A fold in a game of poker could be playing it safe, being clever or a huge miscalculation. To remain objective, you can’t only focus on the biggest triumphs while ignoring the mistakes. Before your next online poker game, study this list of the worst poker folds in history. Amateurs were not behind these costly misreadings, they were made by some of the biggest names in the game. All the more reason to be more forgiving of yourself next time you make a mistake when you play poker online.
Phil Hellmuth’s triple queens fold
Even the Bad Boy of Poker has had his share of painful folds. Although, having a total of more than $26,000,000 in live tournament winnings might make it easier to forget. At the World Series of Poker (WSOP) One Drop $111,111 buy-in Texas hold ’em poker tournament in 2017, Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier’s semi-bluff convinced poker legend, Phil Hellmuth, to fold with three queens. All his opponent had was a jack and a 10.
After minimum raises from Hellmuth, Elky moved in with a check-raise, raising the stake to 1.2 million. This is when everyone expected Hellmuth to play aggressively and double up. In a surprising twist, Hellmuth folded, letting Elky win the pot.
The move sent poker Twitter into an uproar and left Hellmuth in 10th place instead of the desired 9th. Defeating Hellmuth led to Elky finishing second in the tournament for $2.2 million.
Ryan Leng’s ace-5 fold
Ryan Leng’s fold in the 2021 Poker Player Championship takes center stage since it’s regarded as the worst fold in poker history. The live poker tournament had three players left, two of which were Leng and Dan “Jungleman” Cates. Leng had an ace-5 suit and Cates had a king of diamonds and a queen of clubs. After a few raises and calls, Cates, seeing he had a shot at a straight, bet 300,000. Then Leng called.
The game took an interesting turn when Leng bet 600,000 and Cates, with his lesser hand, went all-in for 900,000. Leng had more than 10 million in chips remaining and only needed 300,000 more to call the bet with his top pair. Shockingly, he folded at the last minute and Cates went on to win the bracelet after a genius bluff.
If Leng had called, Cates would have been eliminated and Leng would have taken his place as the victor. And with a better hand too. These unlikely moves from both players led Jungleman to his first poker bracelet. Ryan Leng’s total poker tournament earnings are estimated to be $3.3 million.
Mikhail Smirnov’s quad 8 fold
You’ve probably never seen someone fold 8 quads before. And you’d never have seen them do this face-up before Mikhail Smirnov’s historic move. Smirnov’s quad 8 fold is still a controversial topic in poker circles. While some view it as a completely foolish move, others discern a hidden genius behind it.
The fold took place in a Big One for One Drop $1,111,111 buy-in event at the 2012 WSOP. Smirnov already had a hand of pocket eights when he scored two more on the flop and turn. Smirnov had bet $700,000. His opponent, CEO John Morgan, followed with an all-in bet of $3.4 million. However, even with an unbelievably good hand, Smirnov still feared Morgan could be hiding a straight or straight flush. Morgan had been playing tight early in the game and his suddenly aggressive playing style and bold all-in bet further encouraged Smirnov’s doubts.
So then, the impossible happened. At a point where most pros would have called with confidence, Smirnov folded face-up for the table to see and weep. However, a mystery remains unsolved. Did Morgan actually have the straight flush, or was he bluffing? Either way, it would be very difficult to find any other player who could fold on a quad 8 hand. Even in a video poker or online game, who wouldn’t play aggressively with a hand as lucky as that?
Smirnov’s current total earnings are estimated at $947,171.
Joe Hachem’s low straight fold
In the 2006 World Poker Tour, the new kid on the block, Jordan Morgan, convinced poker vet Joe Hachem to make one of the most regrettable laydowns in poker history. Hachem is no stranger to making good calls in poker, with current recorded earnings totaling $12,433,810.
At the championship, all players started with a stack of 50,000 chips. Hachem had an open-ended straight draw. He decided to check and see a free card, the turn card was 6 of clubs. The other players folded and Morgan bet out 2,000. Hachem raised to 7,000. This is where Morgan raised to 12,000 and Hachem took it to 22,000. And just when you’d expect Morgan to back down, he pushed all-in for another 27,000.
Hachem naturally suspected Morgan could be hiding a stronger hand after this confident move. Hachem folded and stunned the crowd with his hand. His opponent had pocket aces, and Hachem himself had a low straight. The round delivered one of the worst folds in history and possibly the most memorable bluff.
Some fans argue that Hachem knew the importance of survival in poker tournaments and prioritized making it to the next round over winning a single round. Some believe Hachem could tell Morgan had two queens. But perhaps the other side is right and these are all just clever ways to excuse a terrible poker fold.
However painful or bizarre some of these folds are, one thing is still true: The ability to lay down even a tempting hand is a skill that separates the pros from the rest. What would you have done in their shoes?
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