Bluffing is an integral weapon in any winning player’s arsenal, whether you’re a micro-stakes grinder or a high-rolling pro. Thanks to television cameras, we can actually see a bluff even if the player opts not to show it. And witnessing someone successfully pull off a bluff is some of the best poker to watch.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 5 of the top poker bluffs of all time.
#5 – Chris Moneymaker’s “Bluff of the Century”
Our first candidate for the best poker bluff of all-time came at the final table of the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Internet qualifier Chris Moneymaker was up against the vastly experienced Sam Farha. We all know how it ended, of course. But this gutsy move by Moneymaker marked the beginning of the end for Farha’s Main Event run.
After flopping top pair with Q♠️ 9♥️, Farha checked to Moneymaker, who had raised preflop with K♠️ 7♥️. The American checked back and the 8♠️ on the turn completed a possible flush and straight draw. Farha led for around 7.5x BBs and Moneymaker opted to raise. Farha then called, with the best hand.
Things got really interesting. The 3♥️ changed absolutely nothing. Farha checked, and Moneymaker announced that he was all in, putting his opponent’s tournament at stake. Sammy suggested right off the bat that Moneymaker had missed a flush, implying that he thought it was a bluff. But after much thought, he smiled wryly before letting go of the best hand.
The play was described by commentator Norman Chad at the time as “the bluff of the century”. You have to remember how different the poker world was back in 2003. The idea of an amateur qualifying online and pulling stunts like this under such pressure was still fairly outlandish. So this extremely memorable bluff marks a significant turning point in poker history.
#4 – Tom Dwan’s Monster Bet With 7-2
In February 2010, Tom “durrrr” Dwan issued a challenge to the world’s leading high-stakes pros. Sammy “Any Two” George was one of three to answer Tom “durrrr” Dwan’s call. The two players would pony up $500,000 in cash and do battle for at least 500 hands, with the televised event taking place at Les Ambassadeurs in London.
As high-stakes action junkies, both players had also agreed to play the 7-2 game. In short, every time a player takes down a pot with the weakest Hold’em hand, the loser must pay $10,000. In this particular hand, Dwan wasn’t only dealt 7♠️ 2♥️, but he actually announced this to George.
Dwan being Dwan, he got very aggressive from the off. Of course, Sammy refused to believe he was holding 7-2. But with A♦️ 6♣, he actually had a playable hand anyway. And when the flop showed J♥️ A♥️ 6♥️, his pair of aces looked pretty good. The 3♣ on the turn felt like a brick, as did the 3♦️ on the river. George checked here, expecting to call whatever Dwan inevitably bet on the end.
However, what came next was extraordinary. With the pot at $162,000, Dwan shoved. For George to call, he would need every last cent of his remaining $358,500. He knew that Dwan either had the nuts or a complete bluff. But against such a dangerous and volatile player, he wasn’t sure if his aces were good. After plenty of painful deliberation, George let it go. An exceptional play from Tom Dwan.
#3 – Dwan Bluffs Both Greenstein and Eastgate
It’s that man “Durrrr” again, but this time on an episode of High Stakes Poker that took place during Season 5. This hand is particularly interesting, since it not only involves pocket aces, but it’s also a multi-way pot.
Barry Greenstein raised under the gun with pocket aces and was immediately called by Dwan with Q♣ T♣. This triggered a chain of other calls, creating a crazy 8-handed family pot. The flop of 2♣ T♦️ 2♠️ seemed fairly innocuous for Greenstein, who fired a $10,000 bet at a pot of $21,600.
Unbeknownst to Barry, Peter Eastgate in the Small Blind had flopped three deuces. But it’s Dwan who took charge, raising to $37,300. Eastgate called cold, with Greenstein also calling. The 7♦️ turn was checked to Dwan, who bet a little over $100,000 into a pot of $133,500.
