Amongst the remaining nine players was Canadian poker pro Griffin Benger. Benger came into the final table on Sunday’s culmination of the biggest tournament of the year and a potential $8,000,000 payday, seventh in chips out of the remaining nine players, and sitting on a stack of 26,175,000.
Here were the chips counts heading into the final table:
|1||Cliff ‘Johnny Bax’ Josephy||USA||74,600,000|
|6||Vojtech Ruzicka||Czech Republic||27,300,000|
With blinds starting at 250,000-500,000, and Fernando Pons the short stack with 12 big blinds, it didn’t take Pons long to get his stack in the middle. On hand 16, Pons was on the button and down to 4,625,000 and shoved all in with :Ad :6c. Cliff Josephy who came into the final table as the chip leader made the call from the big blind showing :Kh :Jc. The flop was a nightmare for Pons as it came :Ks :Qc :3s as Josephy made a pair of kings. The turn was the :9d and the river was the :Kc giving Josephy trip kings and eliminating Pons who received a cool $1,000,000 for his ninth-place finish.
Fast forward 44 hands later to hand 60, where a short stacked Jerry Wong holding :Js :Jh four-bet Vojtech Ruzicka and Gordon Vayo to 8,500,00, leaving about 1,000,000 chips behind. Ruzicka five-bet to 13,500,000 and Vayo decided to get out of the way. Wong made the call and was upset when the Czech native tabled :Qd :Qh. The board ran out :6s :8c :9c :4h :Qc to give Ruzicka a set of queens. Ruzicka moved up to 82,300,000 in the process of knocking out Wong. Wong received $1,100,076 for being eliminated in eighth place.
Griffin Benger was optimistic starting the day with just over 50 big blinds to work with. With a couple of big pots, or a double up, he could race up the leaderboard and put some pressure on the big stacks. Touted as one of the best players remaining, Benger was unfortunately reduced to folding for hours when he was unable to pick up any cards to work with.
After getting whittled down to 9 big blinds after two opponents had already busted, Benger shoved his remaining 7.32 million in chips over the top of the opening raise of 2.2 million from Vayo. Vayo made the call and Benger was at risk for his tournament life.
Benger: :As :9s
Vayo: :Ts :Th
Benger needed some help to survive against Vayo’s pocket tens. The flop brought some hope to Benger as he flopped a nine when the board came :9d :8d :8h. Now he needed an ace or a nine to best Vayo. The turn brought the :2h and Benger was down to his final card.
The river was the :6h and Vayo’s tens ran true eliminating Benger in seventh place and ending a frustrating night for the former gaming pro turned poker pro. Benger walked away with $1,250,190 and the biggest cash of his career.
The first day of the Main Event final table came to a conclusion with the final elimination of the day when Belgian native Kenny Hallaert four-bet shoved on chip leader Qui Nguyen for 35,625,000 holding :Ac :Qc. Nguyen snap-called holding :Ad :As.
Hallaert got some help when he made a pair of queens on the :Qs :5h :4s flop. The turn and river were no help as the Belgian was eliminated in sixth after the :7d :4h were placed on the board. Hallaert took home $1,464,258 for his sixth place finish.
It only took eight hands on Day 2 before we saw our first elimination with the hand before producing one of the most shocking hands of the final table. On hand 104 of the final table, Vayo and Ruzicka separated by just under 1,000,000 chips battled. Vayo opened the action from the button raising to 2,300,000. Ruzicka three-bet to 8,150,000 from the small blind and Vayo made the call to see a flop.
The flop brought the :Qc :8d :3c. Ruzicka led the flop for 6,150,000 and Vayo made the call. The turn introduced the :7h. Ruzicka now bet 11,400,000 and again, Vayo made the call. The river was the :5s and with about a half-sized pot bet left Ruzicka shoved his remaining 27,850,000 into the pot. Vayo who was now at risk for his tournament life made the call tabling a set of eights. Ruzicka showed :As :Kd for an ace-high missed bluff. Ruzicka was left with 750,000 (under 1 big blind) while Vayo catapulted into the chip lead.
The next hand Ruzicka found himself all-in with :Ad :7s against the :Ah :Qh of Nguyen. The board ran out :6d :4s :2s :5s :4d and Ruzicka was eliminated in fifth place earning $1,935,288.
We fast forward to hand 155 and a short-stacked Michael Ruane three-bet shoved over Nguyen for his remaining 15,700,000 in the small blind. Nguyen made the call and Ruane was at risk for his tournament life. Nguyen held :Ah :Js against Ruane’s :Kh :Qh. Ruane received no help on the flop when it came :9s :9h :2s. The turn brought the :Jc giving Nguyen a pair but giving Ruane a gutshot straight draw adding an additional four outs. The river was the :8d giving Nguyen two-pair. Ruane hit the rail in fourth place for $2,576,003.
The remaining three contestants came back the next day refreshed but early on day three of the final table, during hand 182, a short-stacked Josephy shoved from the small blind with :Qd :3d. Gordon Vayo called from the big blind holding :Kh :6d. The flop came :Kc :8c :3h. Josephy made a pair of threes of Vayo paired his king as well to give himself a better pair. Josephy got not help on the turn or river when the board came :4c and :2c respectively, eliminating Josephy from the main event in third place for $3,453,035.
Vayo and Nguyen began heads up play with Vayo having the chip lead holding 203,300,000 chips to Nguyen’s 136,300,000. The winner to receive a cool $8,000,000 while the runner-up would receive $4,661,228. Two hands into heads-up play, Nguyen had made up the deficit in chips to pull even with Vayo proving that this may be a long night for the remaining players and spectators at the Penn and Teller Theatre inside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
After 181 hands of heads-up action, a short stacked Vayo three-bet shoved for 53,000,000 over the top of Nguyen’s opening raise of 8,500,000. Nguyen made the call putting Vayo at risk for his tournament life and the WSOP Main Event title in Nguyen’s sights.
Vayo: :Js :Ts
Nguyen: :Kc :Tc
Nguyen was in terrific shape having Vayo dominated. The flop came :Kd :9c :7d giving Nguyen a pair but giving Vayo a double-gutshot straight draw. Vayo now needed a queen or an eight to extend the match. The turn was the :2s making Nguyen one card closer to hoisting the Main Event title. The river was the :3h, a brick giving Nguyen the pot and eliminating Vayo in second place, making Qui Nguyen the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. Vayo takes home $4,661,228 for his second place finish while Nguyen claims $8,005,310.
See the below chart for the finishing position and payouts for the Main Event final table:
|5||Vojtech Rozicka||Czech Republic||$1,935,288|