A look at the 3 most significant river cards in poker history.
There are no guarantees on the river. Play this game long enough and you will see some crazy things happen on that last card. After all, even a 98% hand loses 2 out of 100 times. If you put in enough volume at the tables that 2 out of 100 scenario will feel like it happens half the time. It’s easy to remember the heartbreaks and forget the times that 5th street landed safely, especially when that rivered disaster snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. The cards I remember the most are the ones that denied me a huge score that seemed inevitable.
In fact, my biggest tournament win of all time is also my biggest heartbreak.
The year is 2009 and Full Tilt is the king of online poker. I’m down to the final 5 players in a $109 tournament and I’m 2nd in chips. First place is over $35,000 and fifth place is $9,600. I call a raise with 55 and the flop comes 952, the stuff of dreams. My opponent (the chip leader) bets the flop and I raise. He re-raises and I 4-bet all-in. He immediately calls with K9 for top pair and is drawing almost dead against my set. Turn is a 9. Oh shit please no. River is a K. My opponent makes a running full house and I am out in 5th.
I’ll never forget that ugly disgusting king on the river. If that card doesn’t fall, I would have almost been guaranteed a minimum of 2nd place, and another $15k at least, a huge sum of money for someone with a $10k bankroll at the time.
While that hand was certainly heartbreaking for a low stakes grinder like myself, it pales in comparison to some of the most consequential river cards of all time. So let’s take a look at what I consider to be the 3 most impactful river cards of all time.
3.) The 8 Of Diamonds Costs Matt Afleck Untold Millions
If you’re a fan of poker or a reader of my blog, this hand doesn’t need much of an introduction. With 15 players left in the World Series of Poker Main Event, this card costs Matt Afleck millions of dollars and a seat in the prestigious November 9. You can’t really put a value on that. In the span of just one card, Duhamel goes from being just about gone in 15th for $500k, to monster stack and eventual WSOP Main Event winner for $9 million. Add in the fame and all the financial opportunities that come with it, and this card potentially shifted $15-$20 million from Afleck to Duhamel.
2.) The Queen Of Hearts Knocks Down Kid Poker
The value of this card is a little more difficult to calculate. This hand happens with 11 players left in the World Series of Poker Main Event, and although a win wouldn’t have put Negreanu in the driver’s seat for the title, it would have almost guaranteed that he’d make the November 9. Negreanu is the most popular poker player in the world, and there is no telling how much his presence at the WSOP final table would have helped the game of poker. In fact, Negreanu said in a recent interview that ESPN television executives proposed the idea of changing it to the ‘November 10’, just to increase the chances that Negreanu would make it. So when you factor in the lost prize money, the potential increased television ratings as well as the overall spike in poker interest that would’ve resulted from the world’s most popular player playing on the biggest stage in poker, it’s easy to say that this river card was worth tens of millions of dollars.
1.) The Ace Of Spades Changes Poker History
If this card doesn’t fall, Phil Ivey has a huge chip stack and Moneymaker loses not only most of his chips, but momentum as well. It’s hard to believe that Moneymaker would have gone on to win the 2003 WSOP Main Event without this river card. And as we all know, Moneymaker’s win sparked the poker boom and took a fringe game into the mainstream, resulting in millions upon millions in profits and winnings by countless poker sites, players and casinos. It basically created an entire multi-million dollar industry. In fact, the impact of this card goes way beyond the game of poker, since it effectively changed the lives of an entire generation (myself included) by giving us the confidence that we too could make money playing cards. That’s a pretty big impact for a tiny plastic rectangle.
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