The 2011 WSOP Championship

The November Nine faced off for the World Series of Poker main event on November 6, 2011. Play began at 3:30 PM, and the nine hopefuls sat down at the final table to take their shot at the pinnacle of poker glory. Play was scheduled to continue until only 3 players remained, who would then face off the next day for all the marbles.

Pius Heinz started out seventh out of the nine players, but he showed early on that he wasn’t just going to play conservatively and try for the best finish he could. He was out for one of the top positions, which he showed early on in the day.

Heinz put in a pre-flop raised, which was called by Ben Lamb, and then Eoghan O’Dea put in a raise. So Heinz wasn’t going to be run out of this pot that easily, and he ended up calling O’Dea’s raise, and Lamb folded. The flop came down 8-8-4 with two clubs, a fairly dry flop but with a club flush draw.

O’Dea bet out, Heinz called. The turn was a 2 of clubs, making the flush now possible. O’Dea bet, and Heinz had to decide whether to fold here or to push all in. He had pocket queens with one of them being a club, so he shoved.

It turned out O’Dea didn’t have much, ace high, but the bluff turned out to be a costly one for O’Dea, as he lost a lot of chips in the hand, although Heinz’s stack grew to over 44 million now, and he was poised to now take on the big stacks at the table.

It took three hours for the first player to be eliminated, which ended up being Sam Holden of the United Kingdom. Sam had started the day in last place with only a little over 12 million chips, and at this point was down to only 11 million. Ben Lamb raised to 1.7 million, and Holden shoved his AJ. Lamb called him with AK, dominating him and ending up sending him home.

With the first player finally out of the way, this bolstered the shorter stacks at the table into playing more aggressively, as they at least weren’t going to be going out in last place now, and they also realized the urgency of looking to move up lest they be next.

A little over a half an hour since Holden had been eliminated, everyone folded around to Anton Makiievskyi, who had started the day in eighth place, with 13.8 million chips, and was now down to a little over 10 million. So he shoved all in from the small blind with KQ, not an unreasonable move by any means, leaving only Pius Heinz to act.

Heinz happened to have a pair of nines, and called,. So this came down to a race, and Makiievskyi was looking to hit a king or a queen, which he did manage to do on the flop. So he became a huge favorite to double up, and Heinz had to settle for a two outer to win. However, he did get a third nine on the turn which held up, sending Makiievskyi home in disgust.

A few minutes later, Badih Bounahra, whose stack had shrunk to only 4.4 million, shoved A5 over a 1.7 million chip raise by Martin Staszko. This does seem to be a little light, and he may have been better off looking for a better spot, as this hand is dominated a lot of the time by hands that would put in a pre-flop raise.

This is exactly what happened, as Staszko called and turned over A9. So Bounahra was basically drawing pretty thin here, and he didn’t get the help he needed and went out in seventh place.

This left 6 players, and the field would need to be cut down to half of that by the end of the day. Phil Collins was next to put his tournament life on the line, moving all in pretty lightly with QJ, and being called by a real hand by Ben Lamb, who had him dominated.

Collins had been playing a very conservative game, rarely shoving his stack, but he decided to take a chance here with this hand, and it looked like the gamble was not going to pay off.

It came down to Collins needing a running flush to stay alive. A diamond hit on the turn, meaning that he would need one more diamond on the river to survive. Sure enough, it came, and Collins doubled up to 28.1 million, with Lamb seeing his stack shrink to only 15.3 million chips.

After almost an hour of back and forth, Ben Lamb found himself in another big hand, this time with his own life at stake. Eoghan O’Dea put in a standard raise of 1.6 million, only to see Lamb come over the top all in for 14.2 million. Lamb was bluffing, and after an extended period of deliberation by O’Dea, Lamb was very disappointed to see O’Dea call him. Without even seeing O’Dea’s hand, Lamb remarked “good call.”

So O’Dea had A9 which was a favorite over Lamb’s Q8, but not an insurmountable one. It came down to the river, with neither player having a pair, and O’Dea’s ace high holding up so far. The final card came down an 8, giving Lamb a pair of 8’s and seeing O’Dea’s stack take a huge hit, now being left with only 2.2 million chips and being in risk of being eliminated very soon.

With the big blind now 1 million, O’Dea now had no real choice but to pick a hand to move in, and do it quickly. So on the very next hand that’s exactly what he did. He had a garbage hand of Q6, and was called down by Staszko with his pocket 8’s. O’Dea needed to be very lucky to survive here, but the queen he was looking for never came and he went out in sixth place.

Shortly after, Phil Collins found himself all in for only the second time in the day’s play. He had survived the first battle and doubled up, and he would need to do so again, as Pius Heinz easily covered his remaining 18.3 million chips. His A7 was up against Heinz’s pocket nines, making him the clear underdog again.

Collins once again was looking for a back door flush, and once again it was diamonds he needed. The turn provided a diamond, could Collins provide another miracle draw to save himself with another diamond on the river? This time it wasn’t to be though, and he left the table in fifth place.

This left Pius Heinz with a whopping 86.7 million in chips, and putting him in command of the table, which was now down to only four players: Heinz, Martin Staszko, Matt Giannetti, and player of the year Ben Lamb. One more player to go home and they could all call it a night.

No one wanted to go out fourth though and it took quite a while for another big hand to come up, and it was now after midnight. Staszko, who was the chip leader starting the day, had seen his stack chipped away at by the aggression of his opponents and by this time had had enough and was looking to get his stack moving the other way.

