Poker player denied shot at $12 million by cruel twist of fate

Poker fans and commentators have been left gobsmacked after a near-certain victory evaporated into desperation and loss in just a matter of moments.

The World Series of Poker’s Main Event witnessed a case of going big and going home on Friday, as three players went all-in for a chance to play at the final table.

Here’s how it all went down:

Playing for high stakes

This year’s World Series of Poker Main Event featured 7,875 entrants who paid a US$10,000 entry fee to vie for an $8.8 million first prize, roughly AU$11.8 million.

After seven days of play, the Main Event whittled down to just 10 players vying for one of nine seats at the final table, and thus the chance to win that sweet prize and the coveted WSOP bracelet.

Nicolas Manion opened the decisive hand by betting 1.5 million in chips, and it was easy to see why: he’d been dealt pocket aces. Antoine Labat called, and showed a pair of Kings. But then came Rich Zhu, also with a pair of Kings, and he pushed all-in, risking his entire stack and his tournament fate.

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The incredible three-way all-in. Image: World Series of Poker.

Aces or Kings show up in pairs once every 110 hands, so the odds of all three showing up in one hand are astronomical. But Manion decided he had the goods to take out Zhu, so he too went all-in. And then came the crucial moment: Labat deciding whether to risk most of his stack on a pair of Kings.

In a decision that’s up for heavy debate, Labat too went all-in, setting up a three-way showdown for the final seat with more than 76 million chips on the table.

Going into the flop, Manion held a 96 percent chance of winning the pot … not certain, but pretty close.

The final hand

The flop came 7-Jack-4, and that was enough to bounce Zhu, who couldn’t get the cards he needed for a flush or a straight. At one stage Zhu had a 0% chance of winning the hand, almost unheard of with pocket kings.

Labat had an outside chance at a flush, but that vanished with the turn card, a three of spades. (Labat couldn’t get a third King to beat Manion’s pair, of course, because the other two Kings were in Zhu’s hand.)

The flop. Image: World Series of Poker

So Zhu gets the unwanted notoriety of being the last player eliminated before the final table.

He’ll go home with a nice little $1.1 million payout, but the ninth-place finisher is guaranteed $1.3 million, as well as a shot at that $11.8 million first prize.

Jay Busbee | Yahoo Sports