Famous Poker Bluffs

Johnny Chan and Erik Seidel

The 1988 World Series of Poker match between Johnny Chan and Erik Seidel was immortalized in the movie Rounders, in which Johnny Chan himself made a guest appearance. As a result, Chan’s bluff in the match is probably the most famous of all famous poker bluffs.

In this match, the blinds were $10,000 and $20,000, and Chan was the first to act in each round.

The flop yielded a queen of hearts and a 10 and 8 of diamonds. Chan checked, Seidel bet $50,000, and Chan called.

The turn card was a blank, and both players checked. Likewise, the river card wasn’t useful, and Chan checked.

At this point, Seidel was holding a queen, giving him top pair with a weak kicker. However, he assumed that Chan must have a weak hand because Chan failed to bet both on the turn and on the river. That was a fatal miscalculation, because Chan was actually staging a reverse bluff.

Seidel went all in. Chan then produced his winning hand – a jack and a 9 of spades, giving him a straight flush. Chan went on to win the World Championship.

Jack Strauss and the Seven-Deuce

Jack Strauss, winner of the 1982 World Series of Poker, was playing a no-limit Texas Hold ‘em game. In the game, he was dealt a 7 and a deuce (a 2) of different suits.

Instead of immediately folding, Strauss began what is now one of the most famous poker bluffs. He raised.

A player called.

The flop was 7-3-3, meaning that Strauss had two pair, with a very weak kicker.

Strauss bet again but then realized his mistake – his opponent immediately raised him by $5,000.

Again, instead of releasing his hand, Strauss called again.

The fourth card was a deuce, which paired Strauss’ other hole card. However, this wasn’t worth anything because the community cards already included a pair of 3s.

Strauss proceeded to bet $18,000. He then leant forward and said “I’ll tell you what, just give me one of those $25 chips of yours and you can see either one of my cards – whichever one you choose.”

After considering this proposition, Strauss’ opponent handed over a chip and pointed to one of the two cards. The card that Strauss flipped was the deuce.

Because of Strauss’ obvious confidence, his opponent made the natural assumption that the other card was a deuce also, giving Straus a full house. The opponent folded, and Strauss walked away with the pot.

Strauss is reported to have said that “It was just a matter of psychology.”

Baldwin versus Addington

During the 1978 World Series of Poker no-limit Hold’em event, Bobby Baldwin went up against Crandall Addington.

Addington was heavily favoured at the time, having about $275,000 in chips to Baldwin’s $145,000. Baldwin bet before the flop and Addington called. The flop was Qd 4d 3c. Baldwin bet $30,000.

Addington called without a moment’s hesitation, indicating that he also had a good hand. The turn yielded an ace of diamonds, making the possibility of a flush or straight greater. Baldwin bet an additional $95,000, which was added to the $92,000 in the pot – close to all in, given the number of his chips.

Addington needed to think hard. If he called and won, Baldwin would be almost out of chips. If he called and lost, he would be risking his place in the tournament. If he folded, he’d still have enough chips to continue and perhaps gain an advantage later in the tournament.

Addington folded. Baldwin then revealed his cards – nothing but a 10 and 9 of hearts. Baldwin’s famous poker bluff won him the $92,000 pot, and allowed him to continue on to become the World Series of Poker champion.