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Negreanu vs. Schulman: The Hand

"The Hand": Shulman vs Negreanu in the 2009 WSOP-European Championship
by Chad Holloway of

The 2009 World Series of Poker Europe Presented by Betfair occurred at Casino at the Empire (London Clubs International) in (Leicester Square) London, UK from September 26 to October 1 2009.

There were four bracelet events including the £10,000 (= $16,020 USD) WSOPE Championship. That event saw 334 entrants compete for a £3,340,000 (= $5,348,677 USD) prize pool with a £801,603 (= $1,283,687 USD) first place prize. The final table started at 12:45 pm on Thursday, 1 October and did not end until 5:17 am, making the duration of the finale 16 hours and 32 minutes. Needless to say, the final table was quite memorable.

The final nine players comprised one of the toughest final tables of all-time. They included two members of the famed 2009 “November Nine,” James Akenhead (finished 9th) and Antoine Saout (7th), former gold bracelet winners Matt Hawrilenko (8th), Chris Bjorin (6th), Jason Mercier (4th) and Praz Bansi (3rd). Markus Ristola (5th) from Finland rounded out the eliminated players before heads-up play.

When heads-up play began, Daniel Negreanu enjoyed a 3 to 2 lead over Barry Shulman: Negreanu’s 6,180,000 against Shulman’s 3,855,000. Negreanu commented: “Playing against Barry (Shulman) is dangerous. There is no pressure on him. That makes him very difficult to play against, because I can’t be sure where I am at. I’ve played a lot of hours with Barry and think I have him somewhat figured out. But he’s got at least one advantage against me, which is having no pressure.” Shulman also stated: “This is exactly what I was hoping for. To be playing heads up for the gold bracelet, especially with Daniel. It’s perfect. I’m on a complete freeroll. I’m having a lot of fun.”

After about an hour of heads-up play, Shulman was down 5-3 in chips and held the Ah 5h. After the flop of Kd-8h-6h, Shulman moved all-in and was called by Negreanu’s two black aces. Negreanu was two cards away from the championship but a heart fell on the turn and gave Shulman a 3-1 chip advantage.

Negreanu fought back over the next couple hours and eventually regained the chip lead by a very slight margin. Three hours into heads-up play Negreanu and Shulman were about dead-even in chips. That is when one of the most dramatic hands in poker history occurred.

As Nolan Dalla, the WSOP Media Director wrote: “Poker fans everywhere will certainly be talking about what is destined to become known as ‘the hand.’ The dramatic climax of this event rivaled the legendary Mansour Matloubi vs. Hans ‘Tuna’ Lund’s late confrontation during the 1990 WSOP Main Event (often described as the most exciting hand in WSOP history).”

The hand in question began when Negreanu was dealt Q-J and Shulman was dealt A-A.

The flop came Jc-5d-8d and Shulman bet out 300,000. Negreanu reraised to 900,000 and Shulman raised all-in. Negreanu thought for a few minutes and asked the spectators, “So you all wanna go home, right . . . I’m not saying I’m gonna lose . . . Ah, I shouldn’t listen to the rail. I call.”

When the cards were turned over Negreanu discovered he was way behind. The crowd rose to its feet and when Jack of Hearts hit on the turn, they erupted in a fury of emotion. Negreanu had hit his near-miracle card and put him a single card away from winning his fifth WSOP gold bracelet.

Negreanu, who was blushing from his good fortune, stood awaiting the title as Shulman desperately drew to two outs. The river card fell revealing . . . an ACE. Screams of horror from Negreanu supporters filled the room and was followed by a deafening silence as the hand began to set in.

The final hand of the tournament occurred shortly thereafter when Negreanu’s pocket fours were defeated by Shulman’s pocket tens.

Negreanu’s second place finish earned him £495,589 in prize money, making him the all-time leading money winner for career lifetime earnings with more than $12 million in tournament winnings. He also made back-to-back final table at WSOP Europe Main Events, finishing fifth in the 2008 WSOPE Championship.

Barry Shulman, the 63-year-old CEO of Card Player Magazine and Shulman Media, arrived at the final table ranked fourth in chips and ultimately became the 2009 World Series of Poker Europe Champion, giving him his second WSOP Gold Bracelet.

Shulman collected £801,603 for first place, about $1,283,687 in U.S. dollars, and brings his total WSOP winnings to $1,574,955 including 2 wins, 8 final table appearances, and 14 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP.

After his victory, Shulman gave his perspective on “the hand”:

"The truth is, because it was on television and we were heads up, I knew I got in with the best hand (holding pocket aces). When the jack came on the turn (giving Negreanu three-of-a-kind and making him the huge favorite), I had pretty much given up. I said to myself, ‘well, at least I am not going to be embarrassed here. What are you going to do? That’s poker.’ When the ace came (on the river), I just about passed out.”

The 2009 WSOPE Championship was one of the toughest fields from start to finish. It attracted the best players from both Europe and the United States who competed for the title, money and glory.

ESPN captured the spectacular final table and footage of the “the hand” which will surely go down in poker history.


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