Largest Pots in Poker History and More Exciting Moments

What’s the biggest poker pot you’ve ever won? A few hundred bucks? A few thousand? It’s all pocket change to Tom Dwan. Known for playing the highest stakes possible, nosebleed stakes, the American has no fear. He has become a central figure in the richest cash games around the world, from Las Vegas to Hong Kong to Macau. And he’s not hard to spot, either. Young, handsome and rich, he’s usually the one with most of the chips, and the guy pushing the action. His poker face, full on with an ominous stare and bulging eyes, is one of the fiercest in the business. And, when it comes to large pots, Dwan’s philosophy is, ‘the bigger, the better.’ In fact, he has been involved in three of the largest pots in televised poker history.

Tom Dwan

Under the online screen name ‘Durrrr,’ the Edison, New Jersey native’s career began modestly enough, on a $50-dollar bankroll. But it wasn’t long before he was tangling with the best of the best of Full Tilt Poker in some of the largest online cash games the world has ever seen. His rise through the ranks was epic. Meteoric. Back in 2007, 2008, fans would watch in awe as he traded shots with the likes of Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius for days on end. It was compelling stuff.

Dwan is one of the most talked about figures in the game today. Million-dollar swings, one way or the other, are commonplace for him. Last week, Team Maple brought you five of the most exciting hands in poker history. We highlight five more for you this week, including the three monsters Dwan has become famous for.

Super High Roller

In September 2019, at the Landing Casino in Jeju, South Korea, the Triton Poker Super High Roller Cash Game was in full swing and heating up. The action was fast and furious. Important to note, the players were betting in local currency and each player started the hand with more than 1.2 billion in chips. With the blinds at W 3M/6M/6M with a 2M straddle, German pro Dominik Nitsche raised it to 30M.

“The straddle is really important here, because it makes everyone play looser,” said Lex Veldhuis, another high stakes pro from the Netherlands, who was in the broadcast booth providing strategic play-by-play.

Dwan re-raised to 120M with ace, queen. Paul Phua, a billionaire Asian businessman, who was sitting directly beside him, looked down to find pocket aces. He popped it up substantially, to 320M, which garnered a quick fold from Nitsche. After a few minutes of careful deliberation, and a scratch of the head, the American decided to go for it. “I’m all-in,” he said, a declaration worth 1.2 billion (again, local currency). Ouch. Costly move. Phua called instantly and, when the board ran out safe, he raked in a massive payday worth $2,353,500 USD. It’s the largest pot in televised history.

Dwan simply passed his stack one seat over to his lucky opponent and called out for more chips. Can’t win them all, right?

Poison Ivey

Tom Dwan wins more than he loses, make no mistake about it. And that’s why he’s one of the most prolific players to ever grace the felt. Back in 2010, he locked horns with the legendary Phil Ivey, hailed by many as the greatest ever, and came out on top in Full Tilt Poker’s Million Dollar Cash Game in London, England.

The blinds were at $1,000/$2,000 with a $500 ante from each player. Dealt the 6, 7 of hearts, Dwan opened the pot from the dealer’s position. Ivey, with ace, 2 offsuit, bumped it up to $23,000, and Dwan called. The flop came out J, 5, 3, giving both players an inside straight draw. Ivey, a 10-time WSOP bracelet winner, bet $35,000 and was called.

“If the four falls,” said commentator David Tuchman, “talk about an action card.”

You guessed it. The four fell on the turn, and fireworks ensued. Tuchman was incredulous. “Talk about the gin card,” he gently whispered into the microphone. “Ivey makes the wheel and Dwan has the nuts,” Thinking he had the best of it, when in fact he was drawing dead, Ivey casually tossed in a bet of $90,000. Stoically, ‘Durrrr’ rattled his chips, counted them down and then recounted them, before deciding on a huge raise to $246,600. Ivey just couldn’t get away from it and pushed all-in. Of course, Tom Dwan called and was suddenly $1,108,500 richer.

