It’s the thrill, the emotions, and skill involved that attract every fan to their sport of choice. The last two weigh heavily on both the fan and the player and that is evident in major on-pitch sports such as soccer. Take for example the 2018/2019 champions league semi-final pitting Barcelona against Liverpool.
In the first leg, Barcelona thrashed their opponents 3-0. From this point on, every football analyst ruled out the English side in the return leg. However, they were in for a rude awakening when Liverpool staged a sensational comeback and the team scored 4 unanswered goals against Barcelona.
The same dramatic occurrences very much apply to other games such as poker. In fact, poker features some of the most impressive comebacks of all times.
1. Amarillo Slim
Touted as one of the most skilled poker players of all time, Amarillo Slim is also known for making proposition bets because. One of his specific quirks was to often make side bets during gameplay. He’s also a winner of the WSOP Main Event in 1972.
Slim’s comeback isn’t that much of a surprise, and his victory at the event sprung from listening to a discussion held by other players at the table, which makes his feat all the more curious – and admittedly, satisfying.
Legendary poker players Puggy Pearson and Doyle Brunson agreed that Slim was one of the greatest examples of an epic comeback in the game. In 1992, Slim entered the Poker Hall of Fame.
2. Phil Ivey
Many pundits had dismissed Ivey just as golf pundits did Tiger Woods. However, his heroics in May 2018 put him on this list of greatest poker comebacks in history. After disappearing for two and a half years, Phil Ivey enrolled in Montenegro’s Triton Short Deck Super High Roller Series and proved to the world that he still had it.
In the HK$250k buy-in event, he swooped a neat $604,992 and as if that wasn’t enough, Ivey went ahead to clinch 3rd spot, taking home a whopping $1,666,480 in the HK$1 million.
3. Stu Ungar
Modern-day poker players only hear of this legend because he passed on in 1998 due to cocaine abuse and excessive use of other drugs. This was just a year after winning the WSOP Main Event. Still, you can’t take away his prowess at the poker table.
In fact, he’s considered the best poker player of all time. Why? Stu Ungar picked up three WSOP Main Event titles – only one of two to have achieved this spectacular feat. He’s also won the Amarillo Slim Super Bowl of Poker three times.
However, his cocaine abuse degraded him in all ways imaginable – emotionally, physically, and mentally. What gets him on this list is the 1997 comeback at the WSOP Main Event.
Ungar was deep in debt and a former shell of his once charming self but still made the $10k buy-in from a long friend, Billy Baxter, and this is where the comeback started. Keep in mind, he secured this money just moments before the event.
During the event (first days), Ungar was exhausted, undoubtedly from drug abuse and he even fell asleep at one point. As you can imagine, this set him back to a point no one thought he’d come back from. A pep-talk from his friend Baxter and an inspiration picture of his daughter proved to be what he needed.
Ungar rallied all his prowess to gain a big chip lead and eventually went on to bag the Main Event, claiming $1 million for his miraculous feat.
4. Greg Merson
Greg Merson is considered a modern-day Straus and all this came after winning the WSOP Main Event in 2012. This was after the skilled poker player proved pundits wrong in an exhilarating comeback.
Day 5 of the event and Merson was just shy of elimination courtesy of going down to a mere 50,000 chips (under 3 big blinds). Merson is a well-known online poker player specializing in short-handed play but this proved to be one of the greatest comebacks in poker history indeed.
Merson went ahead to get back into the game bagging just under $1 million by the end that day. He eventually won the tournament with over $8 million in the bag.
5. David Chiu
Insane. That’s the only word that can describe what David Chiu, a Chinese-American professional poker player, did at the WPT World Championship. What makes this comeback even sweeter is that Chiu did it against one of the best to have graced the world of poker – Gus Hansen.
What would you do or feel after knocking out 4 players after 22 hands and you are at the final table with a massive 6:1 advantage and going into a heads-up play? Well, you can hold your emotions to yourself because if you played against Chiu, chances are you’d have ended up the same way as Hansen.
Up to $18 million in chips is what Chiu was behind on, but he rallied to get back in the game powered by a spectacular calmness that allowed him to claim back the advantage, the title, and most of all the lucrative $3.4 million cash prize.
6. Olivier Busquet
This comeback is number 2 for a good reason. In fact, reporters present on that day say you had to see it to believe it. Borgata Poker Open was the tournament. The location, New Jersey’s Atlantic City. The players, Olivier Busquet and Jeremy Brown.
Brown was enjoying a brilliant run, having eliminated all the players from the table except Busquet who was also on the way out as well courtesy of a 20:1 disadvantage. The largest-ever disadvantage witnessed at the event.
Known for his aggressive style, Busquet made a slow but sure comeback, which saw him emerge as the winner and bagging a handsome $925,000.
7. Jack Straus a.k.a. a chip and a chair, Treetop
Literally, that’s what it took Jack Straus to win the 1982 WSOP Main Event title. He was no stranger to the event as he was already there in 1972 where he finished fourth. However, the 1982 tournament is what remains inked in history.
On the second day of the tournament, Straus went all in and lost. Convinced that there was nothing left to do, he stood to leave the table. However, as he was doing just that, he discovered a hidden chip under a napkin. The chip was only worth $500.
Straus doubled up multiple times in an aggressive comeback that saw him win the title and also making him one of the players to have reached the final on three different occasions. Treetop passed away in Los Angeles while playing poker.