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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.

A look at key terms in poker, Q – X


In poker, there are several types of tournament and one of them is the re-buy tournament. In a re-buy you are allowed to buy back in if you go bust or fall below a certain amount, and in return, you pay the fee for entry (minus any house fees.) In the majority of cases you will be able to re-buy up until the first break (an hour) for 1500 chips, but this will depend on the tournament specifications.

A re-buy may also refer to somebody buying back into a cash game again after going bust.

Return on Investment

In poker, your return on investment (ROI) is something that you need to track closely. In short, a positive ROI shows that a player is winning whereas a negative one implies that they have lost.

A ROI is calculated as so; in a tournament where the entry is $10 if a player enters and wins $20 the player has made $10 profit. In order to work out the ROI, all you do is take the entry fee, and profit made from the tournament. In this instance, this sum would be 10/10, what you then do is convert this to a percentage to give you your ROI.

Split Pot

If two or more players have the same hand where a flush or kicker does not come into play the pot is split evenly. It could be that a pot is split between more than two players. For instance, if five players go to the pot and the board hits A-K-Q-J-10 with no chance of a flush, this means the board is offering the nuts, and any other possible hand cannot better the board. If all of these five players made it to the river, then the pot would be split evenly between them.


If you are involved in a hand where you are a favourite when you get your chips in and end up losing, then you may go on tilt. The definition of tilt varies. However, most people would say that any variation (regardless of how small) in how you play based on anything negative that happened to them in a previous hand would define a player tilting.

What sets a player on tilt will vary. The very best players can control their natural tilt instinct. Some refuse to believe that they have one even though they might and some ‘blow up’ at the very slightest bad beat.

Weak play

A weak player as the name suggests is the easiest type of player to play against in the eyes of many professionals. This type of player will often play in a passive manner. This means that they will check when they should bet or will only raise a small amount when they should really be betting more.

If you feel that you are a weak player and have passive tendencies, then you should make sure you sort these problems out before playing any more real money games.

A look at key terms in poker, letters I - L

Implied Odds

Implied odds are hard to calculate, but can be the difference between you winning and losing when playing poker. Pot odds is the chance of your hand winning at that present time, but your implied odds are the odds you think you may have.

For instance, say you are short stacked and running deep in a tournament, and you call a bet that covers your stack with a hand like 4-5 suited with two loose passive players to act, at least one of which you expect to call. When you call the bet, your pot odds are not good, but say one or even both players get involved then your pot odds have risen significantly, and as you are getting the chance to times your stack by four, your call is probably worth it.


A jam is another term for playing aggressively. If you are in a hand with several players and there has been some action before it gets to you, and you push all in then you could say that you had ‘jammed’ it all in.


The kicker is one of the most important cards in poker. In Texas Hold’em your hand is formed from seven cards, but you are only looking for the five best cards from a selection of the community cards and your hole cards. In the instance that you have two pairs (four cards) you still need to have another card to make it up.

If you and the person you are up against have A-K and A-Q and the board is A, 10, 7, 4, 2, you have the winning hand because your best five-card hand is aces with a king kicker (A-A-K-10-7) while the other players' hand is (A-A-Q-10-7).


A limp or limping is when you get involved in the pot for as little as possible, the value of the big blind. Getting into the pot for this amount (assuming there is no raise) will allow you to see the flop. People that limp tend to have a semi-decent hand that is not strong enough to raise with, but a hand they feel could be valuable. A pocket pair or suited connectors are both hands people commonly limp with.

Live Hand

When you are sitting at a table, you will often hear people say, "please let me be live" once they go to a showdown. In this instance, they have shoved (probably with a small stack) hoping to steal the blinds. However, if they get called, they want to have two cards that are live. This type of hand is one that is not dominated by the player you are up against. If your opponent has A-K, and you have 8-7 your hand is live because you can hit an 8 or a 7 to win (as long as an ace or king does not hit.) If you have A-9 in the same situation, your hand is dominated and your only decent chance of winning is if you hit a nine without a king.

