Poker: Even the best make mind-boggling mistakes

In order to be a successful poker player, you have to minimize your mistakes while exploiting any errors made by your opponents. Misplaying hands, attempting ill-timed bluffs and getting the wrong read off another player’s perceived tell are just a few of the common mistakes made by amateurs and professionals alike.

Of course, poker pros tend to make fewer mistakes than recreational players — it’s the key to success after all — but that’s not to say the pros always play flawlessly. Not only do some of the best players in the world make the types of mistakes listed above, but they even commit silly gaffes from time to time.

Case in point: 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Ivey, who was making a deep run in the 2009 WSOP Main Event when the following hand took place.

With just 26 players remaining in the tournament and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, Ivey looked down at 8s 8d under the gun and raised to 320,000. Jordan Smith then three-bet to 1 million from the big blind, and Ivey called to see a 5s Qh 10s flop.

Both players checked, and the Qs paired the board on the turn.

The action went check-check, and the As completed the board on the river. Both players checked, and Smith announced, “Ace,” indicating that he had a pair of aces, which he did indeed with his Ad 9c.

However, Ivey had the only spade in his hand, so with four spades on the board, he had a winning flush. Unfortunately, he made a big mistake by not realizing it and sending his cards to the muck face down. Ivey inadvertently conceded the pot, and the mistake cost him a 2.18 million pot at a crucial time in the tournament.

It wouldn’t be Ivey’s only blunder. A decade later in the 2019 WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship, only 11 players remained in a stud high-low tournament. It’s a much more complicated game than no-limit hold’em, so we won’t get into all the details here. Suffice it to say that it’s a split-pot game, meaning the best high hand and best low hand split the pot. If a player happens to have both, that player scoops the entire pot.

In a hand against Talal Shakerchi and John Esposito, who had both made flushes for the high, Ivey held the only low. He was destined to get half of a big pot. However, he made another mistake. Either Ivey didn’t realize he had a low, or he was under the mistaken impression that they were playing stud high instead of the high-low variant, which happens more often than you’d think in mixed-game formats where the type of game rotates every half dozen hands or so.

Whatever the case, Ivey checked at the end and then folded his seven-low (a solid hand) when his opponents bet, once again haphazardly giving up on a pot he should have won.

The point is that everyone makes mistakes, especially in poker. That even includes the great Phil Ivey.

(Chad Holloway is a 2013 World Series of Poker bracelet winner and head of live reporting USA for Follow him on Twitter: @ChadAHolloway.)


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