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The Independent Culture
THE BEST piece of play I saw in the World Championship at Binion's Horseshoe last week was by Eric Seidel, a Vegas pro. Chris Bigler, a Swiss computer buff who reached the final table, put in a pre-flop raise of $60,000. At Hold 'em no-limit, this is the kind of bet you make when you have a hand. Seidel called.

The flop came down 82-62-22 which was checked. A jack came on the turn. Again check, check. The river card was a 5. Now Bigler bet $150,000. What could he have?

Sitting next to me, Mel Judah, an English player based in Australia, had no doubt. "He's bluffing, Eric's got to call." How do you know? "The pattern of the betting," Mel explained. "He's probably got something like Q10 with one club."

Seidel thought and thought and thought some more, twisting in his seat. All he had in his own hand was an ace-queen. Finally he called the $150,000. It was good enough. Bigler was indeed bluffing on a Q10. Seidel had worked out that this was the kind of hand he had to have. That's how good the pros are.

The Irish racehorse owner Noel Furlong, who won the event at a canter, was much criticised for this play. He made a sizeable bet pre-flop and the former world champion Huck Seed went all in for $500,000. Furlong, on A2-3#, did not hesitate to call. He immediately flopped two pairs, aces and threes. Seed, who had taken a shot on J#-8#, came fourth.

The experts' view was that there was "no way" that Furlong could have called this half-a-million raise, which marked Seed as having aces or kings. I disagreed. Furlong knew that Seed knew he was punting on all sorts of hands, and that Seed was primed to go over the top and blast him out. Seed probably knew that Furlong knew this. But what he did not know was that Furlong is the sort of man who virtually never folds an ace, no matter what.

By winning the world championship at the age of 61 Noel Furlong has put the younger generation on guard.