Connor Drinan might not be the first poker player to suffer a horrific bad beat, but when it costs you $1 million smackaroos, you have earned the right to whine a little bit more than the next guy, right?
Let’s face it, every poker player has a bad beat story. Maybe you got beat by a one-outer on the river, or perhaps your lucky opponent had a pair on the flop but went runner-runner for quads. But for Connor Drinan, the way the hand played out, combined with both the size and manner of the loss he took, make it one of the worst bad beat stories in history.
Drinan’s bad beat actually took place at the World Series of Poker’s Big One for One Drop, the charity tournament with a $1 million buy-in. That tournament was played in early July, but ESPN’s coverage of the event started Tuesday night, and that’s when what happened to Drinan became the stuff of legends.
In the hand in question, just 18 players remained from the initial field of 42, meaning the remaining players were fairly deep into the tournament but not yet in the money. Cary Katz, sitting under the gun, found himself with pocket aces. Amazingly, Drinan was in the big blind and also held his own set of pocket aces. After a few raises, the money predictably went into the pot preflop.
Most of the time, such a hand will end in a chopped pot, as only a flush could turn one of the players into a winner. But the hand still needed to be played out, with Drinan at risk since he had the shorter stack. When the flop came with two hearts, Katz, who held the aces of hearts and spades, had increased his chances of winning the hand from two percent to about five percent, while Drinan could no longer do any better than a chop.
“If I lose like this, whatever,” Drinan can be heard saying on the broadcast.
When another heart came on the turn, the situation had turned more serious. Katz now had a 20 percent chance of hitting his flush, which would eliminate Drinan from the tournament. Sure enough, the two of hearts hit on the river, and Katz had won a ten million chip pot, while Drinan was out of the tournament in 18th place.
While Drinan was never in a position to win the hand, and while players have certainly lost hands with longer odds, the situation has made this particular bad beat a hot conversation since the episode aired on ESPN. First, there’s the fact that Drinan lost with the best starting hand in Hold’em, and in the rarest of spots against another pair of pocket aces. There’s also the slow nature of the beat, in which the possibility of a flush for Katz becomes more and more possible as the cards are revealed. But most of all, it’s the loss of a $1 million buy-in under these unusual circumstances that has made this beat resonate with so many poker fans.
“That might be the worst beat in the history of tournament poker,” said ESPN commentator Lon McEachern.
Ultimately (spoilers ahead for those who don’t want to know the tournament results), Katz would finish in 8th place, winning just over $1.3 million. Daniel Colman would win the tournament, taking home a $15.3 million payday after defeating Daniel Negreanu in heads up play.