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A Poker Contender Entered the Wrong Tournament (and Won Anyway)

Christian Pham overcomes an embarrassing mistake to take home some big money

Straights and flushes are terrible hands in "Kansas City Lowball," which a poker player unexpectedly found himself playing at the World Series of Poker (Creative Commons licensed by TaxRebate.org.uk)
smithsonian.com

Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion you’ve showed up in the wrong place? A Minnesota man named Christian Pham did — when the professional card player entered the wrong poker event, he realized he had never played the game in question before. Then, reports the Associated Press, he did something amazing: won the tournament anyway, to the tune of over $81,000.

Pham has won poker tourneys before, but always in his preferred poker game, Texas Hold’Em. The AP writes that he accidentally signed up for the wrong game at the World Series of Poker: no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball.

The game, which is also called “Kansas City Lowball,” is about as different from Texas Hold’Em as can be. It turns the values of cards upside-down, with twos the most valuable and lack of pairs defeats pairs. Instead of being valuable, straights and flushes are fatal — players want to assemble what would be considered the worst possible hand in other forms of poker.

The AP reports that Pham realized he was in for something completely different when he was dealt five cards instead of the two he’d have received in a game of Texas Hold’Em. At first he leaned on fellow contestants for a sense of the topsy-turvy card values, but by that night he was leading his table in chips. By the next day, he was the tournament’s winner, taking home $81,314 and receiving a gold bracelet for his feat.

Though Pham credits his “tournament acumen” for his win, a late-night study session between days of play helped, too. According to The Hendon Mob, a live database of poker statistics, Pham has now earned a total of $522,988 over his years playing poker, both well-prepared and on the fly. In the process, he may have just become an icon for anyone who finds themselves in an unexpected situation.

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