After a thrilling day and night of poker in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio in Las Vegas, the final three players have been determined in the 2011 World Series of Poker Championship Event, with two likely suspects and one huge surprise.
At the start of the day, the Czech Republic’s Martin Staszko was at the helm of the most international final table in WSOP history. Holding slightly more than 40 million of the chips in play, Staszko was being chased by two other large stacks, Ireland’s Eoghan O’Dea (33.9 million) and the United States’ Matt Giannetti (24.75 million). Lurking in the middle of the pack were two other Americans that were thought to have excellent shots at the title, Phil Collins and 2011 WSOP Player of the Year Ben Lamb, while the other men at the table – the Ukraine’s Anton Makiievskyi, Belize’s Badih “Bob” Bounahra, Germany’s Pius Heinz and the United Kingdom’s Sam Holden – were expected, with their short stacks, to not be much of an influence on the proceedings.
In front of a packed house in the Penn & Teller Theater, the “November Nine” didn’t disappoint. With the final table being broadcast “nearly live” (a fifteen minute delay was imposed per Nevada Gaming Commission rules) on ESPN2, the players were meticulous in their actions, taking the time to think through their decisions, especially with $8.7 million on the line. It took over fifty hands and two hours before the first departure came.
With his short stack, Sam Holden had been in “push or fold” mode for much of the late action in this year’s WSOP Championship Event. His downfall would come at the hands of Ben Lamb after Sam, holding an A-J, reraised all in a 1.7 million chip bet from Ben. The newly crowned WSOP POY immediately called, turning up his A-K to dominate Holden. The flop came Ace high in clubs (not good news for Holden as Lamb held the King of clubs) and, once a fourth club fell on the turn, Sam Holden was drawing dead and the ninth place finisher at the final table.
Once Holden was eliminated, the floodgates began to open. Barely ten hands after Holden’s elimination, the new short stack at the table, Anton Makiievskyi, pushed in his stack and Pius Heinz looked him up. Makiievskyi’s K-Q would have some work to do against the pocket nines of Heinz and that help came on the K-J-J flop. But in one of the most stunning hands of the night, a nine came on the turn, propelling Heinz into the lead with his full house and leaving Makiievskyi looking for a King or Jack. The seven on the river did nothing to improve the Ukrainian and Anton Makiievskyi was eliminated in eighth place.
Heinz had aggressively built his stack up from the third shortest at the start of the day to become a threat in the event. With his elimination of Makiievskyi, the German seized the chip lead from Staszko after approximately ninety minutes of play in what had to be one of the surprises of Sunday’s action. It would be a lead that, for the rest of the battle on Sunday, Heinz would rarely relinquish.
Another eight hands later, another competitor would leave the arena. Admittedly there “to have fun,” Bob Bounahra had exactly that while playing excellent poker. He would meet his demise, however, when he pushed his last chips to the center over a Staszko raise. Staszko made the call, tabling a dominating A-9 over Bounahra’s A-5. Once the board ran clean of any threats, Bob Bounahra was eliminated in seventh place.
Within the span of one hour, three of the shorter stacks at the start of the day had been eliminated, but one of those short stacks – Heinz – had actually stormed up the leaderboard to assume the lead. The drama of the six handed final table would agonizingly play out over the next thirty hands before any significant action.
Just before the men went to a break, Eoghan O’Dea raised from the cutoff and Ben Lamb, who had been quiet in the early going, moved his stack all in from the big blind. After taking a good think on the situation, O’Dea made the call and was correct; his A-9 was ahead of the Q-6 of diamonds turned up by Lamb. The board provided all the drama that would be necessary.
The flop came J-J-6 with two diamonds; while O’Dea still was ahead, the odds favored Lamb and his fourteen outs twice. Although the four on the turn provided no help, the eight on the river did, giving Lamb the double up and crippling O’Dea’s stack. Moments later, the son of Irish poker legend Donnachea O’Dea was bounced from the tournament in sixth place.
The very next hand, it would be time to bid farewell to Phil Collins. The victim of bad cards, bad timing or bad luck – or perhaps all three – Collins had no fortune in building his stack through Sunday. He pushed his remaining chips in against chip leader Heinz and, after the call, found himself behind with his A-9 against Heinz’ pocket nines. The flop brought some excitement – 6-5-4 – but failed to provide Collins with the open ender or his Ace, eliminating Phil Collins in fifth place.
In around seven hours, the final four players were determined, but there would be one more man that had to be eliminated before calling it a night. It would take another 78 hands and four hours of play before that player was determined.
After seeing his pocket Jacks crushed by a turned nut flush against Ben Lamb, Matt Giannetti – who arguably played the best of the nine man final table – would once again square off against Lamb. After Giannetti had moved his remaining chips to the center, Lamb would make the call and table pocket Kings against Giannetti’s A-3. The flop would stunningly end any discussion, coming down K-K-Q to give Lamb unbeatable quads. With that, Matt Giannetti was out in fourth place and Tuesday’s nights final three were determined.
When the final three show up in the Penn & Teller Theater on Tuesday, they will line up like this:
|Seat 1:||Pius Heinz (Germany)||107.8 million|
|Seat 2:||Ben Lamb (United States)||55.4 million|
|Seat 3:||Martin Staszko (Czech Republic),||42.7 million|
Heinz is riding a wave of excellent play, increasing his stack nearly tenfold from the start of play on Sunday, and has been making some excellent reads. Lamb has been beset by adversity throughout the final table (at one point, he was the short stack), but he has shown an ability to overcome tough breaks. Staszko, the oldest player left in the tournament at 35, has treaded water for much of the final table and will have to get more aggressive if he is to win the championship.
The victor of the 2011 WSOP Championship Event will be determined on Tuesday afternoon/evening, with the cameras of ESPN once again providing their “nearly live” coverage. It will cap off what has been a scintillating final table and crown a very deserving champion.