The notion of a poker hand representing a poker player is not a new one. For decades, ten-deuce has been known as the ‘Texas Dolly’. So-called after Doyle Brunson, the hand struck notoriety thanks to being the winning hand in back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Events in 1976 and 1977.
Last week, Phil Hellmuth’s queen-four call for his tournament life – and subsequent suck-out success – went viral. Playing against Alex Foxen in the 2022 U.S. Poker Open, the so-called ‘Poker Brat’ become associated with the hole cards around the world… but how long will that last?
From Will Smith-related memes to Hellmuth’s own reaction to the hand, how has a week in the spotlight given queen-four off the unlikeliest of popularity boosts?
The Hand Takes Place
Whichever way you look at it, Alex Foxen and Phil Hellmuth played out one of the most virally viewed poker hands in history on PokerGO during the 2022 U.S. Poker Open. With both men in the running for not only the Event title but the leaderboard victory at that stage, Foxen saw Hellmuth’s three-bet and four-bet enough to set the Poker Brat all in with a call.
Hellmuth weighed things up as co-commentator Brent Hanks, working alongside Jeff Platt in the PokerGO booth, stated what every viewer was feeling.
“This a guy who can dodge bullets but can’t get away from queen-four? I am shocked that he’s taking time making this decision. It is not a decision.”
It was, however, and as Hellmuth declared ‘I guess I better play to win.” He put in his remaining chips, deciding not to leave himself with nine big blinds.
Of course, a queen came on the flop and to add insult to injury, another queen on the river gave Hellmuth the crucial double-up. No nines arrived across the board left Foxen perplexed, and he shot a look of wonderment slowly around the PokerGO Studio.
“What did we just witness? What the heck was that?” said Hanks.
The whole world was about to provide a different answer to that question.
Poker Twitter Blows Up
No sooner had the hand played out were PokerGO themselves sharing what has become one of the most popular poker hands in living memory for people to watch. Quotes, retweets, likes and engagements alone sent the hand around the globe faster than you could locate your push-fold charts to prove the call ‘wrong’.
can someone explain to us what's going on here?
IS THIS THE POKER HAND OF THE YEAR? pic.twitter.com/rpkIP3GwgR
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) March 25, 2022
Some of the comments on Poker Twitter have predictably been brilliant.
“I swear the next time I’m dealt a [queen-four], I am shoving my chips in,” said one Poker Brat fan. “Instead of calling for my ‘one time’ I will announce ‘For Phil!’”. Many Hellmuth supporters came out in defense not only of their man but the hand itself.
“I secretly love [queen-four],” one said. “It’s my oddball hand.” Another represented many dozens with their assertion that: “From here on out, the queen-four will be known as ‘The Hellmuth’ or ‘The Brat’ People will be playing it like the [seven-deuce] game. Poker rooms across America will be talking about the hand!”
They already were.
The Memes Take Over
From the moment the clip was shot out of the PokerGO social media cannon, the poker circus that exists online was in raptures. Max Pescatori hinted that an element of jealousy would waft through high roller games everywhere
Every HR player pic.twitter.com/PWztsv5YDw
— Max Pescatori 🇮🇹🇺🇸🏴☠️ (@maxpescatori) March 26, 2022
Hellmuth himself shared the effect that the internet had enjoyed having on queen-four.
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) March 26, 2022
Plenty of fans were on Hellmuth’s side, and more than happy to show this runaway train of a meme subject would not be stopped by anything in its way.
No stoppin' the Hellmuth train pic.twitter.com/zvvQ8SvKt8
— Fledgling (@FPLFledgling) March 26, 2022
When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Poker Twitter moved at speed to appropriate the action to Hellmuth’s hand.
— Jerod Smith (@jsmith84poker) March 28, 2022
While intelligent debate was thin on the ground, that didn’t mean the very best couldn’t parody it, and Phil Galfond’s post was a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
We’ve been here before. @phil_hellmuth makes a play that looks ridiculous, and all the poker fans at home – including top players – are quick to jump all over him.
I’m not at all a tournament expert, but I have some thoughts to share… pic.twitter.com/kWzknTeoRA
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) March 26, 2022
Hellmuth even shared an amended hand ranking chart, giving new power to this craziest of calling hands.
Official announcement: after a lot of debate, reflection, and careful study, I have decided to add Q-4 off suit to my list of “Top Ten Hands.” AA, KK, QQ, AK, JJ, 10-10, AQ, 9-9, 8-8 and Q-4: I dropped 7-7. Also, @KevinRobMartin has a chart that reflects the current value of Q-4 pic.twitter.com/ntx4WISKb8
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) March 26, 2022
Could ‘The Hellmuth’ Stand the Test of Time?
One fan’s assertion that Johnny Chan could have prevented Hellmuth winning his iconic WSOP Main Event in 1989 really set the controls of the out of control juggernaut to ‘crazy’.
“Your 1989 WSOP win showed up on my YouTube feed today,” they said. “Funny thing is if he played [queen-four] against your [pocket nines] he would have won. I think there’s something magical about your hand.”
Magical or not, Hellmuth didn’t win either the USPO event or any other event with the hand in question. So can it really stand the test of time?
Eager to show that it might, the Poker Brat was on the road to a meet up game later in the week, and what would his first hand be? You’ve guessed it.
OMG!! Q-4 first hand!! Crazy https://t.co/5i2QRllr7C
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) March 30, 2022
There’s a ‘Queen-Four’ Facebook group, and before long, you just know there will be t-shirts. If the hand catches on at the World Series, then the memes will all come out for a second airing.
Hellmuth himself, as is so often the case, seems in charge of the hand’s destiny. Doyle Brunson played ten-deuce in not one but two vital spots. Both times he won a WSOP Main Event as a direct result, but while Hellmuth may not have the opportunity to do so, what the Poker Brat has in 2022 is a much more powerful media machine to feed.
If Phil Hellmuth makes a final table at the 2022 World Series of Poker, then the Poker Brat will be waiting for two hole cards in particular to go crazy with on a live stream. Setting aside the value he’s stacking up by less experienced hopefuls presuming he is playing queen-four along the way, Hellmuth should absolutely play it under the lights.
If queen-four makes it to mainstream television, we might never hear the last of a hand that is living in the moment for far longer than anyone gave it the chance of doing.
All in? You’d better believe it.