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Huck Seed's 2009 WSOP Hand

Historic WSOP Hand: Seed vs Furlong in the 1999 Main Event
by Chad Holloway of Predictem.com

I am intrigued by every aspect of poker, especially poker history. It is hard for today's average player to recognize that poker has spanned decades with events like the World Series of Poker and Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker.

Throughout the past thirty years, millions of hands of poker have been played, and every once in awhile, a hand occurs that goes down in history. One of these hands took place at the 1999 WSOP Main Event final table. In his book, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws, Phil Hellmuth describes the hand that rocked the poker world:

"With six players left on the final day of the WSOP, Huck Seed doubled his $400,000 to over $800,000 in the first 10 minutes of play. I really though he was on his way to the title when he doubled up so early. Within 20 minutes of the start of play, the following hand came up.

With the blinds at $10,000-$20,000 and the antes at $3,000 a hand, Huck 'just' called $20,000. Noel Furlong then raised $80,000, making it $100,000 to go on the button. When it was Huck's turn to act, he said, "I'm all in." The crowd noise rose, because everyone knew that Huck had just called the $80,000 and reraised over $700,000. But even before the gasps began, Noel- with $1.5 million in chips-calmly said, "I call." Noel had decided to call Huck in less than one second. Huck then said, "Good call."

The noise level was way up now, especially after the hands were turned faceup. Huck had Jd-8d and Noel had Ah-3h!"

It is no wonder the crowd was in such an uproar. It is very rare that hands like these occur, especially when playing at the WSOP and for the world championship. In fact, in the post-poker boom era of televised Main Event final tables, I doubt there has been a pot this large contested preflop with such measly hands. Most people's first impression on this hand is that Seed made a crazy play and Furlong made an even crazier call, but as Hellmuth explains, this is not the case:

"One unnoticed fact was that Noel had been on Huck's left for three straight days. Huck told me, late on day three, that Noel hadn't let him make a move in two days. Huck was very leery of Noel, but expected Noel to make a mistake soon enough. Noel had confided to his friends, "I haven't let that guy breathe in two days." Everyone expected them to play a big pot eventually, because they were two of the most agressive guys at the table.

At first glance, it looks like Huck's play was weak. Why risk all of your chips against a loose cannon like Noel with no hand? But wait a minute! Hadn't Huck correctly read Noel as being weak? In fact, Noel's hand was so weak that it looks as if-at first glance, anyway-he made a worse call with his $700,000. In fact, Huck Seed had made a great move to raise all of his chips in this spot. The only thing he hadn't counted on was that Noel had read Huck as well as Huck had read Noel."

To the casual observer or amateur player, this hand just seems to be unconventional and reckless. While the plays were clearly unconventional, it certainly wasn't reckless; in fact, this hand is an excellent example of playing your opponent and taking past actions into consideration. Poker is about more than just the cards, it is about the people. Now you may be wondering what exactly happened in the hand. Hellmuth goes on:

"If you assume that Huck is a better no-limit Hold'em player than Noel, then Noel made a great call. Why not just be 3-to-2 favorite over Huck for all his money and perhaps get rid of him right then and there? Thus, I believe that Noel Furlong made a great call. With a flop of A-Q-3, it was all over for Huck, and Noel took his commanding chip lead "all the way."

The hand against Seed gave Furlong the momentum to defeat Alan Goehring heads-up and became the most talked about hand of the tournament. By eliminating the player many considered to be the best in the world at the time, Furlong went on to become the 1999 WSOP World Champion. Furlong, who hailed from Ireland, ignited a poker frenzy not only in Ireland but in all of Europe as well. In a recent blog, Furlong's fellow countryman Padraig Parkinson, one of the most prominent names in European poker, talked about how the hand :

"The final table was about as good a buzz as youíre ever going to get playing this game. The hand between Furlong and Seed where Seed moved all-in with Jd 8d and Noel has made the call with Ah 3h, became one of the most talked about hands in history. Don OíDea had big liabilities if Huck Seed won but Noel told him the night before that he had nothing to be worrying about as he was going to sort Huck out himself. Don nearly had a heart attack when he saw the hand Noel was going to sort him out with! Having been in the middle of the battle the day before, I wasnít in the least bit surprised that Noel called. Iíve spoken to my friend Mr. Furlong several times over the years about it and he was pretty sure that Huck was ready to pull the trigger with just about anything. He didnít mention the 'range' word to me but again, he knew what he was doing. The Yanks were a little upset that an American hero got taken out by a carpet guy from Ireland but they get upset very easily. Phil Hellmuth included this hand in one of his books and defended Noelís play. I didnít know Phil was that good."

Whether you're a poker player from the United States or from "across the pond," one thing is for sure, the hand that occurred at the 1999 World Series of Poker was one for the history books.

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