PCA 2013: “The Rest of the Story” from World Cup of Poker history

January 11, 2013

Readers of a certain age may recall an American radio personality of the prior generation named Paul Harvey. He had a syndicated radio “column” called “The Rest of the Story.” He would lead with some kind of story that was mildly interesting, then have a commercial break. After the commercial, he’d come back and give you the punch line, twist, or some strange or bizarre aspect of the whole deal. Like he’d talk about some guy who did this thing, that thing, achieved this accomplishment, and then Harvey would come back after the commercial and say “Oh by the way, this guy has been blind since birth.”

One of the fun things about being at the PCA is running into people who are often able to give you the “rest of the story” about all things poker. For instance, I found myself in a tournament floor chat with Jan Heitmann, a member of Team PokerStars Pro and a stupendously nice guy (“I’m sufficiently famous in Germany that statistically I should be recognized on the subway about once every four years. It hasn’t actually happened yet, but I think that’s my expectation”).

Here’s the story that Jan told us…


Lee Jones and Jan Heitmann

As you may be aware, the finals of the World Cup of Poker are run every year here at the PCA. Jan was present at (and marginally involved in) not only the most famous slowroll in World Cup history, but the most famous slowroll in PCA history, and certainly one of the most famous slowrolls in poker.

Here’s the scenario: at the 2010 World Cup of Poker, Luca Pagano, the team captain for Italy, open-raises in late position with 6-2 offsuit. Now Sascha Cornils, playing for Team Germany, wakes up with pocket aces and, not surprisingly, re-raises. Unfortunately for Canada, their representative, Darus Suharto (a November Nine alum), finds pocket kings in the small blind. After a brief analysis to make sure he can get everybody’s chips in, he shoves all-in.

So far, so good.

Luca, it must be noted, takes his sweet Mediterranean time to fold his trash, staring both other players down as if trying to get a read (“Hmmm. Are they beating six-high?”). But he does eventually fold.

This is where things turn interesting.

Cornils, holding aces, snap calls, turns up his hand, and fist-pumps, right?

Well, no. He freezes for a moment, looks confused, and then turns and frantically signals to his teammates (including Hauptmann Heitmann) that he needs a time-out (WCP teams are permitted a certain number of these).

Jan, of course, officially requests a time-out from tournament director Neil Johnson, and the team goes backstage to confer.

Now, if you haven’t heard this story, you may not believe it. Fortunately, it’s permanently recorded on the Internet here.

As you watch the video, you’ll see the German team go off-stage and have an animated discussion. In the meantime, the TV announcers, who can see the cards, are flipping out, crying etiquette foul and so on.

When the German team returns, Conils calls and flips up his aces. The crowd goes completely berserk. Canadian Suharto, who obviously felt his kings were golden (given Cornils’ hesitancy), actually laughs in confusion and semi-disgust.

Despite the crowd’s almost unanimous calling for a king on the flop (or perhaps better, the river), the aces stand up and Germany doubles through Canada.

Now, for the rest of story.

Jan, who was in the center of all the action, explained to me what happened. Cornils was a freeroll qualifier to the World Cup of Poker. He was an extremely inexperienced poker player who managed to win his way onto the team; it turns out that luck does play an occasional part in the poker world.

Subsequent to winning his seat, he had studied as much as he could about tournament poker. Somewhere in there, he had learned that it might be correct to fold aces preflop. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard the quiz before: “It’s the first hand of the WSOP main event, you find aces on the big blind, and everybody goes all-in before you. Do you call?”

Furthermore, there are times when it’s clearly mathematically correct to fold aces preflop on or near the bubble of a satellite where finishing (e.g.) 18th is equivalent to finishing 1st.
Poor Sascha Corlis finds himself involved in the pot of his life, with TV cameras staring at him, an entire crowd watching every move he makes, and his Team Germany teammates holding their breath to see what he does.

Can anybody blame him for using a timeout that costs him (and his team) almost nothing?
Now, being a poker player, I’m naturally suspicious (as much as I trust Jan Heitmann). But two things strongly incline me to believe the “Confused novice” explanation.

1. Look at the re-raise that Corlis puts in over Pagano’s original raise. It’s almost a min-raise which (as Neil Channing points out on the video) is probably worse than either a flat call or a substantial three-bet.

2. Go back and watch the video at 1:35. Darus Suharto (the Canadian with the kings) asks for a chip count from Corlis – he wants to make sure that if he shoves, Corlis is pretty much forced to call with his whole range. Now watch Corlis count his chips. This is not the counting technique of a veteran poker player. He’s literally counting the chips two at a time (thus explaining the extended period it takes for him to get a count).

I’ll let Jan Heitmann pick up the story here:

“So we get backstage and I’m thinking that if he has queens we may have to fold, and we’ll probably call if he has kings.Now he tells us he has aces and we all freak out. We all say ‘You totally have to call!’ He says, ‘Should I delay before calling when I get back?’ I say ‘No – here’s what’s going to happen: you’re going to go back there, immediately call and turn up your hand in the same breath. Then I’m going to buy beer for the Canadian team.”

In short, it was a honest novice misunderstanding that happened at pretty much the worst possible moment. Jan Heitmann did, in fact, buy a couple of pitchers of beer for the Canadian team, which smoothed over international relations and everybody had a good time (and a dynamite tale to tell).

So there’s yet another great reason for you to come to the PCA – where you can learn…the rest of the story.


Lee Jones first joined PokerStars in 2003 and has been involved in the professional poker world for over 25 years.

Lee will also be at the PCA presenting a poker seminar, hosting Q&A sessions with PokerStars Team Pros, and answering any questions that our players and guests have. Follow him on Twitter (@leehjones) to get information about what he’s doing at PCA and where you can meet him.


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