By Paul Seaton
There is always a hand that defines the tournament. In many of those tournaments, the hand is on the final table, but it is usually between two players. When Chris Moorman won the first major live title of his illustrious career, it was a spectacular three-way all-in that sent him on his way.
We spoke to the world’s most successful online tournament player of all-time and British poker legend to revisit a moment he has never forgotten.
As Moorman says, he didn’t expect all three players to be all-in during the hand.
“Most of the time there, you expect that the chip leader is going to be opening a lot of hands, so you expect him to fold and heads-up you’d expect to be a favorite against the rejammer’s range,” says Moorman. “You’re just hoping it’s not a dirty flip against king-queen and they’ve got one overcard or an underpair, rather than a flip.”
When Moorman saw his opponent ‘over-call’, his face tells the story of what he was thinking. He thought he’s run into ace-king, or worse, an overpair. As it happened, he was still in decent shape.
“I saw his cards and thought it was jacks or queens, because I didn’t expect him to call with queen-jack even though it was suited. I was a bit confused at first. Normally you’ve seen it all before but I wasn’t expecting that at all.”
With all three men reacting on screen to the action, it’s one of the best triple-reactions in poker history as the flop brings Glenn two-pair, but leaves both his opponents still in with a chance of winning the hand. Moorman believes that the attending audience of family and friends made the action even more dramatic.
“There’s a bit more drama. When that hand was being dealt out it felt like it took an age. You deal the flop and you’ve got to wait another 45 seconds because it’s TV,” Moorman recalls.
“Normally it all happens so fast you don’t have a chance to process it; you know which cards you’re sweating, and which cards you’re anti-sweating. But you’ve got your friends and family there and it adds to the drama I think and it makes for good TV.”
We couldn’t agree more. Moorman may have seen his odds drop, but it wasn’t over, and he just wanted the drama to continue through the turn.
“I was just thinking ‘Please just win this hand.’ I thought that as long as the ace-eight didn’t win, I’d come second, then obviously after the flop came down, I thought ‘Well, everyone’s still in this.”
Before the turn came down, Moorman was just hoping that his odds weren’t reduced further by a queen or jack ending the hand by giving Glenn a full house.
“I was OK with a brick. Obviously, I would have preferred to have hit, and my hand improves, but at least to give me a sweat on the river with a decent number of outs.”
Glenn was excited post-flop, with two pair and a chance to end the tournament there and then. Moorman thinks that was part of the reason that he called too.
“He probably shouldn’t be calling there, because my range is so tight. He’s lucky to run into a flip against me. I would have just open-shoved the queen-jack suited. Maybe ace-eight folds and then I call off. It would all be a bit different.”
Moorman clearly didn’t love the turn when it did come a brick, but with one of his opponents only two cards away from ending the tournament and the other hoping to hit one of Moorman’s cards, the uniqueness of the situations struck the Brit.
“It doesn’t happen very often that three-handed ends the tournament and you don’t even have to play heads-up to win, in a live tournament especially. I was happy to have a sweat going into the river.”
There were multiple permutations for the river, too. Each of the three players could still win the hand.
“If I hit a 10, everyone stays in and I don’t get a ladder but I’m still in the tournament. A nine or an ace is obviously what I’m rooting for. There was one more nine in the deck than aces, but in my head, I kept repeating over and over ‘Barry Greenstein, Barry Greenstein, ace on the river.’”
On the river, an ace it was, to give Moorman the straight and sent him into heads-up with the impetus. It was, and remains, one of his most memorable moments at any poker table.
“I was putting it out there in the universe and it came in. I don’t normally react at the final table, but I’ve never ever been that excited at a card coming out in a poker tournament before.”
Moorman wanted the win far more than any of the millions of viewers on TV could know. He’d had a great career up to that fateful final in 2014, but a lot of his results had come online. In major live events, he’d been runner-up on a lot of occasions. It was eating at him, and in the midst of a downswing, the WPT Main Event came along.
“From being one card away from being out then hitting that river card, I’m thinking ‘Well if I don’t win this one, I’m never going to win one.’ My friends were going to be talking about it for years. I had to refocus heads-up and make sure that I made the most of it. It was great [to win the hand] but I needed to celebrate with my rail for 30 seconds then get my head back in the game.”
Moorman had endured earlier anguish at the final table, too. Four-handed, he’d misread his hand, value-betting what he thought was a straight on the river. Instead, he’d missed the straight and was the short-stack. To get heads-up with the feeling of winning that amazing hand gave him the power to go on and win. With the stacks fairly even, Moorman pressed home his advantage.
“It’s five years ago, but it really does feel like two years ago maximum. The stacks were deep enough where there was still some play and I felt like I had an edge, especially with the momentum. It was hard for him to get back to playing having been so close to victory and I was trying to use that to my favor.”
On the rail, Moorman’s entourage were going big every time he won a hand. There weren’t quite cocktails being drunk out of open shoes a la the WSOP British rail of that time, but it wasn’t far off.
“It’s always nice when you’ve got people there railing. All the big results I’ve had friends on the rail. It does help give you that extra 5%. I’d been going through a tough period in poker. I’m fortunate in that I haven’t had many of them, but I’d had to drop my horses, and been on a downswing myself. I had to refocus, drop down in stakes and I hadn’t been playing much live before that.”
When the winning moment came, it was perfect – and will live forever as an unforgettable tournament in the poker career of Chris Moorman.
“It was nice for it all to come together there. I had have played live for a lot of years and not had that marquee win. I’d had big results and people have won titles for far less than I’d got for some seconds or thirds, but I wanted to close out that big tournament and it felt pretty sweet.”
For Chris Moorman, one crazy hand was the springboard for a heads-up triumph and a million-dollar victory. The commentary alone is magical, the action is incredible and the rails for each player make the drama all the more real. As is quite clear talking to Chris Moorman, while he’s seen final tables on every continent and won every online poker tournament worth taking down, one thing is for sure.
There’s nothing quite like winning a World Poker Tour Main Event.