Remarkable swings of fortune distinguish this heads-up hand between Mansour Matoubi and Hans Lund at the 1990 WSOP Main Event.
“This is without question the most incredible hand in the history of the World Series of Poker.”
The year was 1990, and David “Chip” Reese was the one making that observation while helping Chris Marlowe commentate the 1990 World Series of Poker Main Event final table for ESPN.
At the time he made that pronouncement, Reese was absolutely right. The crazy, up-and-down hand to which he referred undoubtedly belongs on any list of “poker’s greatest hands.”
That year’s Main Event final table included a number of big names, among them ninth-place finisher Stu Ungar (who had won twice before in 1980 and 1981, and would win a third Main Event later in 1997), and another Main Event champion, 1986 winner Berry Johnston who finished fifth.
There were 194 players in the 1990 WSOP Main Event, and after nearly four days of play the last two were Hans “Tuna” Lund of Nevada and Iranian-born Mansour Matloubi of London.
When the hand took place Lund had the chip lead. Written accounts of the hand include discrepencies, but it appears from the ESPN broadcast Lund had around 1.1 million to start and Matloubi something in the 800,000-chip range.
Lund had the button, and while the broadcast doesn’t describe the action it appears he limped in. Matloubi then raised to 75,000, Lund called, and the flop came 9♠2♣4♠.
First to act, Matloubi bet 100,000, and following a bit of deliberation Lund raised to 250,000.
Matloubi took his time responding, first sipping his drink with a straw and then taking a puff off of a cigarette before setting it back down in the ashtray on the table next to him (this was 30 years ago!).
As Matloubi continued to contemplate the situation, Reese shared thoughts about both players’ possible holdings.
Regarding Lund’s hand, Reese speculates “he could either have a spade flush draw, he could have a big pair which is bigger than nines, or he could possibly have a straight draw, but that’s pretty unlikely.”
Meanwhile “the minimum hand that Mansour should probably have here would be maybe a nine with an ace-kicker, a real big kicker,” says Reese, although “that might not even go in.” As Matloubi takes a couple more drags off his cigarette, Reese adds that a spade flush draw could be possible for him as well.
Finally Matloubi made his decision and pushed all in. His reraise was for 632,000 total, meaning it would cost Lund 382,000 to call. Now it was Lund’s turn to tank.
Matloubi stood from the table while Lund counted out his chips, studying the situation through large eyeglasses from beneath the brim of his light purple baseball cap. Finally he came to a decision and made the call along with an accompanying shrug.
Matoubi tabled his hand first to show he had 10♦10♣, then Lund revealed he was well behind with A♣9♦ — not quite 22 percent to win, if we plug the hands into an odds calculator.
It was time for the turn and river. And it’s because of those turn and river cards Reese delivered his judgment afterwards about the hand.
First came the turn — the A♠! Lund had two pair and the lead! The considerable crowd at Binion’s Horseshoe exploded with noise at the sight of the card. Meanwhile Lund sat quietly at the table, a toothpick still clenched between his lips as he resisted showing any emotion.
Matloubi paced about, a sheepish look on his face as he appeared to be coming to terms with what seemed a hard-luck loss of the hand and his elimination from the tournament. Reese noted he was a “20-to-1 underdog” to catch a river ten to make a set and survive, and indeed Matloubi had but a 4.5% chance of hitting his two-outer.
Then it came… the 10♠!
Lund sat motionless for several seconds, and it’s hard not to feel for him. Matloubi slapped his hands together and smiled. Suddenly he was up over 1.6 million and Lund down around 300,000.
Again, written reports are inconsistent, but it sounds like Lund battled for some time thereafter before finally falling with pocket fours to Matloubi’s pocket sixes, making the latter the Main Event champion.
Adding to Lund’s heartbreak was the fact that the difference between first- and second-place prize money was especially large that year. Matloubi won $835,000 for winning, while Lund took away $334,000 for finishing runner-up. In other words, that river ten ultimately was worth half a million dollars!
Then again, it had been a lucky turn that had brought Lund that close to victory. What a rollercoaster!