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Famous Poker Moments – Johnny Chan vs Phil Hellmuth Heads up 1989 WSOP Main Event

There are not many more famous scenes than Phil Hellmuth winning his first ever WSOP bracelet over Johnny Chan. There he was, Phil Hellmuth, a relatively unknown player against the master, Johnny Chan, a man whom Hellmuth idolised. Come forward 23 years to the current day and you will find Hellmuth with the most WSOP bracelets held by one person (12), a record that he took from Chan (10). Here, we will look a bit more at this famous scene.

It is important to remember that this event was in 1989, so the online boom was nowhere near and the WSOP main event only drew in 178 participants. However, this does not take away from how astonishing this victory was to the world of poker.

Johnny Chan was the best player in the world when all of this happened. He had won back to back WSOP main events, something that only three other men apart from him had ever done, while Phil Hellmuth Jr at just 24 was by all means unknown when compared to Chan.

Chan nearly never made it anywhere near the final table or the second day, for that matter. On the first day, Chan narrowly avoided going bust, but with some stunning play, he clawed his way back up to a respectable stack. By the time Chan reached the final table he was sitting on an above average stack in second, and everything seemed to be falling into place for Chan.

Chan continued his dominance on the final table. He eliminated Noel Furlong with the first hand with QQs up against Furlong’s 44s. He then went on to take out Lyle Berman with 77s up against A-K when Chan hit his set. When it got to this point, Chan was miles in the lead, and at this point it looked like a race to see who would finish second.

Chan ran into problems when he came up against Don Zewin. With 99s in the hole, Chan lost to Zewin, who held AJ, when Zewin hit an ace on the river to double. Then came potentially the pivotal hand of the tournament. Hellmuth with A10 was sitting in second, and he found himself in a large three way pot up against Zewin and Lott. Zewin (1010) and Lott (22) were both eliminated when Hellmuth spiked his ace on the flop. Even though Hellmuth held almost twice as many chips than Chan, many still favoured the master.

When heads-up play started to develop, you could see Chan becoming confused by Hellmuth’s style. At the time, Hellmuth was very aggressive, which had Chan all over the place.  On the winning hand, Hellmuth opened up with a small raise and was re-raised by Chan to 130k, Hellmuth then shoved, leaving Chan to think about his move for a few minutes before deciding to call. Hellmuth held 99s up against Chan’s A7 suited. The flop brought KK10 opening Chan’s outs, and the turn brought a Q but the river (a six) did nothing for Chan and gave Hellmuth the win.

Purely for the surprise, this is one of the most amazing scenes the poker world has ever witnessed even up to 2012.

(C) mjtmail (tiggy)

The History of Poker on TV

Since the inception of the "pocket cam" in 1997, televised poker has become a lucrative business, attracting millions of viewers and even commanding its own channels.

The history of televised poker begins in the 1970s, when ESPN began broadcasting the WSOP Final Table, but it suffered because the viewers could not see the hole cards of the players. However in 1997 the pocket cam revolutionised the way televised poker could entice viewers. By giving the television audience the ability to see everyone’s hole cards, the excitement of watching a game shot up.


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