Members of the media who don’t really understand poker often ask me, “What’s the biggest pot you’ve ever lost?” They’ll usually ask this question after they have asked, “What’s the biggest pot you’ve ever won?” For some reason, it seems to be an important question from the public’s standpoint, but it used to be a question I had trouble answering, because … well, I didn’t know.

But now, I do! I took a seat in a game on a Wednesday night at Bellagio. The lineup was as follows:


Seat 1: Doyle Brunson


Seat 2: Lyle Berman


Seat 3: Johnny Chan


Seat 4: Chip Reese


Seat 5: Me


Seat 6: Phil Ivey


Seat 7: Chao Xiang


As you can see, my game selection is impeccable these days. Let’s not dwell on that, though, and get straight to the details.


It was a mixed game, $2,000-$4,000 limit. It was a mixture of stud, Omaha eight-or-better, hold’em, deuce-to-seven triple draw, stud eight-or-better, and pot-limit Omaha, with a $75,000 cap. The cap simply meant that no player could lose more than $75,000 on any given hand. It actually creates more action than it kills, because players are more willing to enter a pot when they know they can lose “only” $75,000.


Well, I’d played $2,000-$4,000 on a few occasions and had done quite well. However, I’d never played it with the added element of a $75,000 cap. As you can probably guess, the pot I got involved in was one of those capped pots, in pot-limit Omaha.


Phil Ivey limped in from first position for $2,000, as did Chao, Doyle from the button, and Chip from the small blind.


I looked down at my hand and found the 3clubs 4clubs 5spades 6diamonds. It wasn’t a bad big blind hand if I caught the right flop, and the price was right. The flop came 8clubs 3hearts 2clubs.


This looked like a dynamite flop for my hand. Of course, I could be in big trouble if someone else had a bigger flush draw. Nonetheless, this hand had to be played for something, so after Chip checked, I decided to bet $8,000 into a $10,000 pot. Both Phil and Chao folded, so it was up to Doyle.


Doyle called my $8,000 and raised me a “pancake.” A pancake is the nickname for a $25,000 chip ($5,000 chips are called flags, due to their colors: red, white, and blue). Chip folded, and it was back to me.


If I called that bet for I would have an additional $40,000 to play with on the turn and river. However, after running through all the possible hands Doyle could have, I finally decided that I wasn’t going to fold, so I wanted to play for it all on the flop. “I raise 40 more,” I said, knowing Doyle would be forced to call.


With Doyle raising me here, I thought there was a good chance he’d flopped a set. However, provided he didn’t have any extra outs (a flush draw or straight draw), my hand was actually favored over even top set!


So, I got the whole $75,000 in there and Doyle said, “Well, I think you got me in really bad shape.” Not knowing what he had, I said, “I dunno, you might have me crushed.”


We decided to turn our hands faceup, which is customary in pot-limit Omaha. Oftentimes, players will make deals to lessen their swings. Considering the fact that I was playing a little out of my comfort zone, I was happy to reduce my risk. “Wanna run it twice?” I asked, hoping Doyle would say yes.


“Oh, I don’t know; I don’t see how I could win it twice!” Doyle quickly understood that despite the fact that he had the best hand at the moment, my draw was a significant favorite to win the pot.


Doyle’s hand was the Kspades Khearts 8spades 3diamonds, giving him top two pair. All I had at the moment was a pair of threes with a 6 kicker, but I was still close to a 2-1 favorite to win the pot. Doyle finally agreed to run it twice, which suited me just fine. I was thinking to myself, “Winning both would be awesome, but breaking even wouldn’t be such a horrible result.”


Now, when I say “run it twice,” I mean the dealer would burn and turn as usual. Whoever had the best hand after all five community cards were faceup would be up one leg.


Then, both the turn and river cards would be thrown into the muck and the dealer would once again burn and turn, revealing a new turn card as well as a new river card. If you win both legs, you win the whole pot. If you win just one leg, you split the middle. If you lose both legs — well, you cry about your bad luck!


So, we proceeded. The first card off was the Jdiamonds — a good card for Doyle. Before the river came, Doyle yelled, “Keep it high, dealer!” Doyle’s prayers were answered when the 9diamonds hit the river, ensuring him of at least a chop.


“Oh, well,” I thought, “as long as I don’t lose both of ‘em.” Then, the dealer burned and turned again. An 8! Oh, no! I had been in a glorious situation, had hedged my bets, and still lost the whole enchilada. That 8 sealed my fate, as I was drawing dead. My monster draw was totally worthless. I looked at the river card anyway, just for fun, and nope … the Qhearts didn’t help me, either.


Suddenly, I felt some gas pains deep down in my stomach. No, wait, those weren’t gas pains at all; it was my Adam’s apple that I was belching up. I must have swallowed it when that 8 fell.


So, now I have a story to tell people when they ask the question, “What’s the biggest pot you’ve ever lost?” The next time I’m asked that question, however, my answer will be, “I don’t want to talk about it! Go to and find out for yourself!” By the way, the pot was officially $156,000.


While that really sucks, I guess I’m forced to look on the bright side (sigh) … at least I have material for a column. Unfortunately, I’ll have to write lots of columns to get me even for that pot!diamonds…