“Wow, good hand,” Ivey said, conceding like it was just another day at the office. High Roller.

Aces Cracked

High Stakes Poker is one of the most popular poker shows ever made. It aired on the cable television network GSN from 2006 to 2001. It featured some of the biggest names to ever check, call or bet. Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen and Daniel Negreanu were regulars in the game. Phil Ivey, too. In 2009, during Season 5, Tom Dwan was invited to play, and play he did. A tender 22-years old at the time, he was a rising star, and wasted no time leaving his mark.

In a hand against Barry Greenstein, a 3-time WSOP champion and author of the book, Ace on the River, Dwan was holding the ace, queen of spades on a queen-high flop showing two spades. A premium holding. The problem? Greenstein had pocket aces. Following a series of bets and raises, the two players found themselves in a showdown for all their chips, bricks of cash and all. According to the graphics displayed on screen, the odds were exactly 50-50, a true coin flip, but that all changed when another queen came off the deck on 4th street.

“Wow, Barry is drawing to the case ace,” said Gabe Kaplan (of Welcome Back Kotter fame), who was doing the commentary.

Tom Dwan had trips and full ownership rights to the $919,600 scattered on the table. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Hollywood Drama

Sammy Farha, like Greenstein, was also a regular on High Stakes Poker back in the day. He is also a 3-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, and he too has tangled with Tom Dwan on several occasions. Known for dangling an unlit cigarette from his mouth while he plays, Farha most famously finished runner-up to Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 world championship main event.

Two years later, he wrote the perfect Hollywood script for an action-packed thriller against Oliver Hudson, son of Goldie Hawn and brother of Kate Hudson, two of the world’s most famous actresses. Hudson is no slouch himself. In 2002, he was named one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people. On the very first-hand of the 2005 main event, though, he was the victim of one of the ugliest flops ever. Holding pocket tens, Hudson re-raised Farha and his ace, ten. The dealer peeled off an ace, ace, ten flop straight away, and that was it. The money went in and the credits rolled on Hudson’s full house and his tournament.

“Oh my God, first-hand,” he said as he bowed his head to the table in shame and defeat. Conversely, Farha was all smiles and off to the races.

“The Best Hand Won, Right?”

“It’s up to them,” he said, pointing his finger skywards. “It’s up to the Gods.”

Scott Lazar wasn’t lying, but what the poker gods had in mind to kick-off the 2005 WSOP main event final table was hard to believe. It was devilish. The cameras had just started rolling, the cards were only in the air for a few minutes, when Steve Dannenmann, who eventually finished runner-up to Joe Hachem, opened the pot with pocket jacks. Lazar, a magician by trade, looked down to find aces, and abracadabra, he raised it to $1 million. Incredibly, Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow, a few seats to Lazar’s left, woke up with pocket kings and shoved all-in. Dannenmann folded quickly, and Lazar of course called. That’s when he looked to the heavens.

Obviously pained by his current situation, on the wrong end of a cooler, Matusow pointed toward the table, where the flop was about to be spread, and said with a grimaced face, “ONE TIME!”

Bam. A king hit the flop. Matusow started jumping for joy uncontrollably, “yes, yes, yes,” he was screaming. His fortunes had changed with one turn of the card. Things got interesting, though, when the two of hearts dropped as the turn card because it put three hearts on the board, and Lazar had the ace of hearts in his hand. Drama. Matusow couldn’t watch while the river card was being dealt, but he certainly felt the sting of the jack of hearts.

After letting out a primal scream, one fit for the occasion of a world championship, Lazar calmed down a tad before uttering five of the most famous words in poker history, “the best hand won, right?”

His next line may have been more poignant for those unbelievable scenes. “What dreams are made of,” he said, grinning from ear-to-ear.

So, we’ll ask again, what is the largest pot you’ve ever won? Do you remember the feeling? Now, imagine the moment magnified by a million. That’s poker, baby.

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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