Every tournament, especially the most high profile ones, usually has several bubbles. It can be soul-crushing to get knocked out on the money bubble of the WSOP or WPT Main Event, but what really hurts is just missing out on the final table.
Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a poker player is bubbling the final table of a major event on a major cooler or a sick suckout. What separates the truly great poker players from the not-so-greats is their ability to shrug off even these kinds of beats and fearlessly move on to the next tournament. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most vicious final table bubbles.
8. 2009 WSOP Main Event Final Table Bubble: Darvin Moon Strikes Again
With ten players left in the 2009 WSOP Main Event, it was the Darvin Moon Show as he picked up huge pocket pair after huge pocket pair and flopped monster hands to go along with them. When Jordan Smith picked up the rockets and got into a pot with Moon, the flop couldn’t have been much better from his perspective. Unfortunately, Moon was running way too hot to miss an inconspicuous flop like that.
7. 2012 WSOP Big One for One Drop Final Table Bubble: Esfandiari Turns the Tables on Sexton
The first ever Big One for One Drop was the first tournament with a million dollar buy-in ever held, which must have put an unprecedented amount of pressure on the remaining players when the final table bubble was on. Eventually, it was Antonio Esfandiari who managed to knock out Mike Sexton when the perfect card hit the turn.
Esfandiari opened the action to 900,000 pre-flop and Sexton called from the big blind. After both players checked the As Js 3d flop, the inconspicuous 6d hit the turn. At that point, Esfandiari raised enough to put Sexton all-in. Mike called, turning over Jd Td. Unfortunately for him, Esfandiari turned two pair with 6s 3c. While Mike still had plenty of outs, the 8c on the river sealed his fate and he missed out on the biggest final table in tournament poker history.
6. Marcel Luske’s Main Event Double Heartbreak
What can be worse than bubbling the final table of the WSOP Main Event? Bubbling it two years in a row! Well, Marcel Luske didn’t exactly bubble it the first time when he finished 14th in the 2003 Main Event, but when he was back in 2004 and was still in it with 10 players left, it was either going to result in great redemption or great heartbreak from there. Unfortunately, Marcel ended up with the second option.
5. 1998 WSOP Main Event Final Table Bubble: Scotty Nguyen Double Knockout
In 1998, the final table was 6-handed and with seven players left, a three-way all-in occurred. With blinds at 5k/10k, Jan Lundberg shipped his last 61,000 with a pair of tens and was called by Scotty Nguyen. Behind him, Ben Roberts also went all-in for another 56,000 chips. Of course, there was no reason for Scotty to fold given the odds he was getting, so he made the call. Scotty flipped over AdQd, but was crushed by Roberts’ pocket aces.
The situation looked bleak for Scotty, who stood a good chance of losing a big chunk of his chips, but the flop was nearly a miracle for him when it came Qh 4d 5d and gave him more outs than he could have hoped for. The turn made Scotty swear a bit as the Js rolled out, but the river delivered with the 2d, giving Scotty the nut flush. Thanks to that huge suckout and double elimination, Scotty went on to win the Main Event that year.
4. EPT Monte Carlo Main Event Final Table Bubble: Runner Runner
The 2013 EPT Monte Carlo Main Event final table was supposed to be 8-handed. With ten players to go, Vasili Firsau was sitting on a short stack with only a few big blinds. Finally picking up a hand to make a stand with, Vasili opened the action which led to a remarkable turn of events.
Despite the miraculous chop, Steve O’Dwyer did end up winning the tournament for €1,224,000.
3. 2003 WSOP Main Event Final Table Bubble: Ivey gets Rivered
On his way to his 2003 Main Event win, Chris Moneymaker had to get lucky more than once. At no point did he need luck more than when he faced Phil Ivey with just ten players left.
While at the time Ivey must have felt heartbroken, in hindsight, his unlucky knockout helped create the poker boom for which he was definitely better off in the long-run. So, he might not regret it that much.
2. Joe Sebok’s Double Bubble
Joe Sebok may be one of the unluckiest players in WPT history. At least he was in 2007, when he managed to become the bubble boy of two WPT Events during a single season.
The first Sebok bubble occurred at the Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament when Sebok got all his chips in with massive underdog, Ks 9d. On a board of Kd Qs 3s, he was virtually dead against Amir Shayesteh’s Kc Qh.
Fast-forward to six months later, when Joe found himself in the same position at the Legends of Poker tournament. This time, with seven players left, Joe was again the one at risk, however, this time he got it in good with pocket queens against Tom Schneider’s As Jc. The flop didn’t bring Schneider any help, but the turn was an ace, leaving Joe with two outs that did not materialize on the river, resulting in his second final table bubble of the season.
1. WSOP 2012 Main Event Bubble
With 11 players left in the 2012 WSOP Main Event, not one, but two women were still in the tournament, which meant that only two eliminations were standing in the way of the final table and history being made. However, Hungarian, Andras Koroknai, made sure that history would have to wait for a while, eliminating each woman in 11th and 10th, respectively.