The early stages of heads-up play definitely favored Nick Wong, the Hong Kong-based player who has made a name for himself in Asia-based high roller events. He was the one pushing the action, raising and check-raising Hoang Anh Do. Do seemed to be playing cautiously, despite starting with a 3-to-1 chip lead, and that cautious play allowed Nick to pick up some chips.
Then it seemed like something snapped in Do. Over the last six hands of the tournament, he raised five of them pre-flop. Those raises had their intended effect every time, inducing folds from Nick. Nick’s stack started to float back down towards the 1.2 million in chips that he started with when heads-up play began.
The final hand saw Nick try a tack we hadn’t yet seen in heads-up play: he limped his button, and then when Do raised pre-flop – as he had done on each of Nick’s previous three buttons, Nick three-bet to 220,000. Do turbo-called that raise, bringing the two men to a flop of 5♦8♦5♠.
Throughout the course of this tournament, and even during today’s final table, we’d noticed that when Do snap-called on early streets, he was often trying to set up a bluff on the later streets. We thought he might be lining up for another one of those bluffs when he checked and then turbo-called another 220,000-chip bet from Nick.
Do checked the 4♠ turn. If he was hoping to spring a check-raise on Nick, the plan went awry when Nick checked behind. The river card was the A♥. Again Do checked, and this time Nick moved all in for 1,060,000.
Do didn’t immediately fold. He re-checked his cards, glanced at Nick’s chips and then at his own, and then started to tank. Again, if past history was any guide, Do was leaning towards a call. We’d seen him act this way on several other occasions, and he almost always called. One minute ticked off the tournament clock as Do pondered his decision. Nick reached down, grabbed a bottle of water, and took a swig. Nervous? Or just thirsty?
Another minute ticked off the clock. Do had been in the tank for two minutes when he blurted out, “Call!” Nick turned over A♦10♥ for a rivered two pair, aces and fives. Do’s eyes widened, then he slammed down his own cards – A♠8♠ for two pair, aces and eights. The dead man’s hand.
Do was no dead man though. He was the liveliest of live men as he put a fist in the air and shouted, “Yes!” In fact, the Vietnam native was the only live man left as he collected Nick’s chips and sent Nick to the rail in 2nd place.