As much as poker is like a sport, it is quite different from most individual and team sports when it comes to setting records. The truth is that the best poker players, and the best poker hands ever played, are not necessarily a matter of a record, nor can they be defined statistically.
There are numerous experts who provide an enormous amount of statistics related to the results of poker tournaments and the players’ winnings, although how that information is interpreted generates much debate. Therefore, creating a list of the best 10, 15 or 20 poker hands in history is an impossible task if the list maker wants to adhere strictly to “objective” criteria. There is too much ambiguity both in how to make those ratings and in the history of the game itself, especially if we go back to before there was widespread coverage of poker news and televised poker, when you have to rely on uncertain (and often exaggerated) stories about poker hands.
Even with all these considerations in mind, we still dare to list the 5 most memorable poker hands. No doubt, many of them would enter most “best poker hand ever” lists because of their historical significance, the impressive winnings associated with them and their value as pure entertainment.
We order these hands chronologically (most recent to oldest) and, before starting, we add that we have not wanted to include hands made in online poker tournaments. You may remember other better hands, but we have already said that this list is made in a subjective way.
Adrian Mateos’ big bluff to Johnny Lodden – May 2015
At the top of the list, we have chosen a mythical hand, which was played at the Main Event of the EPT 2015 Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Yes, it is the tremendous bluff that Adrian Mateos placed on the Norwegian Johnny Lodden, which may have been the best hand of 2015. This is one of the most outstanding players in live tournaments and online poker in Spanish.
Two of the best players at the table face to face, Mateos had a J-10 hand and Lodden 5-5. The cards on the flop were A-3-9, the next card would be a 4 and, despite having no hands of value, Adrian decided to bet 650,000 and the Norwegian decided to call the bet. Far from collapsing, Adrian decided to go all in despite clearly losing to his rival’s hand. Lodden decided to fold and the Spanish player showed his cards to create despair in the Norwegian.
Duhamel beats Matt Affleck – July 2010
With only 15 players left in the WSOP Main Event, Matt Affleck was eliminated in a huge hand against Jonathan Duhamel, who would end up winning. Duhamel was all in on the turn with Affleck’s ace pair against his Js partner and an unfinished project. Duhamel gets the ladder at the river. A moment that all poker fans could experience and that will surely remain in the retina of many for years to come.
Ernest Wiggins wins in four rounds to eliminate Hellmuth – June 2010
While there are certainly a few crazy straight flush hands on poker that we could have included, when it comes to going against the odds it’s hard to beat this one from the first chapter of PokerStars Big Game, in which Phil Hellmuth stood up to the “unpredictable” amateur Ernest Wiggins. Hellmuth had A-9, Wiggins K-K, and on the flop had come 9-10-9. “Okay, I’m going all in,” said Hellmuth, and Wiggins called him instantly.
At Hellmuth’s request, they decide to go four rounds, using one of their favourite poker strategies to minimise variance. Wiggins agrees, and, well, the title can give you an idea of what happened. After Hellmuth wins in the first round, Wiggins takes out a king and wins the second, gets a project colour and takes the third, and then the king appears in the fourth round.
Battle between Hansen and Negreanu for over half a million – August 2006
It was the first hand with a jackpot over half a million in High Stakes Poker, the famous TV show with high stakes cash games involving most professional poker players and some amateurs. If you watched this program, you will remember this. Gus Hansen went up with a 5-5, Daniel Negreanu bet with 6-6, Hansen called it and, on the flop, came 9-6-5-, which gave both players three of a kind. More was bet in that round, and then a 5 appeared in the turn that gave poker to Hansen. Hansen bet, Negreanu called, and finally went all in after the 8, which gave Hansen the $575,700 jackpot.
Scotty Nguyen celebrates his victory before seeing his rival’s cards – May 1998
Head to head for the title of the WSOP Main Event, and Scotty Nguyen goes all in with a 8-8-9-9-8 on the flop, putting Kevin McBride in a tight spot for the rest of his stack. McBride had a Q-10, which meant that if he called the bet, he would play with the full house on the community cards. While he was thinking on it, Nguyen stood up and raised his beer saying “If you see the bet, it ends here, baby! In the end McBride called it, fulfilling Nguyen’s prediction, who showed a J-9 that formed a better full house.