One of my oldest friends in poker is a talented Canadian player named Mike Watson. Although Watson has accumulated some excellent tournament results over the years - including a win at the Bellagio Cup in 2008 for more than $1.6 million - he's not well known among the poker-playing public due to his modest and nonchalant personality.
That started changing in 2012, when Watson strung together a series of results that would create envy in almost any professional poker player. But one player with no reason to envy Watson's results is Vanessa Selbst, whose tournament resume easily ranks among the best in the world. I don't play favorites, so I settle for envying both.
The two seasoned professionals tangled with each other earlier this year at the final table of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 High Roller tournament in the Bahamas back in January. After battling through a tough final table, they found themselves three-handed and competing for a first prize of more than $1.4 million when they played a major pot together.
With blinds at 20,000-40,000, Watson raised the button to $80,000 with the Kh Jh. Selbst re-raised from the small-blind to $210,000, and after the big blind folded, Watson made the call.
The flop came Ah 9s 8s, and Selbst bet $260,000. Watson thought for a moment before making the call. He knew that Selbst often reraises preflop and that if she was bluffing, she would have to check-fold on numerous turns because most of the hands in Watson's range in this situation would be strong.
Watson also held two back-door draws, so if the turn was a favorable card such as the 10h or Qh, he would have the option of a semi-bluff shove over a Selbst bet, since he had plenty of equity in the hand.
Instead, the turn was a Qc. Selbst checked, Watson bet $320,000, and Selbst called. Watson had a little more than $1 million left in his stack at this point, which Selbst could easily cover.
The river brought the 2s, and when Selbst checked, Watson moved all in with the remainder of his stack.
I remember reading a recap of this hand shortly after it happened and really liking how Watson played it. He has a tight table image, and the small spade on the river was an ideal card to bluff, since it would be much more likely for Watson to have made the spade flush draw than Selbst, because she would usually keep betting if she held a draw and no pair.
Unfortunately for Watson, Selbst had the flush draw and the pair, and she instantly called the all-in, turning over Ks Qs. Watson busted out in third place, and Selbst went on to win the tournament.
But I doubt Watson has ever second-guessed that bluff.
Tony Dunst is a poker pro and host of "Raw Deal" on World Poker Tour telecasts. Catch him every Sunday night on FSN. Poker Pros will appear every week.