was a bright-eyed 24-year-old who, after dropping out of college, made several trips back and forth to Vegas from Wisconsin trying to prove his poker chops. Phil’s aggressive style once the table got short-handed and into head’s up play really turned the tides of this heads-up battle. Phil raised preflop with pocket nines in the final hand.
Johnny Chan re-raised Phil with Ace 7 suited. Phil then almost immediately moved All-in. Chan tanked for a while, counted out how many chips he had left after re-raising Phil, and called the bet for his tournament life. Pocket nines held up, and Hellmuth became the youngest player to win the Main Event.
In the post-tournament broadcast, you could already see Phil being a darling for the camera, talking the commentator’s ear off, and speaking to the fans at home about his play and how he was able to wear down the great Johnny Chan. From there, Phil went onto win a record 15 World Series of Poker Bracelets.
#4 Chris “Jesus” Ferguson vs TJ Cloutier (2000)
This hand could be entitled “Jesus pulls a miracle on the River.” Chris “Jesus” Ferguson represented the new school of poker, math, and science-based, while TJ Cloutier literally wrote the book on poker in the 1970s and 1980s.
Jesus had a huge chip advantage going into heads-up play, but TJ clawed back and was just short of even when the final hand occurred. TJ moved All-In with Ace-Queen. Jesus called with Ace 9. Jesus only had 3 outs, the other 9’s in the deck. On the last card, a 9 fell on the river, and Jesus won the World Series of Poker.
This dawned a new age in which younger players felt they could step in against the old guard. Thus truly dominating playing a number’s game, which is known now as the game within the game.
#5 Chris Moneymaker vs Phil Ivey (2003)
The hand soon before the biggest hand in poker. In all honesty, if this would have played out differently, the history of poker would forever be changed. The Main Event at the World Series of Poker’s official final table is nine players, even though you play ten-handed. With ten left, Phil Ivey ended up playing the bubble boy this day.
Phil Ivey was already considered one of the best poker players in the world in 2003. His pocket nines ended up all-in on the turn as the board read Q Q 6 9. Phil Ivey turned a full house. Chris Moneymaker held Ace-Queen, needing an Ace, Queen, or 6 to complete a better full house. If Ivey won this hand, he’d go into the final table being chip leader and probably go onto win.
An Ace on the river, however, knocked Ivey out of the tournament. This gave Chris Moneymaker all the chips he’d need to bully his way through the final table. Things turned out alright for Ivey at the end of the day. He is still one of the biggest names in poker, but that elusive championship still haunts him. Moneymaker completed the Cinderella story and showed an average man could win poker’s biggest prize.
Have your own classic poker moment on National League of Poker. Here’s a code to use on the site: BLG621