Up against Heinz, who put in a pre-flop raise to 2.1 million, Staszko shoved his remaining 21.5 million chips with A8. This is not a hand that you want to get called with under these circumstances, but Heinz indeed called, with pocket 6’s. So Staszko was in a race that he would have to win in order to survive.

Two 8’s hit the flop, giving Staszko three of them and putting him in the driver’s seat. His three 8’s held up as expected and Staszko doubled up, putting him much more in contention. Heinz still had almost 80 million chips left so this was a race he could definitely afford to lose and still be in great shape.

The two players went head to head once again a few hands later. This time the players didn’t get all of their chips in, and Staszko still had a lot of Heinz’s chips from the previous hand and now had the power to hurt him, so both players proceeded rather carefully.

Staszko put in a standard raise with KJ from the button and was called by Heinz with 10 9. The flop came A 10 4, giving Heinz a paid of 10’s to Staszko’s king high. Heinz checked, Staszko put in a small bet, and Heinz just called. A raise here would be pretty standard and Heinz’s slow play may have been a mistake.

A 7 came on the turn, Heinz checked, Staszko bet, and Heinz just called. Once again, I would have preferred to see Heinz put in a raise here, as he was just giving his opponent a chance to draw out on him. So when a Q hit the river, giving Staszko a straight, that’s exactly what happened.

Heinz checked one more time, Staszko bet one more time, and after taking a very long time to think, Heinz folded, which was of course the best move. So at least he made one good play this hand, but ended up taking a pretty big haircut. Staszko’s stack now grew to 56.8 million, and now second only to Heinz’s still impressive 76.5 million. Giannetti was quietly in third with 39 million, with Lamb bringing up the rear at 34.6 million.

The two bottom players faced off a little later, with the winner surviving and the loser either being gone or crippled beyond any real hope. Giannetti put in a standard raise, and Lamb came over the top all in with A7. So Lamb was really hoping to get a fold here, probably praying to get one, but that did not happen. Giannetti had pocket jacks and wasn’t about to throw them away that easily.

Lamb did have two hearts, so when the flop delivered two more he at least had a fighting chance. When the fifth heart hit on the turn, it was pretty much all over for Giannetti. He was left crippled, and ended up shoving the last of his chips a few hands later, only to run into pocket kings from Lamb. When two more kings hit the flop, it was all over for Giannetti, and we know had our final three who could now get some rest.

On the next day, it only took one hand for the second and third place players to go to war against each other. Lamb put in a raise with his KJ, Staszko three bet, and then Lamb shoved all in. Staszko called the all in bet with pocket sevens, which held up, vaulting Staszko up to 85.6 million in chips, and knocking Lamb all the way to a paltry 12.7 million.

So it would be extremely difficult for Lamb to finish in any position other than third, given that his opponents both had many times more chips then he did. So he was headed for a desperation showdown, and soon.

That time did come shortly afterward, with Lamb shoving the chips he had left with Q6, hoping to take the pot down. Lamb was forced to take a weak hand against pocket jacks once again, but this time there was no lucky flush that came, and Lamb went home in third. He took home over $4 million in prize money though so he couldn’t have been too disappointed.

So finally things came down to heads up, between Staszko, who was the chip leader at this point with 117.3 million, to Heinz’s still impressive 88.6 million. Heads up is a lot about aggression, and Staszko was one of the least aggressive players at the final table, seeing his stack shrink from not taking too many risks, and then having to ramp things up later.

Heinz, on the other hand, was definitely one of the most aggressive players at the final table and had been in the chip lead for most of the final table play. So although he was behind, he wasn’t disheartened at all, and was looking to chip away at that lead.

Heinz did take down most of the pots, as expected, but Staszko’s strategy of picking his spots more was working, as he managed to trap Heinz for several pots which allowed Staszko to maintain his lead.

Then, after Staszko limped, Heinz put in a raise to 7.9 million. Staszko called with Q9 of clubs, not a great move but not too terrible either, given how often Heinz was raising. Limping heads up isn’t a particularly good play though, and often opponents will punish it with a raise, and do so fairly lightly.

The flop then came 10 7 K with the 10 and 7 being clubs, giving Staszko the flush draw. Heinz bet, and Staszko put in a min raise. Heinz thought about it for a minute, and then shoved all of his chips in the middle of the table.

Now it’s one thing to shove with a flush draw, but quite another to call with it. Although Staszko had already committed a lot of chips to this hand, calling here would be pretty questionable. He did call though, and was up against AQ and needed some real luck to not get pounded and let Heinz double up and take a commanding lead.

As it turned out, Heinz’s ace high ended up holding up, and he now had a huge chip lead. This was probably the mistake of the match for Staszko, who if he folded would have seen the match about even. Instead, Heinz now had a 4 to 1 chip lead on him, and he was going to need some real luck to not lose.

Not much later, Staszko ended up raising all in with his last 39.5 million chips with 10 7. Not a great move, especially when you are up against AK. So the luck that Staszko needed to survive didn’t come, and Heinz finished him off to become world champion and pocket over $8.7 million.

Staszko still got a huge payday as well, making over $5.4 million for his efforts, but he still may wonder what could have been had he not played so sloppily at the end. That’s a lot of money though to console him.

So Pius Heinz joins all of the other great champions of the main event of the World Series of Poker, and all of the fame and fortune that goes along with it, not the least of which is the gold bracelet which he’ll wear proudly for the rest of his life.