Winning at cards requires both luck and skill. On his fourth day of play at the 2010 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Petter Northug’s luck ran out–but not before he had survived long enough to win more than $20,000.
With fewer than 700 players remaining from an original pool of more than 7,000, Northug was eliminated, on a hand that he had less than a 20 percent chance of losing.
Late in the day on Tuesday, Northug bet all his chips on the two cards that he had been dealt: a pair of tens.
His opponent equaled the bet, and flipped over his cards to reveal a pair of nines—which gave Northug an 82 percent chance of winning the hand.
But in Texas Hold’em—the game played at the World Series of Poker—players also can use any of five communal cards as part of their hand. And when those were dealt, one was a nine, which left Northug’s opponent three-of-a-kind and the 400,000 chips in the pot.
Northug had suffered what poker aficionados call a “bad beat”—their term for when a player with the strongest cards gets unlucky and loses—but there was nothing he could do about it.
“Petter, of course, was very frustrated—it was a bad hand,” said Thorkild Gundersen, a journalist from Northug’s sponsor, Vi Menn Magazine, in an interview with the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet. “When you bust out in this way, it is bitter.”
Northug’s loss came with roughly 650 players left in the tournament, putting him in the money. For his efforts over four days and some 40 hours of poker at the World Series, Northug earned more than $21,000—an $11,000 return on his $10,000 entry fee.
After two weeks in Las Vegas, Northug is wasting no time in returning home—his flight from McCarren International Airport departs this morning.
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.