Season 4 of Poker After Dark started off strong with “Tom Dwan’s Cash Game” and “Nets vs Vets,” and for the third set of episodes producers shifted formats altogether with the “Heads Up Challenge” found only on PokerGO. The four previous NBC Heads Up National Champions, Phil Hellmuth, Ted Forrest, Paul Wasicka and Chris Ferguson, played a double-elimination bracket to crown a PAD Heads Up Champion in a $50,000 buy-in, winner-take-all purse of $200,000.
The first couple episodes saw Wasicka vs Ferguson and Hellmuth vs Forrest in the first round. Ferguson and Hellmuth advanced to the winner’s bracket, Wasicka and Forrest played a sudden death match to advance and Wasicka lost a second time.
Ferguson and Hellmuth’s semi-final match took a decisive turn on the second hand. Hellmuth limped with 6c 5c, Ferguson raised with pocket queens and the flop gave Hellmuth bottom pair. The river gave Hellmuth two pair, Ferguson bet his pair of queens and Hellmuth tanked a bit before he moved all in.
“The standard play is to not raise there,” Hellmuth said. “I should just be happy with the 18,000 and hope the hand is good. I just kept having the feeling that he had one pair. He bet very quickly on the end. If he had trips he would have studied and tried and sell it a little bit.”
“Am I going to risk to my whole tournament on whether it’s one pair or not?” Hellmuth asked. “And I thought, ‘If you’re right, and I think I’m right, and he calls, and I think he’s gonna call, then I’m basically gonna win the match.’ If I’m wrong, then I’m out.”
Ferguson called, shipped most of his stack to Hellmuth and it was over a few minutes later. Hellmuth woke up with pocket tens, limped and induced a shove from Ferguson with ace-high. Hellmuth snap-called, advanced to the finals, leaving Ferguson and Forrest to play for a seat in the finals.
Forrest took an early lead, Ferguson took a long time to chip away at this stack and took over the chip lead. The final hand saw Forrest all in with Kc 4h, Ferguson call with Ad 8d and his ace-high held for a championship match between Hellmuth and Ferguson.
Hellmuth defeated Ferguson for his 2005 NBC Heads Up title.
Since Hellmuth advanced to the finals without a loss and had already defeated Ferguson, the challenger would have to beat Hellmuth twice to win. They fought a back and forth match before Hellmuth found pocket tens a second time against Ferguson to end the match.
“Chris is a great player and I just had to trust my instincts, and that’s what I did in all of my matches,” Hellmuth said. “That’s how I play against the greatest players in the world – I trust my instincts. I look at them and when I’m really on I know if they’re strong or weak and if I’m not really on, hopefully I can still find a way to win.”
More Poker After Dark Season 4 archives are scheduled for release after the Poker Masters wraps up on September 20, which can only be found on PokerGO. The recent episodes from Poker After Dark filmed at the ARIA are available under Event Replays on PokerGO.