A look at key terms in poker, letters M-P


In poker, mucking is when you throw away your cards if you have lost when it comes to a showdown. Players have the choice (if they are not first to show) to muck their hand so the table cannot see what they had.

If there was betting on the river, that person (the bettor) will be the person that has to show their cards. If there was no betting on the river, it reverts to the first player after the button or the person who made the last raise (depending on house rules.)


The nut hand is the optimum hand one can have. For instance, on a board of As Kc Qh 3d 2c the best hand a player could have is J 10, that would be considered the nuts.

There are times when a player can have the nuts without actually having the best hand possible. For instance, on a board of 6h 3c Qs Qh 4d, a player with Q 6 would have the nut hand because the actual nuts, pocket queens, is impossible to get because you are holding one of the queens.


This type of bet is when a player raises with more chips then they would do normally. For instance, if there are 400 chips in the pot and the bet is 1000, that is a huge over bet. There are few occasions when this type of bet is considered the right play, and this is why the majority of players who over bet regularly do not know what they are doing.

There are occasions when this type of bet may be the right play. However, only experienced players should try a strategy like this because it is hard to master.


In poker, when you are dealt a pocket pair and the board hits five lower cards you have an over-pair to the community cards on the board.

If you have AA, and the board comes Q-9-7-8-4 you have an over-pair. Having this hand is ideal because it is hard to put any player on these cards if they play it right. Furthermore, in this situation, your opponent would have to have two pair or better to win because AQ and KK would still lose on this board.


A passive player in poker often describes a poor one, but this is not always the case if a player can switch their style to suit the hand. There are two types of passive players, tight-passive and loose-passive. The first describes somebody who will only call or raise (but mostly call) if they have a really good hand. They very rarely take risks and can often be pushed off a decent hand.

At the same time, if a tight-passive player is calling you down, then you better have a very good hand. Loose-passive players are probably the worst players you can come up against. They call a lot and will rarely fold or re-raise (hence their other nickname, the calling station.)


A look at key terms in poker, letters A-D

In any community card game (game where cards are dealt on the board) an action card is one that significantly increases the action at the table. For instance, if there are two players left and they both have a strong ace, and the turn shows an ace this could be considered an action card.

There is also an implied action card, which is a card that people think will bring action, like an ace, but in reality, it does none of the players left any favours.


The bubble is essentially the most dreaded position that you can finish in tournament poker. It is the position that finishes one outside the pay. With this in mind, many people tighten their game up around the bubble because they want to cash, and this gives those who are a bit more adventurous the chance to increase their aggressiveness and potentially steel a few decent-sized pots.

Calling Station

A calling station is a way of talking about a type of player. In fact, it is essentially just another way of calling somebody a loose-passive player. A calling station will often call raises in order to try to chase cards, but will rarely raise the pot and only fold if they really have no potential outs. These players know little about pot odds or implied odds and instead like to base their game on luck.

To play a calling station correctly you should bet maybe slightly over what you usually would. This means that if you win the pot, it is worth your while, and if you lose, then you just have to put it down to bad luck and tell yourself that in the majority of cases you will win against these players.

Coffee Housing

The term coffee housing can be used to describe both online and offline play, and is something that is seen as poor sportsmanship in the UK, but not so much in the USA. Coffee housing is talking about the strength of your hand whilst the action is still in play.

This is not against the rules, but it is against general etiquette, and if you are playing poker live you can be warned, and if you continually do it then you can be barred from the venue.

Dominated Hand

A dominated hand is when there are two hands against one another pre-flop with the same high kicker. For instance, in the situation of AK up again AQ, AQ is dominated because, in reality, the only way AQ is going to win is if it hits a straight or if a queen hits the board without a king.

There is also a case for saying that in the situation when two players have pocket aces and kings pre-flop the kings are dominated. This is because, in reality, baring the unlikely straight or flush possibility, the only way the kings have of winning is if a king hits the board, and that is two potential outs.

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