Incredibly, Eastgate folded the strongest hand, presumably worried that Dwan could have an A-2. And after a brief period of consideration, Greenstein mucked too. This hand was remarkable because, not only did Durrrr have the weakest hand of the three players, but you could sense that he knew it. He correctly figured Eastgate for a weak deuce and Greenstein a premium pair, managing to force both out with creativity and aggression.
#2 – Ivey Bests Jackson in a Battle of the Bluffs
There’s no way we could write a list of the all-time best bluffs without including the incomparable Phil Ivey. And this particular hand from the 2005 Monte Carlo Millions is a staggering example of his famous heart and aggression.
At the heads-up stage, Ivey held a chip lead of around 4 to 1 over Paul “Action” Jackson. After a 7♣ J♣ J♥️ flop, it appeared to be a pretty unremarkable hand. Jackson’s 6♠️ 5♦️ had missed wide, while Ivey was barely any better off with Q♥️ 8♥️. The latter was the first to act and took a stab at the pot, with an 80,000 bet.
Rather than simply mucking his hand, Jackson took his time and opted to raise, making it 170,000 to play. At this point, the only sensible thing for Ivey to do was accept defeat and let it go. But instead, he 3-bet his Queen high to 320,000. Unbelievably, Jackson also opted to continue with his own bluff, making it 470,000 to go.
At this point, Ivey spent a fair amount of time mulling things over, before shoving all-in. Finally, Jackson had no choice but to relent, joking that he was making a “good laydown”. The commentary team summed the play up best, describing it as “absurd and wonderful at the same time”.
#1 – Haxton Bluffs up a Storm
It’s the 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event. Isaac Haxton and Ryan Daut were playing heads-up. The chip lead had repeatedly changed hands in a topsy-turvy battle between two highly aggressive players. And for some inexplicable reason, they were seated outside in what looked to be the beginnings of a tornado.
Then came the hand which we think is the best poker bluff of all time. In a rare unraised pot, Daut limped with 7♣ 5♠ before Haxton checked with 3♦ 2♦. The flop of Q♥ 4♥ A♣ saw Haxton check-call a bet before both players checked the K♦ turn.
The river was another blank, the Q♣. Neither player had a thing. In fact, Haxton was holding the worst possible hand. Despite this, he elected to bet. Daut, perhaps sensing that Haxton was indeed bluffing, came over the top. Haxton’s initial reaction was to bury his head into the table. But after a period of deliberation, he announced that he was re-raising all in.
Daut folded almost instantly, prompting Haxton to show the bluff. His opponent, with the proverbial tongue wedged firmly in cheek, responded by saying “you’re gonna like it when that’s on TV”.
Whether or not Haxton did watch it back, we don’t know. But we most certainly enjoyed the spectacle of these hyper-aggressive opponents going at it. Particularly the courage displayed by Haxton to pull the trigger in such a spot.
Bonus Bluff – Isildur Gets It Badly Wrong
We’ve talked about our favourite bluffs of all time, and they all have something in common. They actually worked! But not everyone can successfully pull off a poker bluff every time.
Viktor “Isildur1” Blom was known for his ultra-aggressive and highly creative style at the height of the online nosebleed stakes cash games. But in this particular hand, at the 2009 WSOPE, his bluff went horribly wrong.
After open-raising with K♦ 2♦, he continued the aggression with a check-raise on the flop of A♦ A♣ 3♣. It’s actually a pretty credible bluff, as the story he was telling really added up as if he were holding an Ace. The problem is, his opponent really was holding one and couldn’t believe his luck. He re-raised, and Blom shoved all-in over the top.
What’s interesting at this point was how Ian Munns reacted. Holding A♥ 7♠, he had to seriously consider that Blom had a better Ace. And you could see the discomfort he was in while he tried to figure out what to do. But luckily for him, he came to the correct conclusion when he called and showed his trips – much to the delight of the rest of the table. Blom couldn’t get away from the table quickly enough.
Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest poker tips as well as info on upcoming poker events.