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The World Series of Poker is something special, and busting out of it is incredibly painful. When you go bust in a hand where you’re the favorite to lose, you can accept that you did so because you ran into a better hand, or maybe even a better player. But when you’ve got an incredible hand and the cards go against you, it can feel like the end of the world.
These World Series of Poker bad beats are the worst of the worst for a variety of reasons, and we can’t stop watching them!
Playing in the World Series of Poker Main Event is a thrill for players of all levels, but for the professionals, it represents the best chance of the year to take on players who are at a lower level than themselves for a massive prizepool. Back in 2017, Vanessa Selbst hadn’t ‘retired’ from poker (she returned this summer) and was at the feature table battling French professional Gaelle Baumann.
There’s no doubt that Selbst had the experience on her opponent, but in a thrilling hand, the American found out to her cost that pocket aces that turn into a full house on the turn don’t always win. One of the best ‘How Did That Just Happen?’ expressions seen across the entire history of the game.
One of the worst bad beats of all-time in the World Series happened in the 2023 WSOP Main Event on Day 5. This one wasn’t heads-up between two opponents but three-handed, with a trio of players all holding premium hands. Ryan Brown was at risk with ace-queen, and he was up against the best two starting hands in the game, as Stuart Taylor’s re-shove with pocket aces was called by crowd favorite Bill Klein with pocket kings.
The flop was a dramatic one, landing king-high to give Klein what looked like a miraculous set of cowboys to ride him up to an above average stack. At that stage, Ryan Brown was a 2% shot to come back, so he stood up and prepared to leave the arena. Collecting his bag and slinging it over his shoulder, there was a momentary pause when a jack on the turn gave him four outs rather than two. He was still only a 10% shot to hit a ten to make Broadway but that’s exactly what happened as he resumed a seated position and waited for the chips to be pushed in his direction by the dealer.
We’ve only dropped this hand to 4th place on our list because there was a chance that Stuart Taylor could have rivered a one-outer ace instead of losing with the best hand pre-flop. Exiting from the poker table in his cream suit and sunglasses never felt more painful.
Easily the most incredible looking board on our list came on the outer tables of the Main Event way back in 2008. A full 15 years ago, Motoyuki Mabuchi, a professional player from Japan, was involved in a hand against American player Justin Phillips which has gone down in poker history. The WSOP cameras joined the action in an attempt to catch stand-up comedian Ray Romano in a hand. What they got instead blew everyone’s minds.
The board was a spectacular one as the five community cards showed the ace of hearts, the nine of clubs, then the queen, ten and ace of diamonds. Mabuchi’s bet was raised by Phillips and when the Japanese player shoved his chips aggressively towards the middle of the felt, Phillips snap-called with the bigger stack. It was easy to see why once he turned his cards over, as he held king-jack in diamonds for a runner-runner-runner Royal Flush – the best hand in poker.
That, somehow, was not the most astounding element of the hand. Technically this almost doesn’t qualify as a bad beat but rather a cooler. Mabuchi had been desperate to shove the river and as he revealed his cards, it wasn’t hard to see why. The Japanese player slammed his cards face-up… pocket aces. Quad aces lost to a Royal Flush on-screen and to this day, the footage is no less sensational.
The worst statistical bad beat in the World Series of Poker came not in the Main Event, but in the $50,000-entry Poker Players Championship in 2019. Playing in Limit 2-7 Triple Draw, Bryce Yockey was all-in with a 99.8% chance of winning the hand, only for Josh Arieh to draw perfect to out run him and send a disbelieving Yockey to the rail.
Arieh, who needed to draw a deuce and a four, made a wheel, then as he prompted Nick Schulman on commentary to call it ‘the bad beat to end all bad beats’, would later celebrate his luck after ending the tournament in second place rather than fourth like Yockey.
“I’m forever the guy that won a pot with 354 to 1 odds against…..doesn’t surprise me a bit!” he laughed.
Although the odds of defeat in our worst bad beat were much higher than Yockey’s hilariously awful beat, the consequences were far, far worse. Deep in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, Canadian player Jonathan Duhamel got into a massive pot against Matt Affleck that has been watched – and dissected in detail – more than any other over the years.
With Duhamel holding pocket jacks and Affleck with aces pre-flop, the latter raised and re-raised both before the flop and after it. When the turn landed as a queen, all the chips went in, with Affleck a 79% favorite. Duhamel only had jacks and an open-ended straight draw but was chasing down 10 outs.
What made the hand so painful was not that Duhamel hit an eight to make a straight, but the effect of the hand on both Affleck and the tournament in general. Affleck had busted inside the top 80 the previous year and knew that if he won the pot against Duhamel, he’d be a massive chip leader. It was for way more than one pot and as it turned out, led to Duhamel running over the remaining players.
Affleck, distraught beyond words, blasted out of the Rio and launched his water bottle into the floor, Duhamel’s reaction captured by the ESPN cameras. Affleck was crushed and slid against the nearest wall as his life fell to pieces. Interestingly, since the defining moment in both men’s careers, Affleck’s career has gone from strength to strength, with the popular player and coach a staple in major events all year round. Duhamel started a family and was robbed for the Main Event bracelet he won because of a heartbreak river card we’ll never forget.
In conclusion, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has seen its fair share of heart-stopping moments and jaw-dropping bad beats throughout its illustrious history. From intense showdowns to improbable comebacks, the poker world has witnessed some of the most shocking and infamous moments that have left players and spectators in awe.
These ultimate WSOP bad beats serve as a reminder that no matter the skill, strategy, or experience, poker remains a game of uncertainty, where fortunes can change in an instant. Each of these moments stands as a testament to the drama, suspense, and excitement that make the WSOP the pinnacle of poker competition. Whether you’re a player, a fan, or simply an admirer of the game, these shocking and infamous bad beats will forever be etched in the collective memory of the poker community, serving as a testament to the unpredictable nature and enduring allure of the World Series of Poker.
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