The art of the bluff is a key part of poker and is a critical concept that sets the game apart from others. A well-timed bluff can send a pot to a player with an inferior hand and perhaps leave an opponent frustrated.
Who can forget Chris Moneymaker’s “bluff of the century” from the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event that helped propel him on to victory against Sami Farha. But sometimes a player attempts a bluff at the exact wrong time and finds himself in quite the bear trap.
Players also caught bluffing also siphon off a major chunk of their own chip stacks. There are some major risk-reward considerations when considering those major bluffs. In the age of televised poker, many of these attempts are also captured on camera for all the world to see.
Here’s a look at some big bluffs that didn’t turn out quite like these players intended.
1 – Record-setting Pot After Gargantuan Bluff
The biggest hand in U.S. poker cash game streaming history played out in February 2023 on PokerGO and created quite a buzz. The action played out on the No Gamble, No Future “Cash of the Titans” live stream and produced a pot of almost $2 million in a hand involving poker legend Patrik Antonius and high stakes regular and Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson.
Persson is a fearless cash game player and showed that in this hand with some nice skills at the table, despite the results this time. After Persson opened with a raise to $7,000 holding Qh9h, Rob Yong called with Ac2c. That brought a three-bet to $30,000 from Antonius with AhKh.
Persson and Yong called and the flop brought 3h3c8h. Antonius then put out another $40,000 and Persson quickly raised to $140,000. Yong folded and Antonius thought a bit before three-betting to $250,000 as he and Persson both sat on flush draws. The bet was called and the pot moved to a hefty $594,000.
“Let’s go,” Persson said after making the call. When the As came on the turn, Antonius had the best hand and could only possibly lose to a bluff. Persson was going to try and make that happen. Antonius led out with $150,000, but Persson put him to the test by shipping the remainder of his stack for $692,000.
“What do you have?” Antonius replied, but ultimately called. He raked a record-setting pot of $1,978,000 and delivered a massive punch to Persson’s chip stack.
2 – Final Hand Fakeout?
Occasionally a bluff goes wrong at the exact wrong time. That was the case for Ema Zajmovic, who became the first woman to win an open World Poker Tour event in 2017 after taking down the WPT Montreal for $200,769. Just a year later, the player from Quebec, Canada, was back at the final table and found herself heads-up with Patrick Serda, from Winnipeg, Canada. She hoped for winning back-to-back titles, but the battle may best be remembered for the final hand of the tournament.
Both players got aggressive preflop, with Zajmovic four-betting with Kd9s. Serda called with 5d7d and they saw a flop of 7s6s10s. After both players checked, they saw a turn of Ac. The returning champion then bet 3 million chips and Serda called with his third pair.
The river brought the 3h and Zajmovic moved all in for her last 8.5 million chips. This brought considerable thought from Serda before he eventually called with just a bit more chips than Zajmovic. The huge hero call left Serda as the champion and brought the action to a close. Serda later told WPT.com that the two had some history and he felt good overall about the call.
“There were a couple of things that sort of factored into it, but a little bit of it was live reads,” he says. “The other part was just a feeling, not fundamentally good but I had a hunch that this was about to happen. I’ve played with Ema a lot and I’ve talked with her a lot. We’re friends and know each other’s game a bit. We’ve been playing cash together a long time.”
3 – Tom Dwan Picks Off a Bluff Down Under
This hand from the Aussie Millions saw Tom Dwan call a raise with QdKh from a player named “Enigma,” who held 8c10c. Enigma landed an open-end straight draw and continued calling bets in hopes of completing the straight.
That doesn’t happen and Dwan actually catches top pair on the river. After a big bet by Dwan of $23,600, Enigma looks for chips and lays out a raise to $72,000. Despite that, it doesn’t take long for Dwan to call and Enigma is still smiling despite the big loss.
4 – Ending the Bluff, Eventually
Sometimes a plan looks like it may work out but just doesn’t come together. This hand from the World Series of Poker Europe sees two players named Kim and Seng locked in battle. Seng entered the action with the better hand, Ad8d.
But Kim pressed the action with his Kc10c. Seng only got better by landing a straight on the turn. As the commentators note, Kim plays a bit of an unorthodox style and had put players in tough spots throughout the event. This was a rough time to try that again as he showed no fear and wasn’t backing down.
After a reraise on the turn, Kim then made it a three-bet to 6.5 million with only two overcards and an inside straight draw. Seng then four-bet to 9.5 million and his opponent then decided it was a nice time to exit stage left. Kim mucked his hand and Seng took a huge pot.
5 – Brunson Backs Off When Things Go Wrong
Even poker legend Doyle Brunson occasionally had a bluff go wrong. That was the case in this hand from High Stakes Poker. Antonio Esfandiari simply called a light raise from Phil Ivey to $2,000 with pocket Aces. Brunson also came along with Js9S.
On a flop of 3s8c7h, Esfandiari checked and Brunson proceeded to bet $10,000 a gutshot straight draw. Ivey folded and Esfandiari then check-raised to $28,000. That brought a three-bet to $88,000, which received a call and swelled the pot to almost $187,000.
The Ac on the turn gave Esfandiari three of a kind, and both players checked. The 4s dropped on the river and brought a smile to Esfandiari’s face. He checked again and the poker legend took the bait, betting $110,000. That brought a reraise to $250,000.
“You’re kidding,” Brunson said before laying down his hand. Esfanidiari scored a pot of almost $550,000. Brunson passed away in May 2023 and the poker world lost a true pioneer of the game.