Amid a raucous crowd crammed inside the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio in Las Vegas early this morning, Germany’s Pius Heinz rode two days of excellent play – albeit with some drama – to defeat the surprising Martin Staszko and a disappointed Ben Lamb and win the 2011 World Series of Poker Championship Event title.
After working their way down to the final three on Sunday evening, Heinz (107.8 million) was the chip leader with Lamb (55.4 million) in a very comfortable second place and Staszko (42.7 million) pretty much sitting with the same chip stack he had come to the final table with on Sunday. The three players were fairly deep in comparison to the blinds, so many in the Penn & Teller Theater were expecting a long evening. Thus, the events of the first fifteen minutes stunned many in the crowd.
After a stirring introduction of the players by UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer, the three men sat down and the fireworks came immediately. On the very first hand of play, Heinz folded his button, leaving Lamb (small blind) and Staszko (big blind) to battle it out. Lamb made a raise to three million, which brought a three bet out of Staszko to 7.5 million. Lamb considered his options before moving all in on the Czech, sending Staszko into the tank. After careful deliberation, Martin made the call for his tournament life and tabled his pocket sevens to Ben’s K-J.
The flop came down nine high, keeping Staszko in the lead but by no means confident of winning the hand. A three hit on the turn, leaving Lamb looking for one of his six outs on the river. Once a ten came on the river, Staszko had doubled up to over 85 million in chips and Lamb was left on life support.
A mere three hands later, the duo would knock heads again. After Staszko took a nice pot from Heinz to assume the lead and a walk to the German, Lamb pushed his stack to the center on only the fourth hand of the night. Staszko stared his hole cards down and found pocket Jacks, bringing a call against Lamb’s measly Q-6. Once the board ran out seven high, the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year was stunningly out of the tournament and Staszko extended his lead.
In his post-knockout interview with ESPN sideline reporter Kara Scott, Ben reflected on his first hand move. “I looked at the options after he three bet me and decided to take a chance,” Lamb stated. “If I catch on that hand, I’m heads up and almost even in chips with the leader. It just didn’t happen for me today.”
Four hands in, heads up play had been determined. Surprisingly, Scott reported that neither Staszko nor Heinz had reviewed any of the footage from Sunday night’s play and, as such, were depending on what they learned at the table to go to heads up play. It would just be the beginning of an extended fight for poker’s World Championship, however.
Heinz would quickly move back into the lead when, five hands into heads up, he pushed Staszko off his hand with an all-in move. Over the next fifty hands, Heinz would grind down Staszko, only to see the Czech chess wizard resurrect himself. On the 203rd hand of final table play, Heinz would make two pair on the river with his 7-2 off suit, only to see that Staszko had made his own two pair with his Q-7 to take the hand and the chip lead.
The styles of the two competitors were one of the intriguing things to watch throughout the heads up battle. Heinz, using the hyper-aggressive style that had driven him into the final three, continually attempted to put the heat on Staszko. Staszko, for his part, adjusted his game from his normally conservative approach and was able to take the heat while providing his own back onto Heinz.
Staszko’s best chance at taking down the 2011 WSOP Championship came on Hand 228 – 46 hands into heads up play – when he called a 3.4 million bet from Heinz. On the A-9-3 flop, Staszko checked to Heinz, who made it 3.8 million to go and was called. Another Ace came on the turn and, after another Staszko check, Heinz this time fired out 8.4 million. The Czech decided this was the point to push back, check-raising to 18.5 million and getting a call from the German. A six on the river drew a huge bet of 20.25 million from Staszko and, after agonizing for a few moments, Heinz released his hand.
ESPN hole card cameras displayed what was a tremendous laydown for Heinz. Staszko had hit Aces up with his A-9 and filled the boat on the turn. With his 6-5, Heinz had hit his own two pair on the river but, by folding his hand to Staszko’s bet on the river, minimized the damage. After the hand was complete, Staszko would hold his largest lead of the night, 141.3 million to 64.6 million.
An undaunted Heinz began his comeback after that pivotal hand. Within eleven hands, he had retaken the lead, but the duo would continue to joust over the next 54 hands. Staszko seemingly held the advantage until a pivotal moment that would change the course of the tournament.
On Hand 293, Staszko limp-called a 7.9 million big blind bet from Heinz to see a 10-7-K (two club) flop. Heinz would make a continuation bet on that flop, but Staszko would fight back with a reraise. Heinz decided this was the moment, however, and made an all-in move for roughly 70 million chips. Staszko made the call and saw he was technically ahead on the flop with his Q-9 of clubs, but Heinz held an A-Q of hearts to hold the lead in reality. A three on the turn and a black nine – but not a club – on the river gave the huge pot and the lead to Heinz.
Eight hands later, it was all over. Down to 39 million chips, Staszko pushed all in pre-flop and Heinz made the call. Once the cards were tabled, Heinz held the advantage with Big Slick over Staszko’s 10-7 of clubs. The 5-2-9 rainbow flop helped no one, but the Jack on the turn gave Staszko four more outs with his inside straight. A four on the river did nothing to improve Staszko, however, and Pius Heinz could claim the championship.
1. Pius Heinz (Germany), $8,715,638
2. Martin Staszko (Czech Republic), $5,433,086
3. Ben Lamb (United States), $4,021,138
4. Matt Giannetti (United States), $3,012,700*
5. Phil Collins (United States), $2,269,599*
6. Eoghan O’Dea (Ireland), $1,720,831*
7. Badih “Bob” Bounahra (Belize), $1,314,097*
8. Anton Makiievskyi (Ukraine), $1,010,015*
9. Sam Holden (United Kingdom), $782,115*
* – eliminated on Sunday
With the end of this year’s “November Nine,” the 2011 World Series of Poker has come to a close. It was a historic event in many aspects; the WSOP drew in record numbers, defying the potential doom of “Black Friday” and, beyond just the most international final table in WSOP history, bracelets went to a diverse number of countries and their players. But the final word on this year’s 2011 WSOP has been uttered by a 22-year old German, Pius Heinz, as he can now lay claim to the title of World Champion!