Our hand this week is one of the largest ever to be broadcast on TV.
The protagonists are Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen, two of the most renowned players in the world at the time.
The year is 2006 - a watershed year for poker in the global spotlight.
Follow them all the way down in a dramatic duel that made poker history.
Biggest Poker Hand Ever on TV
It's 2006 and we're watching an episode of High Stakes Poker. Apart from Hansen and Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Eli Elezra and Barry Greenstein are also at the table.
It's a world-class field. The blinds are $300/$600/$100 so there's always at least $1,700 in the pot before the first player acts.
Hansen sits UTG and finds 5 5 5 5
He raises to $2,100. On his left is Negreanu who holds 6 6 6 6
The Canadian re-raises to $5,000. The other players fold, Esfandiari even mucks A♦ Q♣ but Hansen comes along. There's $11,700 in the pot. Effective stacks are at $285,000. Flop is 9 9 6 6 5 5
Hansen decides to check from first position. Negreanu bets $8,000, Hansen comes back with a check-raise to $26,000 and gets a call. The pot has grown to $63,700. The turn is the 5 5
Hansen leads out with a bet of $24,000. Negreanu calls and there's now $111,700 in the pot. The river is the 8 8
Now Hansen checks. Negreanu bets $65,000 and The Great Dane takes a little time before he moves all-in with $232,000. Negreanu takes a lot more time before finally calling off.
Gus Hansen wins a $575,000 pot! Relive the hand in the video below:
At the time in 2006 this was the richest pot in TV poker history and it caused a lot of controversy. Let’s take a closer look at the crucial moments and analyze both players’ moves.
Pre-flop Hansen decides to raise with a small pair from early position. Negreanu now has the chance to call with his pocket sixes but opts to re-raise making his hand look like a higher pair or AK.
The players behind fold. Esfandiari holds A♦ Q♣ but sitting between a re-raiser and a player still to act behind him he’s not comfortable and gets rid of his hand.
Hansen has an easy decision. He has a stack of around 400BB and a hand that has the potential to become a monster. He also gets great pot odds.
Negreanu Flops a Monster
So the Dane calls and both players flop a set. Hansen checks to the raiser. Of course, Negreanu bets.
He just flopped a monster and he’s now hoping his opponent has an overpair or a hand like 88. Anything that can call.
Surprisingly Negreanu sees Hansen check-raise to $26,000. This is a strong move by Hansen because it looks very much like a bluff. He also hopes that his opponent has an overpair so he tries to build the pot.
Negreanu probably doesn't hate this move. He has the third-best hand at the moment, he’s in position and he sees the chance to get Hansen’s complete stack.
If he re-raises here he would drive away all the worse hands so he flat-calls.
Miracle Turn for Gus
With almost $64,000 in the pot we go to the turn, and it’s a miracle turn for Gus Hansen.
He now has the nuts and all he needs to worry about is how to get all the money into the middle.
He starts with a bet. $24,000 is low enough so that Negreanu can easily call.
The Canadian also likes this turn because now he has a full house and doesn’t have to worry about straights with 87 and gutshot draws like pocket sevens (looking for an eight).
He still doesn’t want to scare off any bluffs so he just calls, which seems to be the best possible move.
A Very Tricky Check
The river leads us to a dramatic – and complicated – situation. Hansen wants it all and to get it he decides to check rather than to bet. It’s a very tricky check.
It’s also very risky because Negreanu could have many hands here that are good enough to call another bet with but would never bet out.
These would for example be (almost) all overpairs. Overpairs would also be very difficult to fold to a bet.
On the flip side Hansen now has created a situation in which Negreanu can’t really fold anymore. In this spot everything goes Hansen’s way as Negreanu has the exact hand that makes Hansen’s move perfect.
But it's only one hand in the Canadian’s range. When it's Negreanu’s turn he has to find a bet that Hansen can still call.
Obviously he must think he has the best hand with a full house and that there are quite a few hands that would call.
A Bad Surprise
Eventually he bets out $65,000 which is a little more than half the pot. He’s in for a bad surprise as Hansen moves all-in.
This makes the pot grow to $408,700. It's $167,000 for Negreanu to call equaling pot odds of 2.4 to 1, which means a call must be correct 40% of the time to be profitable.
The question now is what does Hansen have? Even for a player as adventurous and fearless as Gus Hansen such a check-raise on the river can’t really be a bluff.
There are some hands, like 99, 88, and 55, which would give Hansen the better full house or quads. If he had a straight he would probably follow a different line as there's a pair on the board.
Worse hands than a straight are extremely unlikely. Negreanu should have reluctantly folded.
Maybe, if his opponent were a player with a tighter image, he could have found it.
Gus Hits Perfectly Hidden Quads
Gus Hansen hits perfectly hidden quads (hits on the turn are almost invisible) and goes on to play a devious trick to stack Daniel Negreanu.
Negreanu falls for it and doesn’t manage to get rid of his hand -- a hand that's strong but on the river is really just a bluff catcher.