How one poker hand cost Joe Hachem a World Series of Poker Circuit Championship
by Nolan Dalla
Photos courtesy of Image Masters Photography and World Series of Poker
One single poker hand can change a life. One poker hand can create a new star out of someone previously unknown. One poker hand can validate a deeply personal decision made years earlier, against the well-intended advice of parents and peers. One poker hand can be riveting to behold, and even more extraordinary to analyze.
The poker hand of all poker hands took place precisely at 4:20 pm PST on Tuesday, November 22nd in Las Vegas. The loser of the hand was destined to walk away shell shocked in frustration as the fifth-place finisher. The winner of the hand was to ultimately soar to victory in the World Series of Poker Circuit championship held at Ballys-Paris -- an event which will be nationally televised later by ESPN. The hand essentially cost one player $352,000. It was -- the hand of the year.
2005 World Series of Poker champ and member of Team PokerStars Joe Hachem arrived at the final table with a decisive chip lead. Four hours later, only five players remained. Hachem retained the lead with 360,000 in chips. His closest rival was a 29-year-old Vietnamese native named Thang 'Kido' Pham.
What happened was a bombshell or an abomination, depending upon one's perspective. The hand clearly demonstrates that poker tournaments can be either won or lost within seconds. It all started when Joe Hachem was dealt pocket Kings. After J.C. Tran made an initial 18,000 raise, Kido Pham re-raised another 50,000. Hachem must have thought he was in final table heaven.
The fateful hand starts off with Kido Pham re-raising 50,000 before the flop.
The cards are revealed and Hachem realizes he is a huge favorite
Hachem is all smiles. Hachem's K-K is an 84 to 16 percent favorite over Pham's J-10. Hachem realizes that if he wins this hand, he will enjoy a huge edge to win the tournament.
Agony turns to ecstasy--Pham sees Jacks come on the flop
The flop shows J-J-2
Ecstasy turns to agony--Hachem can't believe what he has just seen
Pham consoles Hachem on the bad beat
Hachem sits back down at the table ready to play another hand
"I came here wanting to avoid making any mistakes," Hachem said in a post-tournament interview. "The fact is -- I didn't make a mistake. I'm proud of the way I played in this tournament, although it is very painful not to win."
When asked which emotion is more powerful in poker -- joy or despair, Hachem was candid. "Despair is more powerful," Hachem admitted. "It's great to win, but it takes some time to get over losing. But that's poker -- you have to get over the tough beats."
Kido Pham went on to win the tournament and nearly half a million dollars. When asked about the hand against Hachem, Pham was brutally sincere. "I played the hand very badly," Pham admitted. "That was very lucky. I had already committed half of my chips, so I tried to steal the pot... I caught a lot of cards today."