In poker, mistakes happen every day. Sometimes they're as meaningless as a dealer accidentally exposing a card. But every once in a great while, a mistake can change the course of poker history.
That's exactly what happened at the 2012 World Series of Poker in a hand between Gaelle Baumann, one of the few remaining females in the field at the time, and Hungarian Andras Koroknai. The two were playing in poker's most prestigious event, the $10,000-buy-in WSOP Main Event. It was Day 5 of the seven-day event when a hand of no-limit hold 'em that rocked the poker world took place.
It began when Baumann, who was first to act, raised to $60,000 in chips. Koroknai moved all in from the small blind for approximately $2 million. Well-known poker pro Gavin Smith folded from the big blind. Thinking he had won the pot after Smith's fold, Koroknai mucked his hand. He didn't realize that Baumann had raised in front of him.
By the time Koroknai recognized his mistake, the dealer had pulled one of his cards into the jumble of discards, also known as "the muck." The tournament director was called over to sort out the mess, which boiled down to the fact that verbal declarations are binding in poker, and Koroknai had said that he was all in. However, a player must have two cards to play a hand, and there was no way to discern and retrieve cards from the muck.
"You're not losing your tournament life," the tournament director told Koroknai after consulting with other tournament officials for more than 15 minutes. The "integrity of the tournament" was cited as the determining factor in the decision. Koroknai was forced to put in the $60,000 that Baumann had raised, and then Baumann was awarded the pot. Baumann was disappointed with the ruling, no doubt due to the fact that she held pocket kings.
Many believe the rules dictate that Koroknai should have been all in and eliminated for mucking his cards. It's a hand that is still debated to this day, and it undoubtedly factored into what happened two days later.
Only one woman, Barbara Enright, has ever made the final table of the WSOP Main Event, and that happened way back in 1995. In 2012, Baumann and Elisabeth Hille both reached the top 11. With nine players slated to make the final table, it looked as if history was going to be made. Hille bowed out in 11th place, which meant only one more player needed to be eliminated before the final table was reached.
Enter Koroknai. He, too, had made it into the top 10, and in a cruel twist of fate, he and Baumann played another big hand. You can probably guess where this is going.
Baumann got her chips all in preflop with Ad 9h and was behind Koroknai's Ah Js. The board provided no help, and Koroknai, who some say should have been eliminated by Baumann two days earlier, knocked out the last woman in the field.
Correlation isn't necessarily causation, but had it not been for that mistake, things could have turned out very differently.