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August 22, 2017

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Biggest hand in World Series of Poker history sets up final two

Jonathan Duhamel and John Racener outlasted the other 7,317 players in the Main Event field


Justin M. Bowen

Jonathan Duhamel plays at the final table of the World Series of Poker Saturday at the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio.

2010 World Series of Poker-Final Table

The final table of nine players at the World Series of Poker Main Event play for the $9 million first place prize and the world championship bracelet at the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio Saturday afternoon. Launch slideshow »

Chip Counts

Main Event Payouts

  • 1st — $8,944,138
  • 2nd — $5,545,855
  • Joseph Cheong (3rd) — $4,129,979
  • Filippo Candio (4th) — $3,092,497
  • Michael Mizrachi (5th) — $2,332,960
  • John Dolan (6th) — $1,772,939
  • Jason Senti (7th) — $1,356,708
  • Matthew Jarvis (8th) — $1,045,738
  • Soi Nguyen (9th) — $811,823

John Racener couldn’t have liked the situation he was in with three players remaining in the World Series of Poker Main Event Sunday morning at the Rio.

Racener had only 25 million chips, nearly four times less than both Joseph Cheong and Jonathan Duhamel. Most assumed playing down to two players was a mere formality.

It appeared only a matter of time before Duhamel and Cheong locked up their spots for Monday’s heads-up match. What happened next reminded everyone why the World Series of Poker final table is one of the most unpredictable events of the year.

“I thought for sure it was going to have to be me who doubled up once or twice to get back in it,” Racener said. “One of my buddies said, ‘watch, they are going to get into a big who’s got the bigger stack, who’s toughest sort of hand.’ And that’s what happened.”

The biggest pot in World Series of Poker history took place while Racener sat on the left side of the table and watched. Racener opened the hand by folding before Cheong and Duhamel engaged in a raising war.

Cheong ultimately went all-in in an attempt to bluff Duhamel off of the best hand. It didn’t work. Duhamel called for his tournament life and world championship dreams with pocket Queens.

Cheong sheepishly flipped over a far inferior Ace-7. The five community cards did nothing to help Cheong and Duhamel scooped the nearly 185 million-chip pot.

“When we started three-handed play, I was pretty sure it was going to be waiting until Racener shoved and wait until one of us busts him or doubles him up,” Duhamel said. “But then I realized Joseph Cheong didn’t want to do that. He wanted to play some poker. And I wanted to play with him also.”

The defeat left Cheong with only 4 million chips out of the about 220 million in play. Duhamel took him out for good a few hands later, setting up Monday night’s heads-up match against Racener.

The 24-year old Racener, from Port Richey, Fla., will face quite the deficit as he only has 30.7 million chips to the 188.9 million of Duhamel, a 22-year old from Montreal, Canada.

But Racener isn’t going to complain. Not after he looked destined for a third-place finish for $4.1 million. Now, he’s guaranteed $5.5 million and still has a shot at the $8.9 million first-place prize.

“I’m real excited to squeeze into heads-up,” Racener said. “I was never above 35 or 40 million the whole time. I was right around 25-30 million the whole entire day and was as low as 11 million at one point, so I’m fortunate to get this far.”

Racener and Duhamel’s days did not follow similar paths during the 14 hours of play that started at Noon Saturday. Racener came in fourth in chips and stayed in the middle of the pack all day.

Duhamel entered with a commanding chip lead, but lost nearly all of it and had to gamble to stay alive. He went all-in with five players remaining with Ace-9, which took down Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi’s pocket 3s when two 9s hit the board.

“The key moment is when I won that against him,” Duhamel said. “If I lose, I’m out of the tournament.”

Mizrachi, the most heralded player and only prior World Series of Poker bracelet winner at the table, never recovered and went out shortly after in fifth for $2.3 million. Mizrachi captured the chip lead for many hours of the evening, but couldn’t maintain his pace.

“I wanted to get to a spot where I had a chance with six or seven left with a big stack,” Mizrachi said. “I did that, but it didn’t work out.”

A few hands after Duhamel took out Mizrachi, Joseph Cheong eliminated Italian pro Filippo Candio in fourth place. Cheong’s Ace-3 of clubs beat Candio’s King-Queen of diamonds when an Ace hit the flop.

That gave Cheong and Duhamel close to even chip stacks to set up the hand that will be discussed for years to come. Duhamel’s friends and family swarmed him after his pocket Queens won, knowing how close he is to becoming a world champion.

“This is a dream coming true,” Duhamel said. “Playing poker is a passion for me and for a chance to be here right now in heads-up, it’s so amazing.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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