The EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final was all but over. Nearly every table in the massive tournament room was empty. It was after midnight and the two final players, Marc Karam and Gavin Griffin, were heads up with nearly equal stacks. They were both 100 big blinds deep. The difference between first and second place was 800,000 euros.
And they got it all-in on a flop of...
I'm fascinated by this hand. I'm fascinated because I think both players played it very well and did what they had to do to win. Further, I'm fascinated because the players were able to make the moves they did with so much on the line. I was there for the beginning, middle, end, and epilogue. I heard no talk of any deal and honestly believe there was none.
And, so, this is how it played out.
It was the end of the 25,000/50,000/5,000 level. The players would go on break and play higher and later into the night.
Gavin made it 150,000 to go pre-flop and Marc re-raised to 400,000. Marc played a very aggressive game from the beginning of the tournament to the end. If he believed he was ahead or believed his opponent was weak, he would re-pop it. I'm not saying he was always right, but he was rarely afraid to make the moves.
Gavin called. And this didn't surprise me much. Gavin played great after the flop. He actually spent an entire day moving from 800,000 up to 2.6 million without ever busting a player. He was fantastic at using his table image to pick up pots post-flop.
And so the flop. It came out, as I wrote, 2s-3c-4d. To be fair, in this heads up battle, the flop could've hit or missed either of them. An amateur's read (mine), however, was that this flop was neither helpful to either of their hands, nor particular hurtful. I figured Marc for pocket eights or nines, and Gavin for a big/middle ace.
Marc pushed out a bet of 500,000. He seemed no more and no less confident than he always was. From my vantage point, I couldn't see Gavin's face. He always rested his chin on his left hand. He has been sick that day and was sniffling in between hands. He was starting to look tired. He didn't think especially long before announcing he was raising to two million.
The heads up battle had been going on for about two hours. There had been swings of a million here and there. Now, a hand that looked to get interesting. It's that moment when everyone watching moves from a slumped position to the front of their seat. All talking stops. It becomes absolutely quiet except for the sound of the cameras moving into position.
"All-in," Marc said and stood up.
Gavin had half his chips in the pot already. Everybody in the room knew, unless he had air, he was going to call. He had Marc covered by 500,000. It wan't really enough to play with, but, even so, I felt sure Gavin would call.
Gavin shook his head. "You have the best hand," he said.
"Air?" I thought. No, he was calling. He had to be.
"You're calling?" Marc asked. I wasn't sure if he was sitting in disbelief or if he was ecstatic.
"Yeah, I call," Gavin said.
"I have a pair of fours," Marc said, grabbed for his cards and slammed them on the table.
A pair of fours? Did he mean he had a set? No, I could see, he had a four and a ...seven? Yeah, he did. He had re-popped pre-flop, bet out and re-raised the flop, and he had top pair with a seven kicker. What's more, he was right. He was, if not statistically, at least in reality, ahead.
There was a moment during which we couldn't see Gavin's cards. The tournament director wanted to count up all the chips to see who covered whom. It took a good three minutes before he announced that Gavin held Kd-5c.
With two cards left to come, Gavin had 14 outs twice. Any ace, any six, any king, or any five would give Gavin the lead. For the moment, it was basically a coinflip.
The turn was a three of hearts. It changed nothing except the number of chances Gavin had left to hit one of his fourteen outs.
The river was the king.
Gavin Griffin had won it all.
To be sure, it takes intellect to play heads up poker. That said, I think it takes more balls than it does brains. That's one of the reasons I'm such a bad heads up player. I have no balls. I know for a fact, I could not have made either of the moves those players did on the flop. The only way I can make those moves is if the money truly doesn't matter. I'm fair--at best--at detaching myself from the money aspect when making moves, but I think if there were that much on the line, I'd be one boring and ineffective heads-up player.
Frankly, it has me questioning whether I ever stand to be good at this game. I've faced a lot more questions than answers recently. Watching that hand play out made me question even more.
Regardless, it was fairly exhilarating to watch. I've played against Gavin online and I've watched Marc play quite a bit live. There's no doubt in my mind, they were not thinking about the money.
I'm curious as to what you think. We all talk a really big game. We all talk about how we could make moves and not think about the money. However, with a million bucks difference at stake, could you push with a low top pair and no kicker. Could you raise for half your stack with what you believed was no more than 8 to 11 outs twice?