Pocket aces are the best starting hand in No-Limit Hold’em but that doesn’t mean they always hold up.
It’s a lesson that Jack Gong learned first-hand in soul-crushing fashion at the final table of the World Poker Tour’s latest stop in Montreal.
The hand occurred with just six players left in WPT Montreal and it included three-way action with all four aces in the deck represented in the players’ starting hands.
Former WPT Sportsbook Ema Zajmovic actually opened the pot with ace-queen and Gong decided to get tricky and just flat call with pocket aces. It was at this point the real fireworks in the hand began as Kauvsegan Ehamparam looked down to find ace-king and immediately moved all-in.
Zajmovic re-shoved and Gong made the easy call and had his opponents absolutely crushed before the dealer put out the board.
Suffice to say there were a few surprises along the way and by the time the river had been dealt, Gong had seen his aces disintegrate and his chance at the $652,801 first-place prize extinguished.
This year’s WPT Montreal was another massive tournament with a total of 792 entries creating a prize pool of $3.6 million.
The aforementioned hand took place with just six players left on the final day of the event with blinds at 50,000/100,000 and a 100,000 ante. The next player to be eliminated was set to receive $133,996 while first place pays out $652,801 and the requisite champion’s trophy.
Ema Zajmovic, who has absolutely dominated WPT Montreal over the years, was the chip leader at this point of the tournament with 7.5 million chips, which had both Jack Gong (3.1 million) and Kauvsegan Ehamparam (2 million) easily covered.
Ema Zajmovic opens the pot for a standard 200,000 bet from late position and Jack Gong decides to flat call from the cut-off.
Kauvsegan Ehamparam is on the button and moves all-in for his last 2 million. Zajmovic re-shoves and Gong snap calls.
The players reveal their hands:
Jack Gong: Ah-Ac (87% favorite)
Kauvsegan Ehamparam: As-Kh (6% favorite)
Ema Zajmovic: Ad-Qs (6% favorite)
The board is a roller-coaster as the dealer peels off 8s-3s-2d-6s… 10s.
Despite the incredible odds against it, the ten of spades on the river completes the four-flush.
That means Ehamparam wins the main pot with his ace-high flush and triples up his stack. Meanwhile, Zajmovic wins the side pot against Gong for 2.5 million with her queen-high flush.
In a disastrous turn of events, Gong goes from hero to zero and is eliminated from the tournament. On the bright side, he receives a $133,996 consolation prize.
Just a bad beat all around with Gong nearly a 90 percent favorite to win the entire pot.
There just aren’t many better situations for pocket aces as Gong has effectively negated both his opponents’ aces.
Of course it doesn’t always work out that way in poker and the dreaded four-flush hit the river to eliminate Gong.
The commentators correctly pointed that if Gong had raised Zajmovic, she likely would have been able to fold to Ehamparam’s shove.
Instead, Gong’s powerful hand was fairly well disguised thanks to his flat call. If Zajmovic folded, Ehamparam would have still won the hand but Gong would have barely survived because he out-chipped Ehamparam.
Regardless, Gong takes this hand nearly nine out of 10 times and just got extremely unlucky to lose the pot and his tournament life.
Ehamparam went on to finish in fourth place for $233,214 while Zajmovic finished second to receive $424,511. Winnipeg’s Patrick Serda, who wasn’t in the aces hand, went on to win the tournament for $642,801.
Ema Zajmovic’s Third Final Table in Montreal
It’s difficult to talk about this hand without mentioning the incredible dominance that Ema Zajmovic has displayed at her home casino in Montreal.
The rising poker star has just over $1 million in lifetime live tournament earnings but the vast majority of her winnings have come at Playground Casino.
It all started in 2016 when she finished fifth in WPT Montreal for $76,108. It was a final table for the ages with longtime WPT commentator Mike Sexton eventually winning the tournament outright for $317,817.
Zajmovic didn’t have to wait a long time to find redemption, however, as the very next year she won WPT Montreal for $183,788. In doing so, she entered the record books as the first female player to win an open WPT tournament.
Since then Zajmovic had added two more cashes at Playground and thanks to this year’s runner-up finish, she now has three WPT Montreal final tables to her name. If history is anything to go by, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her add a fourth one next year.