Top Five Hands from WSOP Europe: Hold’em Edition


With the close of another major event live reported right here on PokerNews, it’s time for another edition of our Top Five Hands series.

This time around, we’ll be looking at hands from World Series of Poker Europe at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, located on the Western border of the Czech Republic. There was plenty of action over the course of two-plus weeks at King’s, including some pot-limit Omaha tournaments, so the top hands will be split up with a hold’em edition here and a PLO edition to come at a later date.

With that said, here are five hold’em hands that were exciting, unique, had an out-sized impact on final results, or all of the above.

Maria Ho Folds a Set

Could there be any other choice to lead off? This was easily the most buzzed-about hand to come out of the event.

Maria Ho struggled with a short stack for much of the event, seemingly nursing a stack between 10 and 30 big blinds every time the PokerNews live reporting team walked by her table. Nonetheless, she navigated her way to Day 4 of the event and finally found some run good in the early stages to reach a healthy count around the tournament average.

With four tables remaining, she found herself at a meat grinder of a table against the likes of Niall Farrell, Kristen Bicknell and Rainer Kempe. Amazingly, all four players would be involved in this pot, which turned out to be one that would leave fans and players everywhere asking, “What if?”

At Level 20 (8,000/16,000/2,000), Kempe raised to 34,000 in the hijack with {9-Hearts}{9-Clubs} and got a call from Bicknell and her {a-Spades}{j-Spades}. Farrell made it 152,000 in the small blind with {a-Hearts}{k-Clubs}. Ho held {10-Clubs}{10-Diamonds} and asked for a count of Farrell’s remaining stack, which turned out to be 1,042,000. She opted to call and it went four ways to {10-Hearts}{7-Hearts}{j-Hearts}.

With a little over 600,000 in the pot, Farrell opted to shove all in with his gutter and nut flush draw after a four-minute tank. That shove covered Ho’s remaining 740,000 and despite the strength of her hand, she decided to fold. The other two players folded in quick succession, ceding the pot to Farrell.

All turned out well for Ho on that day and the next as she ran it up and bagged the chip lead on successive days. Would this monster pot have propelled her to an insurmountable lead and led to her first bracelet win? Or would she instead have fallen in a non-descript 28th-place finish? We’ll never know.

Instead, she busted in sixth in another memorable hand.

To hear Ho herself explain her thought process on the big fold, check out this video:

Maria Ho and Niall Farrell Bust in Monster Double Elimination

Even after passing on that potentially seismic pot, Ho put herself in prime position to secure her first bracelet with a leading stack of nearly 80 big blinds heading into the final day, with six players remaining. While second-place Marti Roca De Torres was on her heels, Ho’s stack nearly doubled that of third-place Gianluca Speranza.

However, the early levels went less than swimmingly for the American, and after she doubled up Farrell with deuces against jacks, she was left the shortest of the bunch and had about 10 big blinds at 60,000/120,000/20,000. She stuck those all in and received a call from Roca De Torres.

In the big blind, Farrell looked down at {k-Diamonds}{k-Clubs} and shipped it in for 6,860,000. Unfortunately for him, Roca De Torres held the cooler with {a-Hearts}{a-Clubs} and snapped him off. Ho was left needing a miracle with {a-Spades}{j-Diamonds}.

A dead board of {9-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}{9-Clubs}{8-Clubs} ran out. Roca De Torres rocketed into a monster lead with 17 million of about 25 million in play, eliminating his two most accomplished rivals in the process. There would be ups and downs on the way, but the 888poker online qualifier would go on to claim €1,115,207 and the bracelet.

Chris Ferguson Seals Player of the Year Honors

OK, so this one is admittedly a little weird, as PokerNews did not actually get a hand history for John Racener’s elimination from the WSOPE Main Event.

Racener himself tweeted about midway through Day 2 that he got his remaining chips in with {j-}{j-} and found himself at risk against a player holding {10-}{10-}. The jacks failed to hold and that was all she wrote for Racener.

However, the actual hand is of little import. Few, if any hands had as much impact as this one, since it sewed up WSOP Player of the Year honors for Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, who remains one of the most controversial figures in the game. His status as a poker pariah, of course, stems from his high-level involvement in Full Tilt Poker leading up to Black Friday and the subsequent fallout that followed when FTP was found to be unable to honor player cashouts.

Where Ferguson himself fits into that whole disaster remains something of a mystery, but it’s safe to say thousands of poker players across the globe were rooting on Racener as he was the final longshot with a chance to dethrone Ferguson. Here’s what some of them had to say on the matter:

Martin Kabrhel Finds a Dream Spot in the One Drop

The talkative, perpetually tanking Martin Kabrhel has drawn the ire of plenty of opponents over the years, and this event turned out to be no different. Given that, all of his high roller rivals likely sighed after hearing about this pot, which gave Kabrhel the ammo to keep his antics going deep into the €111,111 High Roller for One Drop.

It was only Level 5 (10,000/20,000/3,000), but this monster pot started with Igor Kurganov opening to 45,000 under the gun. Kabrhel called in middle position and Jack Salter made it 202,000 from the small blind. Kurganov called and Kabrhel made it three to a {j-Hearts}{9-Diamonds}{4-Hearts} flop.

Salter checked, Kurganov bet 195,000 and Kabrhel put in a small raise to around 400,000. Salter jammed in 805,000, Kurganov called, and Kabrhel set Kurganov in for about 1.3 million more. Kurganov agonized for a couple of minutes but couldn’t find the fold button and found himself in an awful spot.

Kurganov: {a-Diamonds}{a-Spades}
Salter: {a-Hearts}{a-Clubs}
Kabrhel: {j-Clubs}{9-Clubs}

It was a dream spot for Kabrhel fading just fours and running cards, and he held on for the double knockout to get to three starting stacks early in the event, powering an eventual cash in eighth place.

Niall Farrell Executes a Big Bluff, Wins the €25K

While Farrell’s high hopes in the Main Event ended with a fifth-place finish, he authored a more successful ending in the €25,000 High Roller, winning his first career bracelet. To do so, he had to overcome longtime chip leader Benjamin Pollak heads up. Farrell went into the match with a slight lead.

The Scottish pro opened on the button to 2.2 million at 500,000/1,000,000/150,000 with {7-Spades}{6-Spades}. Pollak called with {k-Hearts}{2-Hearts} in the big blind and they saw a {9-Diamonds}{a-Diamonds}{8-Hearts} flop. Pollak checked and called 2 million. He check-called 5.7 million more on the {4-Clubs} turn and then paired up on the {k-Clubs} river.

After a final check, Farrell put in a third barrel worth 10 million, about half of the pot. It left him less than 10 big blinds behind. Pollak spent more than four minutes in the tank. A call and and loss would mean he would be crippled down to a few big blinds. He shook his head and looked truly pained before deciding to fold, and Farrell dragged the pot without showing the huge bluff.

Ten hands later, Farrell had his his bracelet as Pollak was unable to overcome the big deficit.

Niall Farrell, WSOPE Event #9 Winner

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