A chip and a chair, is one of the most popular poker cliches. Sometimes it is what a player says when they have just taken a bad beat. At other times, you will hear it from a player who has gone through the night catching bad cards and is surviving. Recently, I witnessed this in reality.
Once a year, at the end of the season the Wednesday Night Poker League holds a Tournament of Champions. For a player to qualify to enter this tournament, he or she must have won a regular season league event.
The WNPL just finished it's sixth year of play. The weekly events have long out grown the garage where Carl Frey and the other original members started the league. Tournaments regularly seat four tables of players, many with World Series of Poker experience. The players in the group are truly formable poker players, and the game would be considered exceptionally high quality.
This year’s TOC seated 32 players, seated on four tables. Players get bonus chips for wins and cashing during the regular season, along with a tournament standard starting stack of chips.
The final two players were Carl Frey and Marshall Mahoney. The two played heads-up poker for over an hour trying to determine this year’s champion. The chip and a chair part of it started with Frey sitting on 262,000 chips and Marshall sitting on 8,000 chips.
Mahoney was in the big blind for 3,000. Frey pushed in a raised to 10,000. I like everyone else watching thought the game would be over after the hand. Mahoney normally an aggressive player, checked his cards and folded, leaving him with 5,000 chips in his stack.
The next two hands Mahoney doubled his stack on both hands now having 20,000. After folding one hand, he again doubled up twice in a row. Then the cards turned in Mahoney’s favor, and he won a couple of blind only hands to increase his stack to 80,000 chips.
Frey sitting on 190,000 chips still had the game well in hand in my opinion as an onlooker. At that point, Mahoney played the hand of the tournament. Sitting on the same side of the table as Mahoney, I saw his cards when he looked at them the first time he held a nine and a seven off suit. After a quick glance, Mahoney pushed in a raise of 20,000. Frey almost immediately called the raise.
The flop came out A,K,K. Mahoney instantly bet 20,000. I had in my mind that Mahoney had decided to take second in the tournament and be happy with that. Frey called the 20,000 after taking a moment to think it over. The turn was a small call, and Mahoney pushed all-in. Frey after going through the hand in his mind, folded pocket queens tossing them face up in the muck.
Now with the chip stacks nearly even, the cards went totally dead for Frey. After another 20 minutes with the blinds at 4000/8000 Mahoney finally won the tournament.
This was by far the best heads-up match I have ever witnessed in person. Both players deserved to win this tournament, either could have won, but in the end, that one hand by Mahoney was the difference. Playing it the way he did, with the flop that came out, I would have folded just like Frey. There was simply no other way to play it in my opinion.