Phil Ivey discusses sick river card vs. Chris Moneymaker in 2003 WSOP Main Event

Jon Sofen
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Posted on: November 11, 2020 9:00 pm EST

Phil Ivey’s most memorable hand was a bad beat he took in 2003 to Chris Moneymaker, and it just might have forever changed the game of poker. The poker legend told Barry Greenstein details of the hand in a recent interview on YouTube.

Moneymaker was the 2003 WSOP Main Event champion. He won $2.5 million and his victory led to a poker boom like we’ve never seen before and probably will never see again. Millions of people watched the amateur shock the world, defeating numerous top pros along the way. Everyone wanted to then become the next Chris Moneymaker.

But what if Moneymaker — yes, that is his real name — hadn’t won the Main Event that year? Would that “boom” never have occurred? There’s no way to know, but many believe the outcome of that $10,000 buy-in tournament was the single most important moment in poker history.

Moneymaker caught some cards along the way during that glorious run to poker greatness. But there’s one hand in particular that, had it gone the other way, he likely never would have won. That hand was against a young Phil Ivey, who in his mid-20’s was already considered one of the top players in the game. Ivey discussed that specific hand in an interview with Barry Greenstein for Poker Kings, the poker site he now represents.

The $2.5 million bad beat

The 2003 WSOP Main Event paid its winner $2,500,000, the biggest prize in poker history at the time. With 10 players remaining, winning that huge prize was well within reach for Ivey. But those dreams were shattered just one spot shy of reaching the final table thanks to a cruel river card. Ivey considers the hand one of his most memorable ever.

“One of the hands I played was against Chris Moneymaker,” Ivey explains in the YouTube video. “Up to date, I would say that was one of the biggest hands in poker.”

“Some people think it changed the course of poker history,” Greenstein jumped in.

“Maybe it did,” Ivey responded.”

The hand in question was your typical bad beat. Ivey moved all-in with pocket nines on a Q-6-Q-9 board. Moneymaker, who had him covered in chips, was coolered as he quickly called with A-Q. Only a 6, Q, or A on the river could save the eventual champ.

For Ivey, he was in a position where if he could avoid the seven-outer (about 15%) on the river, he would have a big stack with 10 players left. If the river card was unkind, he would bubble the final table and walk away with $82,000, a stark contrast from the $2.5 million 1st place prize.

The river was in fact an Ace, sending Ivey home in 10th place and giving Moneymaker a huge chip lead heading to the final table.

“I just remember that when that ace hit on the river, just feeling like the wind was knocked out of me,” Ivey said. “I remember saying to myself, ‘do not show how disappointed you are, do not let the world see this.”

Ivey, who told the story to Greenstein, called his friend Greenstein following the bad beat. During that phone call, Greenstein told him he should have folded his hand on the flop. Instead, he called Moneymaker’s bet and then caught a lucky on the turn before losing all his chips to a bad beat on the river.

“I think at the time I didn’t really understand no-limit hold’em,” Ivey responded. “It was a 10-handed game and I should have folded on the flop. Obviously, we know this now, but again, we were just playing off the cusp back then.”

Featured image source: Flickr