A Hand for the Ages

Phillips vs Demidov, WSOP 2008 Final Table

demidovOn November 9th 2008, the last remaining players in the WSOP Main Event re-convened after a four month hiatus to finish the business they had started in July.

The atmosphere in the Rio was like a Roman Amphitheatre as the ‘November Nine’ sat down to determine to what extent each of them would become millionaires. This was the first time the WSOP had attempted the concept and the entire final table was to be streamed live with no hole cards visible to viewers.


Everyone from the casual fans to the die-hards were tuned in to see how it would all go down, after months of speculation over whether it would work, whether amateur players would have received coaching and so on.

The hand was played out between Ivan Demidov, a stoic Russian 20-something and Dennis Phillips, a genial middle-aged everyman who managed a trucking company in St. Louis.

The Hand

To start the hand Demidov was chip leader, with about 22.6 million with Phillips close behind on about 21 M

With the blinds at 150,000/300,000 Phillips limps under-the-gun.

The action is folded around to Demidov on the button who raises to 1.025 M, and both blinds fold.

Action back to Phillips who now re-pops to 3.525 million.

After a while, Demidov 4-bets to 8.225 million, and Phillips calls.

At this point the poker community were uttering a collective WTF!?


With about 13 M behind and 17 M in the pot, the flop comes down: 8-T-J all different suits.

After deliberating for a while, Phillips donks leads for 4.5 million. The WTF after this play was much, much louder.

Shortly thereafter, Demidov announces he’s all-in, for 9 million more into a pot of 35 million, and Phillips eventually folds.


The message boards and forums lit up instantly. What could they have had? What is Phillips’ range for limp/3bet/calling and donk/folding the flop for 1/4 pot getting pot odds of 5/1? Demidov must have had AA or KK at the outside right? One of the most enjoyable things about watching this hand live was the fact that no hole cards were on show and you were left completely dumb-founded.

As it turns out, Demidov had a lowly Ac-Qc , and Phillips? He had Ah-Kc .

That is some out-of-line play right there boys!

When asked about the hand later, Demidov said his read was that Phillips was limp-raising with less than premium hands, having got a tip off from a friend who had seen him show Jacks after the move. Demidov was confident that he could get him off most of the medium strength hands he was limp raising with by 4-betting. When Phillips flatted the 4-bet he put him squarely on AK or QQ, figuring he would definitely have tried to get all the chips in pre-flop with AA or KK.

On the flop, Demidov went with his read and figured that if he stuck Phillips in for the rest he would be very reluctant to call, even with QQ given how early in the day it was, and how many supporters he had brought with him. The move made easier of course by the double-gutshot straight draw and possible live Ace.

Phillips said his limp re-raise was designed to take it down pre-flop, as he had shown Demidov AA after limp-raising previously. He said when he flatted the 4-bet he was trying to represent QQ, which makes little sense. He also said his miniscule bet on the flop was meant to look like it was trying to induce a raise, and that in hindsight he should’ve pushed pre-flop but ‘wanted to see a flop’ before he was all-in.

When weighing up both players thoughts on the hand, it’s pretty evident that Demidov has the superior thought-process and really, Phillips analysis of the hand is downright fishy.