Poker After Dark called this week’s lineup the “Magnificent Six”, and while they may not have been the absolute best six players that have ever sat down together, they certainly were among the most famous. The group included Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson, all poker legends for numerous reasons.
Chris Ferguson got off to a quick start when he sniffed out an Ivey bluff. With the blinds at 100-200, Lederer folded under the gun with pocket deuces, whereupon Ivey fired out a raise to 600 with , which Ferguson called in the big blind with A-10 offsuit. The flop of J-10-9 brought a check from Ferguson and a bet of 900 from Ivey, which Ferguson called. A six on the turn led Ferguson to check-call Ivey’s second bullet, this time 2,500. When a deuce fell on the river, Ferguson checked a third time, and Ivey kept coming, betting 6,500. Ferguson, who has been bluffed out of pots by Ivey in the past, decided to call once again, and took close to half of Ivey’s stack.
With Ferguson in the lead with over 30,000 in chips, while none of the others was better than his original stack of 20,000, he raised in the small blind to 900 (blinds now at 150-300) with A-7, and Lederer called in the big blind with . When the flop came A-J-8, with both the jack and the eight being diamonds, Howard Lederer raised Ferguson’s bet of 1,100 to 4,000. Ferguson then decided to put Lederer to the test, and pushed all-in. Lederer, with the straight, flush and straight-flush draws, called, however, an and a sealed Lederer’s fate, and he was out in 6th place.
The next player to be victimized by Ferguson was Phil Ivey. When Ferguson raised to 1,600 with pocket eights, Ivey pushed all-in for his last 4,300. However, he just had a pair of sevens, and when the board played out J-J-6-6-5, the man most consider to be the best poker player in the world was knocked out in 5th place.
Just how well Ferguson was playing was seen in a battle with Hellmuth, when Hellmuth limped for 600 with pocket deuces and Ferguson raised to 2,600 with queens. After Hellmuth called, the flop brought 8-K-2, giving Hellmuth his two-out set. Hellmuth had checked in the dark, and Ferguson checked as well! Hellmuth checked in the dark once more before the turn brought the , and this time, Ferguson bet 3,500. Hellmuth then made a minimum raise to 7,000, and Ferguson decided to fold right then, preserving his chip stack, and losing the minimum possible in a hand many players would have gone broke with.
With the blinds going up to 400-800, Ferguson raised under the gun to 2,400 with A-Q and Brunson, who had been card dead and had seen his stack dwindling away, called with . The flop was 10-A-8 with two clubs, and Ferguson led out with a bet of 3,000. Brunson then pushed all-in for his last 8,800 with just an inside straight draw! Ferguson naturally called, and the on the turn and on the river eliminated the legendary Brunson in 4th place.
With only three players left, Ferguson had the opportunity to do what only two players, Johnny Chan and Gavin Smith, had ever done in Poker After Dark, which is to personally knock out every other player at the table. He took care of one of them fairly rapidly, when he moved all-in on a very short-stacked Negreanu with A-9, which Negreanu called with . When the board came 3-10-2-7-Q, Negreanu also headed to the sidelines in 3rd place, ending a very strange week for Negreanu, which saw him depart from his usual small-ball approach in a conscious decision to play very tightly. He acknowledged that strategy had not worked out, and it seemed very strange that he had employed it, since with a starting table including Ferguson, Lederer, Brunson, and Hellmuth, all of whom tend to play premium cards, one would think that a more aggressive approach would have worked quite well, especially with Ivey departing so early.
Hellmuth and Ferguson were left to play heads-up, in a continuation of a heads-up rivalry that had begun at the 2005 Heads-Up Championship, where Hellmuth had won a best two-out-of-three to claim that title. With the stacks fairly close to even, a long heads-up session was anticipated, and the two players did not disappoint, playing over 60 hands before a winner was determined.
In one early hand, Ferguson raised to 2,000 with K-10 and Hellmuth made the call with A-Q. Hellmuth checked in the dark as the flop brought 2-Q-9. Ferguson checked behind him, and when the turn brought another 9, Hellmuth bet out 3,000 and Ferguson called. A jack on the river gave Ferguson a straight, and Hellmuth bet out 10,000, still believing he was best. However, he was stunned to see Ferguson push all-in, and he hesitated, and then was interrupted by a cell phone call from his wife, to whom he described the whole hand while deciding to lay it down.
The match went back and forth, with Hellmuth finally taking a small lead, when the critical hand of the match was played. Ferguson raised to 5,000 with 10-7, and Hellmuth called with . On a flop of 7-9-3, Hellmuth checked and Ferguson bet 7,500, whereupon Hellmuth went all-in, sensing that his top pair was good. Ferguson, who had seen Hellmuth lay down a number of good hands, may have thought that Hellmuth was just fighting back, and decided to call. The turn of the was a crusher for Hellmuth, and the river actually gave Ferguson a flush, and a more than 10 to 1 chip lead.
Hellmuth then limped with A-2, hoping to induce a shove from Ferguson, who obliged with . However, the 4-9-8 flop, with two hearts, put Hellmuth in grave danger, and the on the turn cemented the match for Ferguson. Chris Ferguson was this week’s champion and just the third player in Poker After Dark history to take out every one of his opponents by himself!
See you next week!
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